Handing Back Control


Handing Back Control


Copyright 2015 Ruth Embery

Published by Ruth Embery at Shakespir




Shakespir Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV®

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society®

Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible,

Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)



Cover photo: © Dyudin Stanislav/Shutterstock.com




This book is dedicated to every control freak out there, particularly those who are not yet aware of it. May you find the freedom and abundance that comes with letting go.




I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance


(John 10:10, AMP)



Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

(Matt 16:25)



- Jesus






1: Handing Back Control of What I Have

2: Handing Back Control of Others

3: Handing Back Control of My Future

4: Handing Back Control of God

5: Handing Back Control of Offence

6: The Life Restored



For Discussion or Reflection

About Ruth Embery

Connect with Ruth Embery






I would like to thank the many friends who have encouraged me to write over the years, particularly those who seeded the thought that I could write a book. Of course, the major contributor in the department of encouragement has been my cherished husband, Martin, whose almost blasé confidence in my ability and what I have to say has often been all that has kept me at it. I would further like to acknowledge his wonderful creativity and design expertise in putting together the cover and title. Thanks also to my helpful friends, David Gallus and Helen Damster for donating their time and abilities to proof read and edit. It almost goes without saying that I also give thanks to God, without whom I would have no story to write. To Him be the glory.


It has been a long time coming, but here it is.






“He’s not a tame lion”^1^





I stood at the top of the hill, hoping desperately that this was the last one. Several arguments were running around in my head. I was sorely tempted to give up. I was tired and aching all over. The fear that I am getting old and past it flashed through my mind. Not that I am a quitter, but I am over 40 now… No! It is simply the lack of exercise over the last couple of months that had reduced my fitness to about its lowest ever. I contemplated the hill again. It was a long way to the bottom. One voice started telling me that I would probably fall over at the point where there was a bit of a hillock. Either that or where the trail started to turn. Maybe even both. Another voice told me “So what? You can get back up again.” (But I was sincerely starting to doubt the truth of that.) A louder voice yelled back “Don’t be so negative! If you think about falling over, of course you will. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Decide you won’t fall over, be confident.”

My husband, Martin, and I were having one of our rare weekends when our blended parental responsibilities were at their other parents’ homes and we were free to have some ‘us’ time. It was the first weekend of the ski season (actually, of a couple of ski seasons) where there was enough snow to ski and we were free! We had bought ourselves cross country skis a couple of years back, but the snow season had been so abysmal the last year we really hadn’t got out and used them much. It seemed a God-given opportunity, one of those times where you felt that you had been unaccountably and wonderfully blessed. The snow report said “Excellent for XC skiing on groomed trails”. The weather was beautiful, with clear blue skies and no wind. There are really no better conditions for a day out in the bush skiing. However, at this point I was beginning to wonder whether God had blessed me, or whether He was actually having a great laugh at my expense.

As I continued to study the features of the hill, taking off my skis and walking it was starting to look good. But then it would take so much longer than skiing it, even if I did fall over. And I would probably only fall over once. Martin had skied ahead. I had told him to. He was full of supportive comments and instructions, but I was past it. I think he had realised it was time to leave me to my inefficient and pain inducing self. In fact, he was probably starting to get concerned at this point and wondering if he needed to come and rescue me. It was time to make a decision and move. I would do it. I was getting better and if I could just maintain my snowplough, I would be fine. Time to stop thinking and get on with it. All the instructions went through my mind as a checklist as I perched at the edge of the slope. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, weight over your heels. I used my stocks to push myself forward. The first stretch, I managed to keep my speed in check and my body under control. I tried to focus on just a little way ahead, occasionally glancing further along to be prepared for what was to come. I was doing ok. I was ok. Just as I began to relax, there were some bumps on the trail. I tensed and started to stress. My hips locked agonisingly and I had to shift position. And it was all downhill from there! My speed increased to out of control; I started to lose my balance. Out of nowhere, my arms and stocks began to flail wildly as I madly tried to make my body obey. Needless to say, I found myself, once more, face first in the snow, legs at unusual angles, although nothing damaged except my pride. I lay there for a while, wondering why it was so easy to lie in the snow, but so hard to want to get up again and hoping no one would come down behind me. Whether they were equally out of control and I would have to desperately try to get out of the way, or whether they were of that variety of people who look at you with pity as they glide by with confidence and ease, I was not in the mood.

I did eventually make it back to the car park without having to remove my skis. As much as I was struggling, I love cross-country skiing and will go back for more. I just wish that I could make my body do what it needs to, because that would mean that I would ski so much better and come home in far better shape.

Thinking about everything I have heard (though not mastered) about cross-country skiing, I see my experience as something of a life illustration. It shows me how holding on to control too tightly causes me pain and grief. Learning to let go of my fear, to try doing things differently, even when they feel all wrong is just as relevant for my life as my skiing.

My experience and observations, living in Western society, are that we hold a belief that we should be able to do whatever we want to do if we just focus on it and try hard enough. From soap operas, to ‘lifestyle programs’, magazines and movies, we are bombarded with stories about people who have ‘beaten the odds’ and succeeded to achieve something they wanted to. There seems to be a component of our society, and even within some of the church, that sees life being all about ‘self-actualisation’ – the idea that we each have potential; that life is about finding what our potential is in our particular set of abilities and maximising it. On the surface, this may seem very positive, but I suggest that it can hold us back because it can keep us focussed on ourselves and our own abilities alone.

As a Christian I have been increasingly aware of some of the issues involved with this way of thinking. I have come to a place where I realise that ‘self-fulfilling’ is not as fulfilling as we think and that our journey of life in faith is far more satisfactory as increasingly ‘less of me, more of Jesus’. Although this idea used to fill me with fear of loss, I am seeing that it is not as unbearable as I once thought. I am not missing out on half of life. I am not losing myself in a negative sense, and it is certainly never boring or prohibitive. Letting go of the belief that I can control the outcomes of my life is not as scary as I once thought. Actually, it is quite the opposite, and the freedom I have gained, I would never exchange for anything the world can offer. This is my story of that journey so far.











1.Extract from THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by CS Lewis © copyright CS Lewis Pty Ltd 1950.





Not many people I know would admit to being control freaks. Equally, not many of us enjoy feeling like our lives are out of control. However, there will be times in most lives where circumstances will occur that leave us feeling exactly that: out of control. How we deal with those situations depends on our wiring as well as our beliefs about the world, ourselves and God.

One of my favourite pictures from the Bible comes from Ezekiel 47, where Ezekiel is led by a man, whose appearance was like bronze (Ez 40:3), along and through a river that brings life wherever it goes, even into the Dead Sea. What I love about the picture here is that Ezekiel is taken first through water that is ankle deep, then through water that is knee deep, then waist deep and then to water that is so deep you would need to swim, and that ‘no one could cross’. I see this river as something like life in God. We can go in ankle deep, and get some blessing and enjoyment. We can even go knee deep, where we start to be impacted a little more. At waist deep, we are starting to be seriously impacted by the life of God. However, if we really want to feel the full impact of life in God, we have to jump into the deep and allow His current to take us where it will, at the pace it will, even to flood over our heads and overwhelm us – a bit like baptism, really.

I really love the idea of jumping into the deep with God, but there are plenty of times where I get a little scared of where it might take me, I get a little afraid that I am crazy and have lost the plot. This is not how an educated, intelligent, rational person should behave, and so I return back to where it feels safer. I like to think that I am ready to make the leap, and maybe, step by step I am getting deeper in my relationship with God; maybe there will come a time when I will be so busy focusing on God that I won’t notice how deep the water is anymore.

My experience with God, so far, has taught me that He can be trusted, and whether we see the floods as life giving or destroying, I do believe He is faithful to carry us through. Though this story is not prescriptive, or instructional, my hope and prayer is that it will encourage you that God is faithful, trustworthy and true to His promises and that when He promises to give us abundant life, He does just that. We simply have to decide what we are prepared to let go of in order to take hold of His life.

The topics I have covered here are those that stand out for me. Yours might be different. Your experience of God’s grace in these areas will surely be different. I have started with finances and possessions because this is an area that impacts every person on the planet. Unless we rely on the goodness of a large number of other people, it is very difficult to operate in this world without some form of working for reward, whether that is through cash or goods. The way we manage this aspect will very much determine the direction of our lives. Jesus addressed this issue directly when He said that we cannot serve God and mammon (which translates as riches or wealth). Deciding which one is more important to us will unequivocally determine the life path we take.

I hope you enjoy journeying with me, and pray that God’s Holy Spirit will open His truths to you ever deeper, both as you continue to read and throughout your life.

1. Handing Back Control of What I Have


“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want” Ps 23:1

“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His great riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19


I grew up in a large family living on the single income of a teacher. While we were never massively well off, I don’t think we felt excessively poor, either, even though there were times we didn’t feel we had a great deal compared to some of our friends. However, I am quite sure that I don’t fully appreciate the gift my parents gave me as they instilled certain assumptions about giving into their kids.

My parents modelled giving through the way they lived. We saw them give at church each week. They not only gave money but also their time and abilities. There was no fuss or ceremony about this; it was just what you did. They also gave their time outside church. I remember occasions of walking the streets with my mother as she door knocked for such groups as ‘Freedom from Hunger’. We were often reminded of how well off we were compared to many other people around the world. My parents also tried to make this very practical. One Christmas we had a refugee family come and share the day with us, which was very confronting! Among other things, my mother also spent some time helping a single mother who had no car, taking her shopping and trying to help her to budget and my father did some work as a parole officer, helping young men re-enter the community.

All these actions and more, as they were modelled and spoken to us simply through ‘normal’ life, helped me to find giving relatively easy. I have never questioned doing it and cannot imagine not giving. Although I have picked up some unintentional negative messages where I have struggled to see myself as deserving of much, and also rebelled against my parents at times, (such as in the incentive to eat food I was not particularly fond of: “Be grateful! People in such and such a country would be happy to get anything”, my response was a very defiant “Well, get an envelope and we’ll send it to them!”), there has never been a question in my mind about whether to give. It is a ‘given’!

Somewhere along the way, however, my attitude to giving had a subtle but significant shift. Two things stand out in my memory. One was learning about tithing (giving ten percent of my income to God’s work here on earth). We did not go to a church denomination where tithing was taught and it was not a principle I was aware of my parents using. At a Bible study group I attended in my teens, though, I was taught that this was a Biblical principle. The message was probably not as legalistic as it might have sounded, but the impression was that this is what God expects of us, this is how we showed our gratitude to God for what He has already given us.

Around this same time I was at a conference and the message was on giving. This really cemented an attitude or belief in my heart that has become so real that I cannot imagine seeing the concept any other way. The point the speaker made that has stuck with me was a deeper way of seeing tithing. He reminded us that everything we have is from God and by His grace (not because we have done anything to deserve it). As the Creator, He is the Source of all, from the physical world, to our abilities to work and create, to our emotional wellbeing. We cannot claim anything we have as our own. He suggested that the way God saw things was that He only asked us to give Him a small portion of all He had given us for His work and the rest we were to spend on celebrating the life He had given us. Now, how I interpret that and what I might do with that remaining figure is in a continual state of flux, but somewhere around this time, I came to a place where I knew, without a doubt, that I was actually accountable to God for the way I spend every cent that comes my way.

Over the years I have had times where I have struggled to accept that He is pleased for me to spend money on really celebrating life, whether that be good food, clothes that celebrate my femininity or simply enjoying life. It is an area in which I have grown in understanding and yet one where I think everyone will have a different experience dependent on their unique journey.

More recently I have also come to see that our giving is a way to show our trust in God that He will continue to provide for us. Our attitudes and actions in giving keep us in a place where we can make thoughtful decisions about what we do with our money, rather than our money controlling our lives.

