five shifts for letting go of control

I am a recovering control freak.

I say “recovering” because in the last few months of this pandemic, old habits and thought patterns have resurfaced – things I return to whenever I feel pressured or afraid. 

My mind immediately runs wild with a list of things I “should” be doing, fixing, or solving. It’s my way of controlling things. But then, my heart frets because my list is too long and there is no way I can actually accomplish it. And when I can’t make things happen on my own – when the illusion of control bursts – I judge myself for not being enough. 

It is a recipe for exhaustion. 

But I’ve been wondering lately – what if I’ve walked through challenging seasons all wrong? What if there is a sweet invitation from God in moments of pressure

In stress, we could all take a lesson from Moses. When faced with an impossibly hopeless situation – trapped between a fast-approaching army and a dangerous sea – Moses gives an oddly counter-productive instruction to his people:

"But Moses said to the people, 'Don't be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet" (Exodus 14:13-14).

Moses invites the Israelites to completely overhaul the way they were reacting their situation - to make some shifts that recovering control freaks like me can learn from. 

Shift in processing. "Don't be afraid."

Often, fear and panic rise up as automatic reactions to stress, uncertainty, and pressure. Thankfully, Moses reminds us that we don’t have to give in to those feelings. As followers of God, we can process our stress from a place of peace, rather than from that fearful urge to control. Even in the unknown, we can have confidence in the One who never changes. We don’t have to be afraid.

Shift in posture. "Stand firm."

Standing firm isn’t about striving to do all the things and fix all the problems and control all the chaos, as I tend to do. Instead, standing firm invites us to be present in faith. It is a lot like the words of the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

The application of standing firm is not laziness or disengagement. Standing firm isn’t doing nothing. Standing firm means having more moments of prayer and more times of meditation on scripture. It means showing up in a posture of faith each day, rather clinging desperately to a false sense of control.

Shift in perspective. "See the Lord's salvation."

Moses had to draw the Israelites' attention away from the crisis and toward God’s hand. When we feel challenged, we too can change our focus and look to our Father.

Don't let all the external noise and your internal pressure keep you from seeing God’s goodness and the ways he is showing up for you.

Refuse to let what you can’t control steal focus away from what God is accomplishing. Friend, the enemy would love to keep us distracted in difficulty, but there is abundant grace to shift our perspectives and keep God always before us (Psalm 16:8).

A shift in plea. "Be quiet."

Moses had to hush the Israelites from complaining and constantly talking about their problems. For us, the shift is the same: stop whining and declaring fear. Instead, use difficult times to declare the goodness of God - which never changes.

We can change our plea in trying moments as we let his praises remain on our lips, in our texts, and on our posts (Psalm 34:1).

A shift in pursuit. "He will accomplish it for you. . . The Lord will fight for you."

Our job in crisis is not to conquer a to-do list or try to fix everything. Our job is to pursue God’s presence and trust that he is working all things out for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28).

The Lord is working at all times. He is the almighty, sovereign God, and he is still on the throne. He is always faithful and steady. When we trust him, then we can surrender our need to “do all the things” and can listen for where he is inviting us to work with him.

In tough moments, may our processing be sound, our postures be firm and still, our perspectives be full of faith, our pleas be abounding in praise, and our pursuits be God’s presence.

When we start making these shifts, I believe we’ll find that we are truly resting in God – a sweet invitation for recovering control freaks, indeed.


Mika is a leader who loves volunteering in the local church. She and her husband, Josh, parent a unique combo of six kids including special needs, adopted, biological, and step children together in rural Arkansas. As a speaker and aspiring author, Mika is passionate about letting Jesus use both the miraculous and messy parts of her story to help people learn of his extravagant faithfulness and redemption. She is earning her masters degree in Evangelism and Leadership with the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College. She'd love to connect with you on Instagram.