My understanding about financial giving has continued to grow. A further idea I heard of was to start with a tithe. For someone on a low income, that may be all they can do. However, the suggestion was that as our income increases, our expenses do not necessarily grow at the same rate. If I am a single professional, my living expenses may not be much different to a single person working in a low wage position or to a student. In that position, I can give a great deal more. The most important part of this principle, though, was about my relationship with God. If my giving, at any point, is about getting in the ‘good books’ with God, rather than coming from my gratitude to Him and wanting to partner with Him in what He is doing in the world, then I need to re-examine my motives.

Giving can be difficult. On a low or even non-existent income, it can be really hard to give out of what you don’t have. There have been occasions in my life where not giving might have made some sense. However, I have found these have been opportunities where God has proven Himself faithful and I have got to know Him more. My faith has grown (as it usually does) through the tough times.

In my early twenties, I moved out of home. I was tired of travelling an hour and a half each way to university and besides, I felt ready to go it alone. I moved into a house with four other Christians and we had a great time. For me still studying, however, it was a test of my financial resources. My parents didn’t have the income to support me out of home, but I had worked full time for about four months over summer and saved hard. This gave me some capital to live off, with the view to getting a part time job if I needed to down the track.

Moving out of home, I had let church attendance lapse. This was not because my faith had changed, but largely due to a struggle between what I thought the Church should look like and the reality of this. I was still involved with Christian activities, though, and about half way through the year was at a Youth For Christ rally. They were looking for people to commit to just $10 a month to help support their ministry. At that time, my finances were diminishing rapidly and I was looking for work. However, I felt God nudge me. As I wasn’t attending a church anywhere regularly I hadn’t been giving, so I decided that this would be my place to give. I felt that God was saying “Put me to the test. You honour me with your giving and I will supply your needs.” I made the commitment. Within days I was offered a fantastic part time job around the corner from university, a couple of hours each day, which they were happy for me to fit in with my schedule.

Shortly after this, the message was reinforced. Although the part time job was keeping my head above water, it was only just. I knew I had a cheque due from the taxation department, but was not sure when it would arrive. Sharing this with my mother as I spent some time at home during the holidays, she offered me some money to tide me over. I could repay her as soon as my cheque came. I reluctantly accepted. It was with great joy that I arrived back at my abode to find the cheque from the taxation department awaiting me!

I would also like to highlight here, though, that by no means was I ‘just scraping by’ financially. As much as I believe that God’s blessings are not simply material ‘blessings’, I do believe that He likes to give us good things, which may be different according to our level of maturity and need at the time. He is generous and abundant in His giving, and I don’t think He wants His children to live in a stingy way. He gives to us in abundance to teach us to also give in abundance. For me, at this time, it meant that I not only had money to do the things I needed to do, but also to do things for pleasure, which included things like a new dress for my graduation ball.

Years later, after living this principle of giving since my teens, the lessons about my finances went to a new level. Although I felt like I was better off than many I knew in similar circumstances, as a single parent on a government pension, cash flow was often tight. I came to a point in time where I found myself stressed about how I would juggle the bills on a fairly regular basis. I also became aware that I was taking my stress out on my daughter, getting snappy with her interruptions to the mental gymnastics I was performing with my finances.

As I stepped back and explained to her why I was so frazzled, I had a memory from my childhood. It was a time where my parents were also struggling to pay the bills. I remembered the fear and anxiety that stuck with me for many years afterward and this hit me hard. It was not that my parents talked about the financial problems with us, I think I simply overheard them talking. When I had talked to my mother about this memory years later, she said that it had only been a very short period of time and had not been that much of an issue. However, as a young child, I had taken it on board and had great concern over this. I didn’t want my daughter to feel like that. What could I do to ensure we weren’t in that position? At the same time, a verse of Scripture kept ringing in my ears… “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

I have been challenged about this verse, that it can be interpreted in a distorted fashion to mean that we can get anything we want by simply asking God. However, I have also learnt that God will use whatever He needs to get our attention and to remind us of His promises to us. God does promise to meet our needs (for example, Matt 6:25-34) and I believe that He wants us to be dependent on Him. Jesus says that unless we become like little children we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 18:3). Little children are very dependent on their parents for everything. They trust implicitly and expect great things. We are to be like this with God. He wants us to seek Him for the answers to every area of our lives.

When I finally realised that God was trying to get my attention with this verse, that it was a message from my loving Heavenly Father, I made the step forward and actually prayed about my finances, asking God to provide that which I needed.

A few days later, I had a phone call from my daughter’s Godparents, who were living in Edinburgh (Scotland) at the time. They had been praying about how they could help me, feeling distant and remote from my struggles after the marriage breakdown, but wanting to do something. They rang to find out my bank account number, because, after praying, they had decided that they would like to help me financially, by paying for my daughter’s kindergarten fees. They were not aware at that time that my struggles were also financial. Of course, after my prayers, I could do nothing but accept! Furthermore, while I thought that they would make four payments, term by term, it was a great surprise to find they had put the whole amount into my account straight away. The benefit of this was that it got me over that hurdle of not quite having enough during the months where there were more bills.

I learnt my lesson well, this time! From then on, rather than trying to sort things out in my own strength, I realised that it was ok to ask for God’s help and that He actually would help me. I ended up getting casual administration work with a company and it was extraordinary the number of times that I would get a phone call from them out of the blue, asking me to work, just when I needed it. At first it was often within a day of me praying, but later it got to the point where I hardly had to think about it and I would be offered work. I would like to stress here, though, that I don’t believe that I should simply keep spending and expect God to pick up the tab. I need to be a good steward of what is provided for me. Having a budget can help, although being too rigid and stressed about exactly meeting it can be just as defeating – I can rely too much on my ability to meet my budget, and stop relying on God to meet my needs. I think that, like most things in life, there needs to be a balance.

I have not come to the end of my lessons about God’s supply for my finances. Sometimes I struggle (and this has been a struggle all my adulthood), with the fact that, as an Australian, I am incredibly wealthy. When we compare the poorest people in Australia with countless other people in the world, they are still well off in contrast to many in other countries. Because of this, asking God for material ‘needs’ continues to be a challenge to me at times.

Over the past few years, my understanding and views about this have expanded and deepened, most particularly around the idea of God’s reasons to bless us. Malachi 3:10 says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test Me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” I have heard this passage being used to encourage people to give.

While I would agree wholeheartedly with the belief or understanding of who God is for us, a God of abundance and generosity, it bothers me that an underlying message here may be that we can manipulate God. If I give, He will give even more back. Our giving needs to demonstrate our heart: our gratitude to God for all He has already supplied; a demonstration of our trust in His goodness towards us and His ability to provide all our needs (and more!); and a heart of kindness, mercy and love towards those less fortunate than ourselves.

I remember hearing someone say that she had a problem with giving because she frequently gave more than she could afford and that she then couldn’t pay her bills. I have thought about that often, as I have, at times questioned how much I can afford not to give as I have compared my own circumstances with others around the world. I have come to a place, though, where I realise that God places (genuine) needs before me and my willingness to respond is quite a good measure of the state of my heart. Learning to discern what is genuine and what is my responsibility is the tough part!

Another aspect of giving came from further understanding promises in the Bible. In particular, the promise from God to Abram in Genesis 12:2-3 contains two parts. The first was that God would bless him and the second part was that all nations would be blessed through him. The idea here is that God doesn’t bless us just to make us feel and look good. He doesn’t bless us so we can have a cushy life. His blessings that He loves to pour down on us can also be a test. Will we simply keep them to ourselves and get ‘fat’, or do we use them to bless others, to be the answer to their prayers? This marries in with my increasing understanding (and sometimes frustration) about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. Our role is to be Jesus to every person who comes across our path. We are to use all the blessings (our finances, material goods, time, energy, spiritual gifts, experiences in life) God has given us to pass something on to others in need.

Time passed, and I was challenged at a deeper level again about God’s promise to meet my financial needs.

A couple of years after I remarried, we came to a place where we were struggling with cash flow. We questioned what we might need to change, but felt very much that we were doing what God wanted us to do. We tried extending our loan, but to no avail. We thought hard about selling part of our business but didn’t feel very comfortable about that either. In amongst it all, we were praying, and seeking God for the answer. Every time it seemed that an answer would come, it would fall through. We were stretched out to the max, and everything seemed to conspire against us – I even paid our house insurance a month early, by ‘accident’, which pushed things harder. As I realised I had done this and that there was no way to reverse it, I felt God chuckling and saying to me “Just watch what I can do!” So, we kept trusting and seeking God and we kept up with our financial commitments in giving.

One morning as I was praying and seeking God for an answer to our circumstances, I had a picture of us in a boat in a wild storm (“Help, Lord, don’t You care that we are about to drown!?”) The boat was being rocked about violently and it seemed that it would capsize. However, I felt that Jesus was saying to me, “Just hold on. Trust Me. I will rescue you soon and you will not go under.” As I shared this with my husband, I felt that peace come over me again; the peace that passes all understanding, the deep peace and confidence that God would bring us through this.

It took time, though, and I learnt a new thing about stewardship. My husband and I have both had the deep belief for most of our lives that everything we have, from possessions to finances to kids, really belongs to God and that we are simply stewards of it all. More than this, though, we also believe that we are accountable to God for what we do with all that we have, from the money that’s left over, to our abilities and our time. However, these circumstances brought to my awareness another area of growth for us. Do we allow God to own our debts?

Sitting in a place where we couldn’t even pay out the credit card (normally we wouldn’t allow it to get to a point where we don’t pay it off fully each month), I had to accept that we had asked God to provide for our financial needs and that we had to let go of the responsibility of the ‘bad stewardship’ of not paying off the credit card and of having to pay interest where we hadn’t planned to, as well as non-payment fees.

When I seek God to meet my financial needs, I cannot hold on to those needs, but must lay them down at His feet. Whilst I was stressing about this, I was not resting in faith and leaving this to be His problem. I had to let go, allow this money to be ‘wasted’ and allow God to have control of that ‘waste.’ The example of Mary pouring a year’s salary worth of perfume over Jesus has been used as an illustration or demonstration of how extravagant God is and how nothing is too much for Him, even as Judas was advocating how much this could have done for the poor. However, in my mind, throwing money at the bank for nothing is not a good use of resources – I would much rather give that money to someone who needed it. But, again, it is a growth in trust – do I trust God even when things really don’t look ‘good’ or ‘right’, when it doesn’t feel comfortable or natural? Will I make the choice to rest in Him with my finances awry and allow Him to do as He sees fit, or am I busy telling Him how to do His job?

Just as things seemed to be settling down, we had another financial hit. This time large claims were made on our finances by a government institution for money that hadn’t been claimed three years before. Even though the government had come to a place of agreeing that many of these laws had been unjust and so changed them, they had a huge backlog and were still reconciling the unjust amounts from up to 7 years back. Everything in me rose up at the unfairness of money being taken from us and given to someone who would appear not to need it.

In the midst of this, I had a husband who remained, (after the initial shock) irritatingly calm about it all, trusting in God’s goodness and His promises to meet our needs, let alone the fact that when we look at the other two-thirds of the world, we find that we are incredibly rich by comparison. My struggle remained with the fact that if God asked us to give it all to people in need I wouldn’t hesitate. It just didn’t seem like good stewardship of our resources. However, I was learning that there will be times when we don’t understand why God allows some things to happen and in true faith, we don’t need to. If we really trust God, we can sit and say, “I don’t understand why, but I am sure God has a reason, and I pray that it comes to fruition in His plans.” We can look at situations like these and see it as being all about spiritual warfare, that Satan is attacking us. I have no doubt that this can be so, that he has a finger in the pie, just as he did with Job. The only thing that is important, though, is our response.

As I sought God to help me change my attitude, I felt Him showing me that the distribution of this money in such an unjust fashion was part of His plan for those who received it, that it was a challenge to them to see His provision and that He was using it to bless them to try to draw them to Himself. However, they were only responsible to Him about their response to this, not to us. There is a level at which we were being tested. “If I take your money and give it to a person you have difficulties with and they go and spend it in a way that is not for what it was intended, how will you respond? Will you be bitter and resentful, either to Me or to that person? Or will you submit to Me and continue to trust Me, even in this?”

In the area of my possessions and wealth (or lack thereof), I find I have a fine line to walk. I can so easily slip into a place of measuring God’s love for me by what I have (or don’t). I know it. I have spent many years with a deep belief (although not one I would readily have admitted even to myself) that my lack in any area was because God did not love me that much. This was an area of deep bondage in my life, which came out of rejection issues and it lead to a performance orientation in me. I had to perform to be loved by God and if I didn’t ‘feel’ that love it was because I hadn’t performed.

The physical realm is one where falling into this trap of work is an ongoing danger. Believing that some action of mine can ‘make’ God do something for me is a subtle temptation. Even praying about situations can cause me problems. For example, if I had any belief, when praying about my finances like “If I pray, God will fix this”, then I could have the wrong motivation. It needs to be about seeking God, about having relationship with Him. Presenting my need before Him in the form, “God, I am struggling financially. Could You help me?” is different to saying, “God, I need more money.”

It reminds me of conversations I had with my daughter when she was young. Sometimes she would get angry and frustrated because I was not helping her. I would try to point out to her that yelling, “My hair won’t go right!” or “I can’t do this!” was not asking for help. We might not be so overt with God, but we do need to come humbly to Him and in submission. It is a fine line between coming in expectation that God cares and wants to meet my needs and expecting something specific that, although it may be in line with my desires, is not in line with His.

Coming back to where I started, I am reminded constantly that many of the issues we feel challenged by are very much ‘first world’ problems, problems that millions in the world would hardly flinch at, or would even wish they had the luxury of having. Perspective is a real game changer in what we struggle with, even though we often don’t see it at the time.

2. Handing Back Control of Others


You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8



When I was in my early twenties, my mother came across an old reel-to-reel tape recording that my younger brothers and I had made when I was about eight or nine. We had really enjoyed the wonderful technology of recording our voices and hearing them back. This particular recording was a ‘radio station’ segment and listening to it was quite embarrassing for me. I couldn’t believe the bossiness in my voice as I instructed my youngest brother (probably about 3 or 4 at the time) to ‘just say something’. I had never thought of myself as being that controlling or manipulative and here it was, right out in the open!

Most of us have probably been aware of feeling as though someone else is trying to control either our lives or aspects of our behaviour at some point in our lives. Probably many of us relate to this particularly in the process of breaking away from our parents. Truth be told, though, we have probably all struggled with the desire to control others or their behaviour at least at some point in time. I would suggest, however, that much of our desire to control others and our relationships with them has its roots in either of two causes. The first, our desire for the best for them can easily get tangled with the second, which is our brokenness and hence ‘need’ for things to be done our way.

Having a child has been a huge growth for me in this area. Initially this was in realising just how much I desired to control the world around me. Having stepchildren stretched me even further. The truth is that as much as we would all like to control those we are in relationship with, we can’t. The question becomes, then, how we deal with others and what can we do when they are doing things we would rather they didn’t?

About three weeks into parenting, I started to realise that I wasn’t going to be able to make my daughter the child I wanted her to be. Although it may sound funny, I went into parenting ‘knowing’ that I was going to be the best parent ever. I was going to deal with my child perfectly and consequently there were no problems that I (and some book) couldn’t overcome. Quickly! Hmm…. Was I in for an eye-opening!

It started with the fact that there were times when I wanted her to be awake (for example, feed times in the day) and it seemed nothing could keep her awake. On the flip side, there were times when she was going to be awake (time to play!) and I wanted her to be asleep. Desperately. It was four am!!! This was already the beginning of letting go for me and I really wasn’t prepared for it.

Another confrontation to my idealism arose as someone told me that I would make mistakes as a parent. After three months, I was still convinced I was invincible… or something! They told me of a book called “Good Enough Parenting” and explained the idea that it wasn’t whether or not you made mistakes as a parent (because I would) but the overall, consistent messages that were important. I struggled to accept it at that point, but over the years it has stuck in my memory and I have learnt to be a little more lenient with myself.

If I needed further clarification of my position as a parent out of control, it came by the time my daughter was eighteen months old. She was determined and decisive and knew exactly what she wanted (or didn’t), especially when it came to clothes. One of the books I had read suggested that I choose my battles carefully. That is, to only stand my ground on things that I saw as vitally important (i.e. health and safety) and to learn to give ground on those things that are really only preference. (Thongs and shorts are fine in winter…hmmm…). Parenting has definitely been (and continues to be) a journey demonstrating just how little of others I can control, however good my intentions may be.

I do recognise that most of what parents require of their children does come out of a desire for the best for them. We want kids to grow up well adjusted, confident, healthy and able to function well in society, while also being able to achieve all they were created to achieve and to have a great relationship with God. It spells trouble if they see this end occurring through a different path than we think we see so clearly for them. It may come from our own experiences: don’t do that because I did and it had a bad outcome, or do this because it worked for me. Unfortunately I have to continually remind myself that as much as I might see similarities between my child and myself, she is different and God does have at least somewhat different plans for her.

I love a story I heard where someone was complaining to God about her husband and kids and asking why He hadn’t changed them. His response was along the lines of, “I want to but I am waiting for you to get out of the way.” Over time, I have come to recognise the truth of how much time I have spent trying to change other people. And the further truth I have seen is that the times people actually change through all my striving are few and far between.

One of the first ‘self-help’ books I read discussed this fact that we cannot change other people, that change is their choice. We can offer to help or give advice, but in the end it is down to them what they do with it. The only thing we can change is the way we respond to them. In fact, our greatest power is in our own response. It is an area I am still doing a great deal of growing in and probably will for the rest of my life. It is one thing to stop responding negatively. It is a whole other lesson to learn healthy new ways to deal with our problems with others. It is probably as varied as people are and the outcome from this change is not always the one we would choose.

In my first marriage, I started to put some of these principles to work. We had been having our struggles and as I tried to bring us through to a healthier place by endeavouring to get my husband to do certain things with me, I came to a place where I realised that he wasn’t ready to do that. If I wasn’t happy with the way things were in our relationship, the only change I could make was to me.

My first step was learning to love him unconditionally. I remember doing an activity on forgiveness where I was to write him a letter stating that I forgave him for things he had done that I had felt hurt by. (It wasn’t to give to him – the exercise involved writing out the statement over and over until you worked it through.) It was much harder than I expected, however when I had finished I felt all my love for him return in quite a rush. I suddenly began to see myself as he did, too. So I began to change. I began to stop trying to manipulate our relationship to make it work. It meant that I stopped doing some things that I did just because I felt he expected me to. On the other side, I also allowed him to do things his way, although this didn’t mean I had to follow suit.

Although this freed me up quite a lot and I started to feel more peace, unfortunately it was soon after this that he decided that he didn’t like the change he saw in me. In his own words, he could see that it was good for me, but he wanted me back the way I was. I learnt another hard lesson here. Even though I might change for the better, I had to accept that others may not be prepared to adapt to that change and the end result may be that the relationship can’t work. (Please note, this is not the only reason our marriage ended – it was more complicated than that. However, I believe it is no coincidence that the end came only months after this. It takes two to make a relationship work. All the desire in the world can’t make a relationship work if it is only one sided.)

After the end of my first marriage, it took me some time to be prepared to even consider another relationship. When I did get to this place, I decided that I would make sure that I was the emotionally healthiest I could be before I would marry again. Although this evolved from the thought that if I was healthy, I would hopefully be able recognise unhealthy relationships, there was also a realisation (somewhere there) that the way I had been operating my life was not particularly helpful when the rubber hit the road.

I went for a fair bit of counselling and at one point the counsellor confronted me with the fact that I had been living in a place where I was overly dependent on one person (my husband) to meet all my needs. At the time I understood the need for a wider circle of friends to rely on, however it was not until years later that I uncovered and dealt with the reason I had ended up in this place. It had been a conscious decision and it had to do with rejection.

Looking back into my childhood and teen years, I can pinpoint a number of incidences that led me to a position where I decided that people were basically untrustworthy. There were certain people I would trust to a deeper level, but I had developed a belief that even those people didn’t really like me that much and at best were tolerating me. Because of this, I lived in a carefully constructed and controlled environment where I was very selective about who I really let in. None of this was conscious, but it was a lie that I lived with for so long and believed so deeply that it coloured my whole life. Meeting someone who put me up on a pedestal and made me the centre of his life completed the picture. I didn’t need anyone else. I could survive anything if I had that relationship. Except losing it!

The point is, in my brokenness, I tried to fix my life through a relationship. Being married made me okay and it meant that I was making my dream happen. However, having relationships largely to meet my needs ends up being manipulative or unsatisfactory at best, especially given that only God can meet most of the needs I was looking to get met.

During my healing process I learnt that our basic needs include acceptance, value and belonging. We tend to look to others to ‘make’ us feel accepted, valued and as though we belong. The problem is that every other person is also broken and so what is reflected back to us is often distorted to some degree (or we distort it on the way in) and so we end up feeling cheated or let down. The only Person who can reflect our true value, who accepts us unconditionally, and who we can really belong to, is the One who created us. It is only in God that we find these needs perfectly met.

For me, though, there was another difficulty getting these needs met.

There was a point in my journey where I saw a picture of myself as a bucket. Here I was, trying to get my bucket full through healthy relationships, but I suddenly became aware that my bucket had colossal holes in it. I felt as though it wouldn’t matter how much was poured into my bucket it would never be full. I was devastated and felt I must literally be such a drain on other people, too. However, as I continued, I realised that the problem wasn’t just those holes, but was also a wall that I had built.

During the period of my late teens and even into adulthood, I had developed a very efficient way to not get hurt. I had built a wall. Whenever someone would do something that hurt me or I didn’t like, another brick went up. “It doesn’t matter, you’re not that important to me.” “You are just so and so, or such and such. What would you know?” I had a whole retinue of excuses and reasons as defences against the pricks and prods around me and over time, they built a very effective wall.

The problem was that although walls are good at keeping the bad out, they also tend to keep the good out too! When someone fed me praise or love, the same thoughts would appear… “You are not important enough for that to make me any good…” “You’re just saying that… If you really knew me…” Although they weren’t conscious thoughts, they were there in the background, forming the foundation of how I lived.

Along my healing journey, I became aware of the various aspects of my self-protection. As helpful as they were in increasing my understanding of where I was and why, they did not fix the problem.

I remember a discussion where I said to someone that my belief that other people would hurt me was true. Other people are broken and they do hurt people. The response was a totally new thought for me. “Yes, but most people are not trying to. Most people are not vindictive and spiteful. If they hurt you, it is usually unintentional.” It took me some time to take this on board, but it enabled me to take baby steps forward in having a much more forgiving attitude to others and to not continue to fortify my walls when I was hurt.

Pulling down the walls around my heart has been quite painful and has taken time. However, God is gentle and I came to a point where I started to trust Him more. In as much as it took years to build and reinforce the walls, though, it also took time to bring them down. There were, however, significant healing points along the journey.

At one time, I found myself going through a number of episodes of sensing God putting His finger onto a wound and say, “I want to deal with that one.” At first I would try to ignore it, but it only meant I sat in pain. As much as I would find myself crying out, “Nooooo… I don’t want to go there”, I eventually realised that accepting where I was and dealing with it, with God, was nowhere near as painful as I expected. And it certainly was less painful than what I experienced while not dealing with it.

It was in one such episode that I found myself in oceans of tears yet again in church and, sighing, said to God, “OK, let’s get on with it. What is it this time you want me to deal with?” I immediately had a picture of a staircase going deep down into a basement, with a small door in the dark at the bottom. God was carrying a lamp and pointing His finger said, “I want to go in there.”

Instantly, nearly every part of my being rose up in terror and tension and screamed out (inside me), “NOOOOO. No way. We are not going in there…” I was a mess, even though I had absolutely no idea what was behind that door. (It shows how deceptive our hearts are! Jer 17:9) However, I had learnt to trust God more, so by the morning, when I woke up still struggling, I found a miniscule amount of strength to be able to give my assent to Him, to say, “OK, show me what it is.”

As I had found with most things, it was nowhere near as bad as the intensity of my feelings would have suggested. On this occasion, the offending wound was caused by a vow I had made when my marriage had ended. “I will never let anyone hurt me like this again.”

Although it sounds fairly innocuous and harmless, and even sensible, in some ways it was the mortar that had held my wall together, perhaps even put a concrete coat over it. While the statement was about self-protection, what it actually did was prevent me from trusting others and believing them. By this time I was remarried and it was particularly affecting our relationship and my ability to receive love at a deep level from my husband as well as in my relationship with God.

So how was I to fix this? It was a process I had been learning for some time, and rather than acting on my feelings, I needed to engage my will. I got together with a trusted pastor, we prayed over it, I renounced the words I had spoken over myself, asked God for forgiveness for making the vow and I moved on. Although incidents like this did not generally give me an instantaneous change, over a period of time I realised that I was not responding the way I had before. I was no longer affected in the same way by people’s actions.

What it particularly meant this time was that I started to be able to believe the good others spoke of me, started to be able to accept love and care from them and my bucket started to fill up. Looking back, I realise that this had even affected my ability to accept love from God, and so, most importantly, I could now get my bucket filled by Him. This, in turn, has enabled me to have so much more energy and ability to minister truly to others. What’s more, I don’t feel like a bucket with a hole anymore!

The reason I share this is that the broken part of me that tries to control others is really only trying to get satisfaction, to get needs met. Often this is in distorted and perverse ways and the satisfaction from these never lasts. Like the difference between eating lollies or junk food to replace a healthy meal, we go away feeling dissatisfied. Many of us live with holes in our buckets, or perhaps try to ignore our bucket completely. We might try to fill it with many things, from giving to others, to food, to drugs, to sex or even ministry or family. The problem with all these things is that they can become addictive behaviours. They only give a short term fix, so we keep coming back for more, never really being satisfied. However, the problem is that until we discover our destitution and loss when these props are removed, we often don’t realise our utter reliance on them to keep us going.

The cure, as I have found it, is two-fold. The first is to get our bucket fixed. Depending on the number of holes and how big they are, this can be something of a process. As much as I hated to hear this, people have reminded me that what we spend a lifetime doing to ourselves or having done to us, generally isn’t fixed in a minute. Although I do believe God can work miracles, the process is often part of the cure, in that we need to learn certain things along our healing journey to prevent us going back and repeating the damage.

The second part of the cure is to seek to fill our bucket from the only Source that will truly satisfy us. Our Creator. We were created for relationship, first with God, then with others. He is the Source of all we need and it is only as we seek to live our lives in complete dependence on Him that we will not only be truly satisfied, but also fulfil all we were created to be in our relationships with others. It is only then that we have enough to give to others in their need.

Ultimately, we will continue to have problems for as long as we expect or desire other people to either fix us or make our lives better. No one was created to do that, to be our answer. Only God is. Unless we look to Him, we will always get to a point where we are stuck. Other people will inevitably let us down, especially if we are looking to them to do something for us that they were not designed for. As long as we keep trying to get our needs met by others in inappropriate ways, we will continue to try to manipulate and control them to endeavour to get them to do something for us.

The same goes for us as we help others. We cannot fix other people’s problems for them. We cannot fix the world. We can, and must, only point them to God who both has and is the answer.

Another area I have learnt my need to release others is through forgiveness. When I hold on to unforgiveness, there is a part of me that believes that the other owes me something. This, in itself, is a form of manipulation and control. If I withhold forgiveness, often I am actually trying to force you to change or do something I want. However, I will explore the impact this has had in my life further on in chapter five.

3. Handing Back Control of My Future


For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11


That’s it! I can’t take it anymore!”

As my husband stormed furiously into the house from work in the middle of the day, I felt my world start to crumble around me. In shock and disbelief, I helped him find somewhere else to live, not believing that it would be for long. We would work it out. It was not that I thought we had a perfect marriage. There had been struggles for some time. It was just that I was in this for better or worse and I thought he was too. There was something I could do to fix this.

Over the next weeks and months, it was probably this belief that helped me survive, but it was a false belief. And I only just survived, sometimes barely.

Growing into adulthood it had taken me some time to come to a place where I realised not only that my life was mine to make of it what I wished but that it was also my responsibility. Finding out who I am and what my gifts are has been a whole other journey, which seems to have brought me in something of a full circle. In discovering the freedom of early adulthood, though, I was happy to cruise and enjoy life without much of a plan. I didn’t have awareness of particular abilities nor of specific desires for my future.

A fairly unconscious picture of my life included a husband I would grow old with, children and eventually grandchildren. If you had asked me, I would not have been able to verbalise this even though deep down I discounted the possibility of it not coming to pass. I had seen it in my parents’ life and it is a fairly common scenario in the society I live in. There was never any sense of impending doom, or thoughts that I couldn’t work through any impediments to build the life I wanted. I could make it happen.

In many ways, I drifted along where life took me, feeling at some levels that my choices were limited, that I was somewhat boxed in. There was no question, for example, of whether I would go on to tertiary education, the choice was only what course and where, although even that was limited by the subjects I had taken (again without seeing alternative choices), my scores in those subjects and where I could travel to and from home each day. Looking back, there were so many alternatives, but they were limited by my lack of experience and confidence to break out of the expectations I perceived and my belief systems about what was expected of me.

And so I drifted on.

An ability of mine that has not always been appreciated by either me or by others is my ability to organise. Looking back on my childhood, this often included people. My two younger brothers were probably the greatest victims while they were still smaller than me and looked up to me. At one level, this is not a bad thing. People need to be led. For me it was not particularly manipulative, either. I wasn’t generally trying to make people do what I wanted specifically. It was simply a matter of expediency. If we are going to do this thing, let’s get on with it.

In my early twenties, however, I began to see that this trait could be somewhat overpowering to others. I would find myself jumping ahead, or jumping in first to get things happening in a way that did not allow others to have their input or to use their gifts. I had to learn to step back and wait for others first. In cases where it was my role to lead, I also needed to listen.

Over the course of my healing journey, I have discovered that part of this comes from a fear of things being out of control. If I organise it, I know I can rely on myself and I don’t have to rely on someone else who might let me down or disappoint me. I know it will get done right. This included my life. Unfortunately, this also led me to a place where I didn’t really trust many other people. By the time I was married, the reality of this played out as an over emphasis on the relationship with my husband. I was still learning how to have a healthy independence from my parents, but I was so insecure within myself that deep down I found it very difficult to believe that I could really depend on others.

Several things happened in the process of having a child that have retrospectively shown me the journey God has been taking me on, revealing a rather nasty fact that I cannot control the outcome of my life. Try as I might, I cannot produce the ‘perfect life’.

In typical naivety, we planned our family. We decided the earliest time we would like to have a baby and started from there. I did not worry or think about not conceiving, although I didn’t expect immediate results. However, as pregnancy became a realistic possibility, I started to wonder if I was really ready and were there not some other things I might like to do before being tied to parenting? By the time I had those thoughts, it was too late. We were expecting.

Well, I enjoyed pregnancy and was fortunate that things were fairly normal for the first two trimesters. However, when I had my intensive thirty-week check-up, to my complete shock and surprise, I was told I had gestational diabetes. How could this be? I was having the perfect pregnancy; I was eating and doing all the right things. I was taking control over my birthing (in a birthing unit with only midwives if I had my way) but suddenly found myself in a place where certain decisions were taken out of my hands. Such was my level of denial that one day the dietician had to tell me straight out, “You have to accept the fact that you are not having a normal pregnancy, that you are now at a higher level of risk.” (One of those, I found out, being a much greater risk of placental failure and even a loss of the baby.)

Even after this and being told the baby would be induced at thirty-nine weeks, I felt confident I could ‘make’ myself go into labour spontaneously before then and still have my baby ‘naturally’. It did not happen. Unfortunately, because of my denial combined with a fairly full on birthing experience (just shy of a caesarean after some thirty-plus hours of labour), I really struggled for the first few months.

And so my baby was born. Well, I had read up heaps while pregnant. As I mentioned earlier, I was going to be a perfect parent, my baby the perfect baby. I had all the plans and I would make it happen. I remember early on, as I was doing an early morning feed, having a discussion with myself. The unrelenting responsibility of parenting had hit me like a ton of bricks and I was realising that my life was no longer my own, that the responsibility was 24/7. The discussion went something like this: “I can’t keep going on like this. It is too much…” (whine). “But this is what you wanted. You went into it with your eyes open. What did you expect?”

It was at this point I relaxed with it, with my expectations on myself. As some wise sage said, and which I took on as my sanity line, “Remember, it’s not forever. They do grow out of it. It’s just a phase.” (No one mentioned the fact that they then go into another phase that is bound to challenge you in a whole new way!) The lesson I had begun some years ago on understanding that I cannot control someone else’s behaviour, only my reaction to them, had just moved up a notch.

Over time, things settled down and I was back in control again. My baby got used to life outside the womb and relaxed into a very set routine. I thought life was going well as I headed back to university, we bought a house and everything was fairly predictable…

…Until the day my husband decided to leave.

As I mentioned earlier, I truly believed that I could do something to ‘fix’ our marriage. I had been through a process of suggesting we have some counselling, to finding books we could use to self-help our marriage, to finally doing my bit to make sure I was not part of the problem, dealing with my own resentment and unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict.

However, a marriage takes two to make it work. If one half moves away emotionally and makes connections elsewhere, it becomes difficult if not impossible to make it work. So I was back in a place where I had no control over the events of my life. As I watched so much of what I held dear slip away, I fell into a deep black hole of despair. It took me some time to realise it, but the loss of the relationship was small compared to what felt like the loss of my whole future, the unspoken dream of how my life should turn out.

This was not something that was a once off grief incident, either. Even as time went on, there were constant little reminders: people celebrating 50th, 60th wedding anniversaries, the birth of the children of friends and family, birthdays and so on. All these helped to highlight the fact that even if I were to remarry and have more children and so forth, it would never quite be the same as if my marriage had lasted. It hit me hard, and was probably a major factor in my heading down that dark tunnel of despair to depression. In fact, a sense of powerlessness and lack of control is probably a leading cause in depression, so it was hardly surprising.

Looking back a number of years later, I found myself wondering about my faith at that time. As I watched someone else go through a similar experience with every appearance of a great deal more composure and strength than I had felt, I asked God what was different about my faith in that place. The picture He gave me was a little confronting. The concept that went with it was taking a small child to learn to swim. We hold them in our arms and instruct them to lie back and float, but they cling to us fearfully instead. This was the picture God gave me of myself at that time. Rather than really trusting Him through this process, I was clinging to Him, screaming and crying, “Don’t let me drown.” A long time later, I realised that any drowning was in my perspective rather than reality.

Letting go of my future has been a long journey. I am still on it, although I am getting better at recognising when I attempt to manipulate or create outcomes; I am getting better at leaving those desires with God. Although I have grown in being more able to seek God’s way forward, in many cases they have continued to be in my paradigm of what I would like. God, in His mercy, has been and continues to be gracious.

Nevertheless, I have become more and more aware of just how much I like to create parameters of acceptability on the life outcomes I would like. As much as I might say that I give my life to Jesus, there can definitely be no go zones at times of what I have and haven’t allowed Him to prevent or add to my life. However, I have also come to recognise that He will regularly override these, as is His right! And I have not always even been aware that I have no go zones until they have been challenged by the unthinkable happening. “Yes, God, I trust you in all areas of my life.” Then there is an issue with my health, or a loved one’s health, or my marriage, or my children, or my work situation, and I find another new area where I need to learn how to trust in God and His abilities.

For me, the process of trusting God more has generally been a gradual one, in that it has occurred as other areas of my life have been healed, but also as my understanding of God has grown. My understanding of what it means to trust God has helped me to step back from my unfulfilled dreams and desires, and speak out that trust. If I am trusting God with this, that He knows best what my future needs to hold, I don’t need to worry about it.

As I have reflected on where some of my incorrect or unhelpful beliefs have come from, I wonder whether it has been from subtle (or even not so subtle) incorrect teaching I have taken on board. A focus on verses such as “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4) out of context of the rest of the Bible can lead to a belief that God is all about making me happy. I wonder if the whole movement encouraging women as ‘Daughters of the King’ and ‘Princesses’ and deserving royal treatment, although helpful at many levels, may also lead people to believing that God is all about making them feel good and supplying all our wants (not needs! Phil 4:19). Again, the issue is not even necessarily the truth of what is being spoken, but that out of balance with other teaching, it can lead to self-focus and self-fulfilment rather than a life focussed on God.

Another aspect of this for me was about having a vision for my life. Although we definitely need some sort of vision to work toward, it seems that, as with many aspects of life, it is easy to swing too far one way. I did find it really helpful to explore my spiritual gifts and look at my role in life through that lens. However, if I turn my purpose in life into being about using my spiritual gifts, it can subtly become very self-serving. I want to ‘self-actualise’ and do whatever it takes to be the best. The question I keep asking myself is whether not doing a certain activity/ministry/job makes me less of a person, less valuable to God in my own eyes, or whether, conversely, doing it makes me ‘more’. If the answer is yes, then my motives still need some work. Rather than serving God and others, maybe I am still in a position of trying to fulfil myself and who I think I need to be.

Don’t get me wrong here. Along the way, finding out the ways in which God had gifted me, the way He created me, was an important part of my journey to self-love and self-acceptance. One of my big issues growing up was not knowing who I was and struggling with being someone separate to others. So much of my idea of self was based on my perceptions of how others viewed me, which often had little basis in reality. I was very good at reading great depths of understanding into every little response and act by another toward myself, or even in my vicinity. If you didn’t speak to me, I could easily read it as a snub, whether or not you had actually even noticed I was there. And I was good at reading great depths into random comments that were in all likelihood never even there. So learning that God made me in a certain way, with certain abilities and gifts was important in my understanding of my purpose.

From the place of understanding that God did have a specific plan for my life, He also started to plant a vision for ministry in my heart. Connecting my gifts and abilities with this vision lead me to a place where I wanted to do everything in my power to make it happen. Take every opportunity, rush ahead. However, there was a point when I realised that although God had given me a vision, it wasn’t up to me to then make that vision happen.

A major understanding came through another picture. God and I were standing on a mountain top, looking out across a valley. There was a town in the valley, and God pointed at the town and said, “That’s where we’re going.” My response was, “Great, let’s get going”, with the idea of making a beeline for it. However, as I unpacked this picture, I realised that when you come down a mountain, you don’t simply go straight down. That could lead to a lot of damage if not destruction. You have to follow the trail, which winds about and sometimes even goes around the back of the mountain, looking like it is going in the wrong direction.

The message for me from this was that I had to follow the path He was taking. This was not simply to get to the ‘town’, but along the way I would learn and be strengthened, not to mention have opportunities to touch other people’s lives. This vision has very much played out over the years. I feel as though I am a lot closer to the town, but not quite there yet. I am also a lot more ready for what it involves than when I started. I look back and know without a doubt that God’s wisdom and methodology is so far above mine, and I am so glad I didn’t take my own path.

Along the journey, there were many other little lessons. So often I would be impatient that we weren’t getting to the town; that we seemed to be going in completely the wrong direction. I would see others getting opportunities that weren’t opened to me and I would cry out to Him, “Why is this person or that person getting to do x?”, or, “why do they get noticed and I don’t?” Each time, He would come back, so gently, “Whose approval are you looking for? Whose way do you want to do this – Mine or man’s?” He reminded me that His logic, His methodology and His ways were different to what seemed rational or sensible in human wisdom.

At times I struggled because there were so many Christian books written about what we need to do to get where God wants us, by people who were well esteemed by other notable Christians. When I talked to God about this, I felt Him say, “This is not for you”. It was at one such time of searching that my inbox contained an email with the following message. It confronted me to the core, as it spoke into so many of my feelings that I felt like it was a prophetic word written just for me. I was so surprised when I found it had been written something like 100 years before. Mind you, it did encourage me that I was not alone in feeling this way.

Others May, You Cannot

If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to measure yourself by other Christians; and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things which He will never let you do.

Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, can push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their Christian goals, but these things you simply cannot do. Others may boast of their work or their writings or their success, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you ever try it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but most likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and the joy of seeing Him supply your needs day by day out of an unseen Treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and keep you hidden and unappreciated because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work on and on without others knowing how much you are doing; and then, to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will rebuke you for little words or deeds or even feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem to be concerned about, but you must make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and He has a right to do whatever He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in the way He deals with you, but if you will just submit yourself to Him in all things, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are very near to His heart.

Settle it then, that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that your secret heart becomes pleased and delighted with this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, then you will have entered the very vestibule of heaven itself.

G. D. Watson (1845-1924)

Part of the lesson I was learning here was that we cannot dictate to God the order of the lessons, or even which ones we would like to learn. Submitting to Him means giving up my ‘rights’ and even the dreams that I believe He has given me. Anything I am holding to too tightly is fair game to God – my experience is that it is often these things that He puts His finger on to say, “Will you let Me have this?” When I feel resistance to an immediate, “Yes, Lord!”, it is a warning to me to check my motivations and my heart.

And there were plenty of times where I did battle over this. After some deep healing, I was raring to get on with some ministry. I was looking for whatever opportunities I could find to prove to others what I believed God had placed in me, that I could do this. One such ‘opportunity’ was a short term ministry trip we went on to Russia and the Ukraine. Much of this was being involved in a teaching team, and we were all to be prepared to speak to various groups as we went along.

At one point, I was beginning to struggle again, feeling as though everyone else was being given far more opportunities to speak than I was. I vividly remember the chat I had with God in the back of a taxi one evening, as we headed back to our accommodation in downtown Perm. As per usual, my questions came back more as a complaint than a true question!

“When is it going to be my turn, God?” Immediately I had a picture of the throne room of God. Jesus was sitting on His throne, and people were coming in and out. They would come up to the throne, and Jesus would hand them a scroll and they would head out to follow their instructions. I was standing to one side of His throne, trying to step in front to receive my scroll or otherwise get His attention in case He had forgotten me, but it seemed that it was never my turn. Someone else was always there first. I finally asked Jesus when He was going to give me a scroll, and He looked me full in the face in that so loving way He has, and said, “Isn’t it enough for you to just be with Me?” Ouch. If I am truly honest, that is a question I still grapple with at times.

Around this time, another message I heard also confronted me about this issue. The message was about pottery vessels in Biblical times, particularly about the idea that a potter would make a large variety of vessels, most having ordinary, everyday uses. However, every now and then the potter would make one with a special purpose, for a special client. These vessels were kept out the back in a special storage room, waiting for the right customer. What was interesting about these vessels was that they were chosen by the potter for the customer, rather than the customer choosing the vessel they wanted. When a particular customer came in looking for a special vessel, the potter would go out and choose one for them.

The part of this message that particularly struck me was when he switched the story from being about the Potter to the view the pottery had. The explanation was that we were the vessels and God is the Potter. The scenario described seemed to have been made just for me.

It was suggested that some of us felt like we had been sitting in that storeroom waiting to be chosen for a very long time. Every time the Potter came in, we felt hope rise. Surely this time He must pick me… But no, it was someone else, again. Finally, the day comes when the Potter comes in again, and this time, He is headed straight towards me, He is coming my way, His hand is reaching out toward me…hooray, He is going to pick me…but no! He has picked the vessel next to me.

The message went on that while I continue to respond from a position of self, from a position of ‘my turn’, I am still not ready. Until I am prepared to let God do the choosing in His time, and I am only focussed on simply being, rather than doing, I am probably not ready. Unfortunately, I think we can go off hastily and unready at times, and although God will often use us even so, there are many examples where as much damage as good has been done.

Waiting, on the other hand, seems like such as waste, when I feel I could be doing so much more for the Kingdom. It is a question I still don’t have all the answers to, but do know that there are certain things I cannot do now, because the level of spiritual discomfort I feel precludes me. I know without a doubt that it is not a path God wants me to go down. Of course, I can push through that, or ignore my feelings, but experience and observation has taught me it is really not worth it.

One of those annoying things my husband kept saying to me (annoying because I know it is true) as I struggled through this phase was, “Enjoy the journey.” Often I have been so focussed on the destination that the journey has seemed a ‘necessary evil.’ Disturbingly, I realise that living life that way, I actually discounted so much that was going on around, in, and through me as side show or simply incidental. I have since come to an understanding that first, nothing is a loss in God’s economy if I partner with Him in what He is doing, and second, there is no plan B, it is all part of plan A, and third, nothing is incidental: everything that happens to us and around us has potential to be part of plan A.

In so many ways, the future has become a lot more irrelevant to me. In one sense, every moment is the future and those moments seem to come at ever increasing speed. In another sense, rather than fearing missing out on my future because I have taken a wrong step, or missed an opportunity, I now realise that God is not so mean spirited or tricky. He doesn’t give us one opportunity to get it right. If our hearts and motivations are centred on Him, He will guide us. In as much as I must lay down my desires and expectations of life, I must also trust the fact that He has promised to give me His Spirit, and that His Spirit dwells in me. I can trust Him to make me very uncomfortable if I stray too far off the Way, especially if I am overtly asking Him to guide me.

Part of my problem is that I forget this at times and start thinking I am not hearing from Him. So, I try to leave the future to Him, allowing Him to prompt me as He will when there are big shifts ahead, and seeking to trust that Still Small Voice in the every day.

4. Handing Back Control of God


Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:4-10



The place of ‘work’ in my relationship with God is one I continue to wrestle with. I believe it is part of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So much of our human nature is set on the judgement of what is right or wrong, or morality, and we are continually making choices about which path we will take. When those paths are less about morality and seem more about personal choice, I can find myself tied up in ever increasing knots about my decision making. As I struggle with mental gymnastics, I also find that although I can acknowledge and even experience God’s unconditional love, there is a voice that continues to taunt me that I don’t deserve it, and that I better keep doing the ‘right stuff’ to keep receiving it. While I am far more aware of this battle in me these days, and can often head it off before it gets a grip on me again, it is one of those battles that I may continue to fight for some time yet.

Looking back over my journey, though, I can see that I am far ahead of my starting point. In my teens, when I first became aware of the idea of my faith being far more about a relationship with Jesus than about behaviour, so much teaching I received still reinforced that ‘this’ was the sort of behaviour that was pleasing to God, but ‘that’ was not, whether it be smoking, drinking, sex before marriage, women preaching or having uncovered hair, and so on. Added to this mix was my own sense of inferiority and lack of self-confidence or worth.

For me, the whole idea of a personal relationship with God had not been something I was really aware of, even though there had been stirrings of desire for that relationship for some time. I was always interested in spiritual things as a child – I remember getting the Bible Society show bag at our local show, and going to vacation Bible school in the holidays. I also remember coming home from church one Sunday when I was about nine and looking up at the sky and saying to Jesus, “If you’re really real, show Yourself to me.” I know I wanted Him to reveal Himself physically, just as I was looking for proof when we tried walking on water in our swimming pool, although I now recognise that He has honoured that prayer in so many other ways.

Back in the 1980’s, when I was in my teens, the message I heard about becoming a Christian seemed to be more about escaping hell, even though the ‘reward’ was a relationship with God. Indeed, one of my recurring nightmares was that Jesus had returned and I had been left behind. My other recurring nightmare was about nuclear war ending the world, so you can imagine I was living in a good deal of fear at that time. Amidst this, one of the first overt answers to prayer I personally had was that God would stop those nightmares. At the point where I was getting scared of going to sleep because of the prevalence of these sorts of dreams, I prayed, asking Him to stop them and He did so immediately. I never had another.

However, this was also a reflection of my prayer life at this point. My understanding of my relationship with God was very much about me doing the right things and in return, God would give me what I want. Even though it was never overtly stated this way in my mind or by others, at quite a deep level, it was how I was operating. There were a few of those deals I did with Him. “Please God, don’t let this happen”, or “please God, make this happen” and so on.

As strange as it seems to me now, God did seem to answer many of those prayers in the way I asked. Looking back, and also observing other young (in faith) Christians, I wonder if He takes us on a journey of deepening our faith in stages. At first, answering those simple, self-focussed, often desperate prayers seems that it does build our faith. If God will answer this prayer, maybe next time I will pray a bigger prayer.

As I have continued in this faith journey, though, there have been significant points where prayers have not been answered the way I would have liked. For me, this has done two things. At times, it has led me to a place where I start to doubt God’s love or His goodness. More recently, it has led me to start asking God about those things, and the exciting part of that is that so often He has given me understanding that actually deepens both my faith in Him and my knowledge about who He is and how He works all things together for good.

One example that comes to mind is when we were going through drought that lasted for ten years. We live on a property without town water, and so, are reliant on rainfall to fill our tanks. When our usage exceeds our collection, we have to call and pay a water carter. There were a number of times during this season where we were buying water pretty much monthly and I was struggling with the added cost of it, as our cash flow was not great at that point, either. So often I would hold out, hoping that the promised rain would be more than promised, or that a miracle would occur. And just as often, we would get less rain, or even none at all. We even had a time where the pump failed and we lost the week’s worth of water I was hoping would carry us to the next rainfall!

The conversation I had with God around this time went something like this: “Ok, God, I am praying for rain to fill our tanks, but it is not happening. Your word says that You promise to supply all our needs, and I would say water is a pretty basic need. What’s going on?” There were a couple of things I felt Him touch my heart with at that time. One was that what He was doing was much bigger than us, that it was about a much bigger picture than our simple needs. It was also an opportunity for us to feel that pain of not having enough water, to experience what so many others in our world go through. Most clearly, though, He told me that He was supplying our needs in that we had the money and accessibility to buy the water we needed. This was an important lesson in learning more about praying in God’s will and understanding as opposed to my own.

Coming to understand the order of the relationship has been a major growth area in my journey with God. That is, that God is God, and I am not. And that it is really important to keep that order in line. I believe that one of our big issues as humans is our desire to be god, to be the one in control. And I guess that comes back to the bottom line of this book. Why do I need to be in control, what am I trying to control, and to what ends do I want that control? Uncovering my true beliefs and motives in regards to these questions has been an important part of my healing and my freedom.

A good illustration was given to me recently as a friend described her conversation with her daughter regarding ‘unanswered’ prayer. She explained that God was not a puppet for us to be pulling the strings and making Him dance to our tune. It reminds me of a time when I read Isaiah 46: 1-4 and a few things were suddenly very clear to me:

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;

their idols are borne by beasts of burden.

The images that are carried about are burdensome,

a burden for the weary.

They stoop and bow down together;

unable to rescue the burden,

they themselves go off into captivity.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,

all you who remain of the house of Israel,

you whom I have upheld since you were conceived,

and have carried since your birth.

Even to your old age and grey hairs

I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

I was struck by the contrast here between idols we make and God. We have to work for an idol – it can do nothing itself. It cannot even move itself, let alone perform anything for the worshipper. It is simply a burden for those who would worship it. On the other hand, God says it is He who created us, He who carries us, He who provides for us and rescues us.

When I read this, I was also reading an historical novel set in pagan Ireland. The description of the pagan rites of sacrifice also helped me to understand the issues of idolatry further. In the novel, the community had decided that a certain person had upset the gods because of her lack of conformity, and that was why the crops had failed. In order to make the gods happy again, a life must be given, which they had decided must be hers.

Although we read material like this and our response is that we would never do anything like that, I realised that much of my relationship with God did come out of some of that belief system. Some of the beliefs included, “If bad stuff happens to me, or good stuff doesn’t, it is because God is unhappy with me.” Or, “If I don’t read my Bible enough or pray enough, or do enough good works, God won’t do what I want Him to.” And there it is. The belief that I can manipulate or control God through my actions. This is the basis of idolatry. And it is really insidiously entrenched in our nature.

Around this time, God gave me another insight that was closely allied to this concept of idolatry, related to pride. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments, where something suddenly became crystal clear, and as I understood it, I knew I would never forget it, either.

What He showed me was that all my feelings of inferiority, failing and worthlessness, and my subsequent attempts at self-improvement were actually rooted in pride rather than any sort of humility. There was a false belief in me that I actually had the capacity to change myself. The reality is that if I could fix myself, Jesus died in vain. His death was a waste.

This seems quite counter-intuitive to our understanding of pride. In the Australian culture I grew up in, the concept of the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ was innately part of our thinking. (To explain, Tall Poppy Syndrome is the idea that anyone determined to be a bit full of themselves deserved to be cut down a peg or two, or maybe more.) I remember even as a five year old, seeing a boy from school who was very outspoken about his abilities falling off his bike while riding without holding the handlebars and thinking he got what he deserved. In the particular Christian environment I grew up in, I took on board an idea that I should not really think of myself at all.

Perhaps part of the problem is that pride is often seen as arrogance. Dictionary definitions of pride range from explaining it as an accurate opinion of one’s own worth to an exaggerated opinion of self. In amongst these definitions, I have come up with a philosophy of pride that has a corresponding theological impact. I believe that the pride talked of in the Bible, although it often refers to arrogance and an overweening sense of one’s own importance or status, could quite readily be applied to most of us. The old English term for pride was vanity. It comes from the same root as the word vain. The word vain actually comes from the Latin, vanus, which means empty, without substance. If someone is seen as being vain, then, we could say that they have an opinion of themselves that is without substance, whether that be thinking themselves better than they really are, or less than they really are.

There came a point where God revealed the pride in my own life. If I only think of pride as being arrogance, I can easily overlook the outworking of pride in my life. Appearing arrogant or prideful can also quite easily be a cover-up for a lack of self-esteem. Although a definition of pride is to think more of yourself than you should, when we operate in a proud way, it may well be that we actually may not think well of ourselves at all. This was the case for me.

My life experiences and personal wiring had lead me to a position of believing that I should not expect others to help me, that they were far too busy, or that their problems were worse than mine, and that I should be able to sort out my own ‘mess’, (which actually should read ‘life’). Although this probably didn’t come from anywhere that looked that insidious, insidious it became in my life. It developed into a deep-seated belief that I needed to be self-sufficient. The rather obvious flow through of self-sufficiency is that you believe that you don’t need anyone, not even God.

Although the link is not particularly apparent, God has shown me that self-sufficiency is actually very closely linked with pride. If I operate out of self-sufficiency, there is an aspect of belief that I am self-sufficient, which in turn means that I can do all things for myself. This includes making myself righteous before God. If that were true, I would have no need of a Saviour. And so the link to pride. I don’t need God, and I don’t need Jesus. That, to me, would seem to be thinking more of myself than I should.

This was never a conscious train of thought for me. However, it does highlight the nature of the battle we are in. We have an enemy who does not want us to be dependent on God, because he knows that when we master this, we can achieve anything (Matt19:26). My attachment to self-sufficiency did not suddenly appear from nowhere, however, but was something that quite likely was handed down through family history.

My father’s parents had moved to England (from Australia) when they were newly married, and ended up staying for much of the duration of World War II. My grandfather was ministering in a church in Islington, a central district of London. Although my grandmother went to live further out with the children, they lived through the blitz wondering daily whether my grandfather was still alive. I believe that they survived this emotionally crippling time with an attitude of “just suck it up and keep going”. (Although back then it was probably given the British term of “keeping a stiff upper lip”.)

While there was a measure of strength in this, it may have meant that things were not talked about or dealt with. My grandparents were also very purposeful in helping others less fortunate. I think that at times, this may have even been at the expense of the needs of their own family. And so, the development of self-sufficiency. The children were taught to be helpful, which meant putting other’s needs before their own, and pitching in for the good of everyone.

Although it is quite apparent that this way of thinking has its roots in Christianity, there is something missing. It can seem easy and even expedient to push our feelings aside and not bother with them, but unfortunately, many times they come back to impact us at a later date, either in our physical health or our mental health or both. We need to find the balance between being driven by our emotions and ignoring them completely.

Dealing with negative emotions has not been straightforward for me. The belief that many others were worse off than me and so I shouldn’t look for or expect help but deal with it myself was like water to the seed of self-sufficiency, which continued to grow.

As a young pre-pubescent, this was further reinforced. Going through healing in the latter years, I have realised there were so many sub-conscious choices I made growing up. I remember the first time I was on the receiving end of teasing and name calling in primary school from my supposed friends. It was a knife in my guts, and the hurt and shock of it led to distrust. Moving house soon after this found me trying to make new friends in a small school in a small community where it seemed to take a long time to be accepted as a local, or as part of the group.

These things coloured me for a long time, and grew other seeds, too. By the end of secondary school, I had my protection well established. One of my main props was the thought that eternity would sort out who was ok and justice would prevail for the rest. Although I was not conscious of treating people badly because of this thought, it quite likely made me appear proud and superior. I think I had a bit of an attitude of ‘reject before you get rejected’, which impacted all my relationships.

The final straw for me came in the ending of my first marriage. The level of betrayal by someone I thought was in it with me for life, that we were a partnership and would protect each other from the pain inflicted by the world was indescribable. The rejection, although not felt as such, meant that my wall was now impregnable by anyone. It wasn’t until well into my healing journey that I came to a place of understanding what I had done.

It was a short time after this that I went through another experience where I further realised just how little I had trusted God. It was at a healing service. At the end of the service, people were invited to bring anything they would like healing for to Jesus.

For me, I had been feeling as though much had been dealt with. I was in a much better place than previously and wondered if there was anything more necessary. However, knowing how much more freedom I had from previous healing, I did want more if that were available. So I offered up a little prayer, not one filled with much expectation, simply asking Jesus if there was anything He wanted me to bring for healing. And immediately wished I hadn’t. Well, sort of. The response I heard was, “I want you to bring Me your broken heart.”

Wow! I wasn’t expecting that. And I certainly wasn’t expecting my own response to that request. It was so difficult for me. I had a picture of me with my heart in a precious lined box, and I was so protective of it. I was letting no one near it, and trusting no one with it, really. I saw all this as I heard Jesus’ response to me, and it devastated me on two counts. Firstly, although I knew I wanted to give my heart completely to Jesus, to trust Him completely with it, I was also desperately afraid to do this. There was a part of me that didn’t want my heart hurt again, and believed that I was the only one who could adequately protect it. At the same time, there was a bigger and probably stronger part of me that knew Jesus as trustworthy of my heart. But it was still a painful battle. Very much a cry of, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief”.

The second sadness I felt was that I had fooled myself for so long that I had actually given my heart to Jesus. How many times had I sung songs such as “Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul”? And yet here I found myself with a very vivid picture, which I knew was the truth, of just how much I was protecting and hiding my heart.

That night, I spent quite some time weeping in grief, both because I struggled and because of the fact that I had fooled myself for so long. However, in the midst of this, I had such a strong picture of Jesus sitting beside me, simply being with me in that place. I think it was a cathartic time and a release, and even though I went home that night feeling raw and still not quite sure I trusted Jesus with my heart, quite astoundingly, over the next few weeks, I found myself in a new place. Slowly and inexorably change happened without me really being aware of it, until suddenly I realised, “I do trust Jesus with my heart. Actually, I wouldn’t want it anywhere else but with Him.”

Another part of this journey occurred through some counselling sessions I was having. I remember at one point having the discussion about my difficulty in trusting others because of the reality that people do hurt you, albeit unconsciously and without malice. If I took my wall down and let people in, how was I to be protected from this hurt? The understanding that it was God who protected me and kept me safe emotionally, had been growing in me, but I still wasn’t sure what this looked like in living life.

Quite suddenly I had a picture of myself in a giant bubble, a bit like those we like to blow with detergent and water, except this bubble represented God’s love for me. It was beautiful and reflected colours and life, just like those bubbles, and my concern was how it would not pop. But God showed me that it was very strong, and that the ‘fiery darts’ from my enemy could not pierce it. I felt He also showed me that it was like a ‘selective membrane’, in that it would allow good things to pass in and out, while protecting me from the bad. As long as I remain in His love, I would be safe.

However, it is up to me to remain in the place where God’s love protects me. If I step back, step away from Him, then I step out and away from His protection. I am reminded of John 15:9, “Now remain in my love.” This is an ongoing process, just as the children of Israel had to collect manna every day, so do I need to remain in His love every day. I cannot expect to just get a top up every now and again and that be enough, even though it can be tempting at times to feel that going to a conference or reading a great book or having a great time of worship is the only way I can really feel close to God. He wants me to have that experience every day, but it is up to me to live it out.

I know that this can be a really hard thing to understand. What does it actually look like to be protected by God’s love from harm? If you have been through circumstances of great harm, it is tempting to ask where God’s protection was in those circumstances. Personally, I have been through the experience of God healing some memories and transforming them completely, showing me that He was there in that place. Through this I have realised His protection and healing of my inner being in a way I would never have thought possible. To explain, I will share one such memory.

It was the day my husband came home in the middle of the day to say he was leaving. He was extremely angry and yelled at me. This was very traumatic, not the least in that, for me, it was completely out of the blue. I was in complete shock. This memory remained a very painful one for me for many years. Using a technique called theophostic healing, I went back into that memory and as strange as it sounds, God changed it.

As I asked Jesus where He was during that incident, I suddenly saw Him in place of me. My husband was yelling at Jesus. At first this disturbed me also, but then I saw that Jesus was a bit like superman – the words were simply bouncing off Him and having no effect. When I asked where I was, I saw myself in our lounge room with the Father and Holy Spirit. My daughter had been asleep at the time, and I saw that there were two angels standing guard at her door, protecting her.

While this might seem a strange story, for me it has become far more real than the old memory. It is actually hard to remember that time and it is quite vague now, whereas before this experience, it was a vivid and strongly painful memory. In my mind, what happened is as God has since shown me, not what I thought I experienced. God has done this for a number of painful memories of mine, and I am sure He can do it for anyone else, too.

5. Handing Back Control of Offence


The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense…” Proverbs 17:9

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11


Get off the road, moron!”

Where’dya get your licence, off the back of a cereal box?”

These were just a couple of examples of my repertoire when it came to driving. Although I hadn’t developed full blown road rage – I kept my rants to the privacy of my car – I had little patience with the habits and mistakes of others on the road. Since the birth of my daughter, my language had changed a little. Let’s face it, none of us want the ignominy of our children repeating certain words they have heard from their parents into other situations. (Let me add, as an aside here, having a child also confronted me on language: if we don’t think it sounds good coming out of the mouth of a two or three year old, what makes it any better coming from an adult?)

Until I did a course where we discussed the idea of how we talk both with and about others and it was pointed out that there are really only two types of words we speak over and into others’ lives – blessings or curses – I didn’t really think about the amount of negativity my attitudes and behaviours generated. If I thought about it at all, it was either in terms of “They deserve it, they should do better”, or “I’m just letting off steam/frustration.”

I didn’t really believe that my words had any power or effect, but when you think about it, even at a basic, scientific level, we know that we take on board so much of what is said to us. How much more does what we speak colour, reinforce and deepen our beliefs about, or attitudes to others? This doesn’t even take into account the idea that words have creative power, either for building up or tearing down.

All this aside, I realised that much of my response to others came from an underlying sense of offense. As with many other aspects of my behaviour, I could see this as having a protective element to it. By being offended by what you said or did, I could make it about you, not my own lack or failings. It protected me (or so I thought) from being hurt by what you said or did.

Similar to unforgiveness, offense wants to see retribution, usually in the form of punishment of the other, or vindication of myself. It played a huge role in my life as a primary response to others, always ready to spring up in me at a moment’s notice as soon as I got a sniff of anything I felt could be remotely interpreted as offensive. Like a mother sniffing out dirty socks in a teenager’s room, I could spot offense at fifty paces (or more). Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that my vision was actually cloudy, and much that I read as offensive was either not intended that way, or even non-existent.

Two things were part of the change for me. One of these was realising that I could be part of the solution, not adding to the problem. Take the example of driving again. I remember being challenged to bless people, to speak words of blessing over people when they offended me in some way, rather than speaking negative words, or cursing them.

As I started to practise this, I realised, two things. One was that sometimes people (even me!) make mistakes while they are driving, and it is not necessarily a character trait or consistent behaviour. I could drive (and live) spreading grace toward people rather than negativity (even if they were unaware of it), and at least I would come out feeling a lot happier at the end of the day.

The second was a little tongue-in-cheek, but the point is similar. If a person is driving in a reckless and dangerous way, not caring about others around them, chances are they have enough issues and problems going on in their life without me adding to it. Rather than throwing abuse at them, I can throw blessings at them, and hopefully they have a better day. It may even change outcomes in their day.

Actioning both these concepts in my life have been part of a growing awareness of my role in this world as a ‘Christ-bearer.’ Rather than being someone to judge and condemn the world, hopefully I can carry God’s Kingdom in me in all its fullness, so that it slops out everywhere I go.


6. The Life Restored


I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25



This promise in Joel has not only been a promise that I have held on to, but it has proven out in my life. As much as letting go has often felt like losing everything in many ways, the ways in which so much more has been returned or restored are just as countless. I may have felt I was giving up something very valuable to me, but I have learnt that God’s graciousness and mercy means that He gives me so much more in return, with far greater value.

So far this book has been about letting go of those things that are not mine to control. In a nutshell, it is really about submission to God, allowing Him to have His place as Lord over every aspect of my life. Along my journey, in amongst the healing, has been a growing awareness of the spiritual battle we are in and the lies we have believed, even as Christians. While our journey with God is about learning to submit more and more to Him, it is also about increasing in our authority under God. In releasing our desires and behaviours where we try to take authority over God or what is His to authorise, we must not abdicate all authority.

One of the most helpful theology books I have read is “I Give You Authority”, by Charles Kraft. Kraft explains the authority we were created to have and what went wrong:

At creation, therefore, authority of several kinds was given to Adam and Eve: authority to carry the image of God; authority to create children in God’s image; authority over all creation. All would have gone well – with God over everything, humans under Him and angels serving them both – if God’s enemy, Lucifer, had not succeeded in enticing Adam to misuse his authority by giving it all away.”^2^

Authority is a word that many people misinterpret to mean ‘aggressive dominance for self-aggrandisement.’ We tend to look at people who have misused authority rather than seeing it as a responsibility. I think it is the reason many people struggle with God. They view Him as a megalomaniac, trying to subdue and dominate people, to bend them to His will for His purposes. In the same way, they can interpret Genesis 1:26 (about making man in God’s image) and even the verses about women submitting to men through the same misunderstanding, ending up with a very skewed view of what was created to be glorious. The point I keep coming back to myself is that God created good. It is Satan who has tried to destroy everything that was good. In Christ, we can reclaim the way things were originally created to be.

For me, this means recognising that I don’t have to live under the lies of Satan. Using my authority as someone whom the Spirit of Jesus lives in, I can reclaim joy, peace, wholeness, purpose, and so on. When I am assured of who I am in Christ, or all He has done for me, I can live in submission to other people and to God, knowing that it doesn’t diminish me one iota. I am who I am because God created me that way for a purpose and I know what that is. However, I can also stand up in authority (and not submission) to Satan. As the father of lies, nothing he tells me is truth, so when I start hearing or thinking things that don’t add up with the Word of God, I can reject them with authority. When things happen in my life and around me that don’t add up with the Word of God, I can declare the Word of God into those areas. I don’t have to accept what is thrown my way by either the brokenness of the world or other people, or from the spirit world.

To some people, this might sound a little wacky. To me, when I first started practising it, it seemed a little wacky too. However, it has been life changing. At the very least, a big change for me has been taking authority over what I choose to believe. Some of those things have been so ingrained, so much a part of my entire life (even generational), that it has been very difficult to choose to believe something different. I am sure there are still areas that are changing and that need to change.

As an example, one of those beliefs has been about my ‘smallness.’ Although this has probably been partially affected by my stature (being a gigantic 154cm… yes, I do scrape over the five foot mark!), the underlying message I lived with for many years was that I was no one important, no one special, that I didn’t deserve anything. How disempowering! It took me a long time to be able to accept the Word of God at face value, words such as Psalm 139. Although I believed the Bible in a general sense and could tell others to believe these sorts of words about themselves with great conviction, deep down I could not take it on board for myself.

Over a period of time where I went through deep healing, healing that went beyond my emotional state, where I dealt with spiritual issues such as vows and curses and even broken promises, I started to claim back, in the authority of Jesus’ name, that which was mine, that which had been stolen by the enemy of my soul. At first I couldn’t do it by myself or even for myself. There were times where I complied with the instructions, but didn’t really believe that words had that much power. How wrong I was. I have had so many instances where I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened or what was changed, but where, over a period of time, I have realised that I am free; I am not operating the same way anymore. A perfect example of this was to do with anxiety.

I had never considered myself a particularly anxious person. However, looking back, I realise my anxiety was obvious to others much of the time. There were a number ways this impacted me, including headaches that were generally only alleviated by sleep, and it was also probably a significant factor in the major depression I endured for four years.

At the time, I wasn’t particularly seeking healing from anxiety, or even aware that this was not a normal way to live. However, one morning I woke up with a considerable sense of anxiety with the accompanying threatening headache. It struck me particularly because I couldn’t think of anything that would cause me anxiety at that point, so in my semi-awake phase, I asked God to show me what was causing this anxiety. The story of my birth came into my mind.

My parents lived on a dairy farm when I was born, with some distance to travel into town to the hospital. On the way, at about 3 am, the car broke down. Now, I had always heard the story from my father’s perspective. He left my mother in the car and walked to the nearest farm. A woman was there alone (her husband was away) and was none too happy about getting up to a man at her front door at that time of the night. However, eventually she allowed my father to take the only available vehicle, a truck, which was somewhere else (he had to go and get it). On finding the truck, he returned to get my mother, taking her to the hospital, where I was born about half an hour later.

As I reflected on this, I suddenly saw the situation from my mother’s perspective. How must she have felt, sitting in the dark on her own? She had already had two children (as well as a nursing background), so must have known that my arrival was imminent. I would guess her major emotion at that time would have been a considerable dose of…anxiety! Was she going to have this baby here on her own in the dark? What had happened to her husband? What should she do? What would she do if…? At that moment, I realised how this must have impacted me as an unborn baby; I believe that God was showing me that this was the time at which anxiety became a base or underlying issue for me.

The anxiety continued to hover around me that morning as I headed to a Bible College class. At the beginning of our class, we spent time in groups praying for each other. I shared the story with my group and they prayed for me and I didn’t think much of it. It was only a couple of months later that I realised that something had changed.

Martin and I had been going out for a couple of years. We had come to a point where we had decided to make the big commitment of marriage. That was in October. We decided that the beginning of the school year would be the best time for all the changes that would occur for my daughter, which meant an early January wedding. We had about three months.

In that time we needed to finish some work on my house to prepare it for sale, sell it, prepare for a wedding (including our marriage prep classes), clean out the excesses of two houses to combine them into one, finish a course we were doing (which was pretty intense) and I was doing a couple of classes at Bible College with work to finish for the end of semester. It was in the midst of this that I realised I was healed. Usually half this amount would have had me in a tizz, probably with several bouts of those headaches. However, I had nothing but peace. I couldn’t have been more laid back about it all. It was around this time that I also came to a place of believing that I would not suffer depression in the same way again. Over ten years on, that has proven out.

The point is, there are many things in life that we simply put up with because we have been told that we shouldn’t expect more. It might be that we grow up believing that we shouldn’t expect too much out of life, or that everyone has to go through these things, however, the reality is, many of them are simply lies, especially when they relate to false beliefs.

I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t have problems, difficulty or suffering. Far from it. It is not my personal experience and I don’t believe it is Biblical, (there are so many verses that talk about “when” we suffer, and our struggles). After all, without suffering, how would we develop perseverance, character and hope? (Romans 5:3,4) It is in the hard times that our faith has a chance to grow and develop. It is not the lack of difficulties that marks the Christian life, but the way they are dealt with. To me, Romans 8:18-39 sums it up perfectly.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hallelujah!



2. Extract from I GIVE YOU AUTHORITY: PRACTICING THE AUTHORITY JESUS GAVE US, © Charles H. Kraft 1997, Chosen Books, p 20



Life is a journey of discovery. On it we may learn some things that are helpful and others that are not so helpful. As children, we are particularly vulnerable, as we do not have the same resources or maturity to discern between what is good and what is not. The outcome of what we learn is very much dependent on those who care for us in varieties of ways.

As we enter into and progress on our journey with God, we have access to perfect truth and goodness. The Holy Spirit shows us His ways, if we are open to hear. We may need to adjust some of our beliefs and attitudes, and may need varying amounts of healing to be able to take on new attitudes and behaviours. However, part of the journey is about being made whole so that we have an account to give of who He is and what He has done for us. This also gives us compassion and opportunity to pass these blessings on to others who are struggling with similar issues.

Really, Christianity should be easy to increase exponentially. If we were really convinced and sure about what God has done in our lives (if there is stuff we have allowed Him to do), then we should have no problem in sharing it with others. As we get to know Him at a deeper and deeper level, and become more and more whole, it should be easier and more compelling to want that for others, as well. Too often, I think we are not confident in God, in who He is and what He wants to do for us and every individual on earth, and so we hold back. My challenge and desire is to offer hope and assurance to others that what God has done and continues to do in my life, He longs to do for you.

A major understanding I have come to, however, is that while we often come to God looking for Him to change that which is external to us, He is far more interested in bringing our internal life into His order. The more we live out of His order, the less ability the external has to impact us in negative ways. As we come into His order and His perspective, we both live in the Kingdom of God as well as live out of it. The realities of the Kingdom become more real to us than the realities of the world.

You will also have noticed that this book is also not a ‘how to’ book. I don’t believe that there is a ‘one size fits all’ for healing and wholeness. God wants us each to partner with Him in our own relationship, rather than shadow someone else’s journey. Our healing course is as individual as we are. Jesus promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and be our guide. Our role is simply to stop, listen and follow this guidance. As much as this is not always easy, it is simple. My prayer for you, therefore, is that God would speak into your life in ways you can hear, and that He would surround you with others who clearly speak His words to you as well.



I include the following as an example of God’s grace, goodness and faithfulness in ways that are far more than we often dream of, and to affirm that nothing is beyond His ability. He is able to do far more than we can imagine.

As I have mentioned earlier, my relationship with my father was not easy or comfortable, especially in the last years of his life. There was a point at which I felt he had essentially disassociated from us as his family and although I kept some contact with him, I struggled to connect in any meaningful way.

In the middle of his seventieth year, he had a couple of incidents of hospitalisation. Having had juvenile diabetes from his mid-teens, simple illnesses could quickly become complicated. It was in one such incident that my older brother rang me to let me know my dad was in hospital and that this time it didn’t look like he would come out. In fact, he was in a coma and medical staff felt it was days at the most. My brother was suggesting that I needed to see him if I wanted to before he died.

My immediate response was that I didn’t feel I needed to go. The hospital was over two hours’ drive away and I wasn’t sure what purpose it would serve to go and see him. My brother suggested that I wouldn’t want to have any regrets in this regard, but I really couldn’t imagine what those regrets might look like.

After hanging up the phone, I went on my morning walk, and as I did, talked to God about what I should do. I thought about why I didn’t feel any necessity to see my dad one last time, and as I did, I realised that in many ways, I had already given up on the relationship. I no longer saw any purpose or meaning in the relationship with my dad.

As I reflected on this, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with grief. Trying to make sense of this unexpected response, I realised that my anguish, rather than being for what I was losing, was actually for what had not been, what I felt I had missed out on.

Understanding this, and moving through it, I did go to visit my dad before he died, as much as anything, probably out of respect for the fact that he still was my dad. As the family gathered around, several of us felt that God was saying that this would not end in death. Wanting to be sure that my dad had made his peace with God, given that I felt he had pretty much rejected the faith he had been brought up with, this was something I clung to. I had a little fantasy where he would open his eyes one last time and tell someone that he had made peace with God, and then he would die. But it never happened.

Even though I felt so let down in many ways, I decided that I would like to give something of a eulogy at the funeral. I wanted to focus on the positives of who he was and what he did for us as his family, as I knew that there would be pitifully little else that would honour him. He had pretty much withdrawn from the world and it was a very small gathering to bid him farewell.

I found that, although I struggled to feel particularly thankful for these things, I could list a great many ways in which our dad had been a good dad, many of which I had taken pretty much for granted. Things such as always working hard to provide for us financially and materially; that he took us for family outings and holidays; that he brought us up to value education and faith, and to think for ourselves. Indeed, I nearly undid myself when I started by saying I had polished my shoes in honour of my dad – he was such a stickler for clean shoes.

The day of the funeral was difficult and uncomfortable on many fronts and I was glad when it was over and I could get back to ‘normal’ life. However, God was not finished with me in this regard. Reading back through my journal from that time more recently, it took a few months more before I admitted, even to myself, the level of pain I had experienced, and how rejected I had felt by him.

There were two incidences that happened, though, that began to change all that.

One was an extremely awkward phone call from his lady friend sometime later. I really didn’t want to speak with her. I am sure she was feeling just as discomforted, telling me that she kept having this prompting to call me, and that she had no idea why, except to tell me that my dad had loved me very much; of how much he had spoken of me, with so much pride and love.

At that point, I knew exactly where her prompting was coming from and why she was ringing. I explained this to her through the tears I was now crying. Even though, at that point, there was still a part of me that wanted to deny it, the truth was starting to break through.

The second incident came about at the end of a day out four-wheel driving. Martin and I were almost home, when the most unusual feeling came over me. I had this sudden desire of “I wish I could have shared this day with my dad.”

Those thoughts were not thoughts I had had in any of my adult life and they quite surprised me. What came next, though, was even stranger, as I suddenly got a very strong image of my father healthy, strong, fit and filled with joy enjoying the company of others. It was not a memory from earlier days, as he was not a young man in this picture. The sense I have, (and still believe), is that God gave me a glimpse of my father in heaven with Him. I have no doubt that one day we will get to meet up again. Even though, at the time of his death, I didn’t get the affirmation I wanted, God is good, and He gave it to me later. While my father was in that coma, he had made peace with God.

The comfort I received from God was twofold. One part was about my father’s peace and the other was my healing. Somewhere in this time, God started to change my perceptions and experiences (or lack thereof) of my father’s love for me, to the point where I suddenly realised that my memories were no longer a painful lack of love, but I saw all my father did through the eyes of his love for me. Although he had never told me to my face that he loved me, even to this day, I can feel his love for me. All the pain of rejection is completely gone. My childhood memories are all happy. Because of this, I know that God can do anything – even heal a relationship when one person is dead!



p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of What I Have


i. What instances of God’s provision for you can you recall? These may range from the ordinary to the supernatural.

ii. In what ways or aspects of your life do you think God may be challenging you to extend your trust of Him as your Provider? Is there something He wants you to let go of, or to lay down so that He can prove Himself trustworthy?



p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of Others


i. Are there areas of your life where relationships are impacted by the desire to control others?

ii. Can you identify the fear or other driver that prevents you from letting go of the outcomes in these circumstances? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to let go of these areas and to give you the strength to trust Him with these people.


p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of My Future


i. The desire to see into the future is pretty strong across many cultures. It is why “fortune tellers”, reading tea leaves or astrology and so on has such an allure. How important is it to you to know what your future holds? Can you identify any fears that prevent you from giving the outcomes for your future to God?

ii. If God holds your future in His hands, what might He have to say to you about that future? What would it look like for you to stop trying to control the outcomes of your future?



p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of God


i. Are there areas in your life where you are aware of your own desire to control God? What do you think might be underlying these?

ii. If God is ultimately in control, what role does that leave you with in your relationship with Him?


p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of the World


i. What areas of your own thinking and behaving have been transformed by God?

ii. Can you identify thought patterns and beliefs you have that are still more attuned to the world’s way of operating than God’s truths? What verses from Scripture can you use to replace the lies with God’s truth?

iii. As someone who carries the Spirit of Christ, how will you endeavour to extend the Kingdom of God wherever you go?



p<>{color:#000;}. Handing Back Control of Offence


i. Can you think of times you have decided to forgive someone, or let go of offence, and what was the outcome?

ii. Are there circumstances in your life where you need to let go of offence or forgive someone? Read Matt 18:21-35 if you are struggling, and reflect on what sort of torture unforgiveness may add to your life. Speak out your forgiveness as an act of your will.


p<>{color:#000;}. The Life Restored


i. What are the specific experiences you have had where God has restored something to you?

ii. What would you like God to further restore in your life? What do you think your life would look like if you allowed Him to have complete control over every aspect?

About the Author

Ruth Embery lives with her husband, daughter and dog in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, Australia. She is involved in various lay ministry roles, and has a passion to see people healed, whole and living the life of abundant freedom that Jesus promises. Ruth is available for speaking engagements and can be contacted through [email protected]. You can read Ruth’s Shakespir interview at https://www.Shakespir.com/interview/Rembery



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Handing Back Control

There have been periods of time, events and instances throughout my life where God has taught me about myself, my desire to control my world and my circumstances, and about freedom. It has been a journey that has been quite painful at times. I liken it to when you have been gripping something heavy with your hands for a long time and you need to prise your fingers loose and they are numb and aching at the same time. However, I see it as a journey towards freedom. I am learning to let go of needing to be in control in some significant areas that show something of God and of what He values and desires for us and from us.

  • Author: Ruth Embery
  • Published: 2016-02-03 04:40:16
  • Words: 25550
Handing Back Control Handing Back Control