“The older my kids get, the more I realize how little control I have over them. My slipping sense of control produces so much anxiety in my life so I end up grasping for even more control. I don’t know what else to do but I’m afraid to surrender. Really afraid.”
That was a very real and honest fear shared with me recently by another mom who is watching her eldest child navigate his teen years and is worried sick about his choices and the outcomes.
As I wrote about my own struggle with “controlling my kids” in my book “Mom Set Free,” I often wondered if surrender came easier to other moms. I wondered if I was mostly alone in my struggle to unclench my fists that were trying to control outcomes and parent more open-handed to God’s plans.
But based on an Instagram comment feed I scrolled through just last week, I know I am not alone. In fact, control seems to be something most moms struggle with.
Here are just six out of 132 comments shared by brave women and their struggle to surrender:
- “I don’t even know what motherhood looks like without being worried, anxious and a total control freak!”
- “My biggest fear is MY anxiety becoming THEIR anxiety.”
- “I thought I’d moved past control issues once my kids got to school, but now they’re teens and it’s a real struggle to step back and give them their wings.”
- “I’m such a control freak and it’s been a challenge not being able to control a single thing with my 5-week-old. Being on her schedule at all times has been the biggest struggle for me.”
- “Mom guilt is real and life is crazy! Extra hard when you're a control freak.”
- “I am anxious and worried way too often and want everything to be in perfect order. I need to be set free from those unhealthy mindsets!”
I can’t help but wonder if you can relate to any of these comments, because even if you wouldn’t describe yourself as a “control freak” you still might struggle with surrendering your kids to their sovereign Father.
I think part of our struggle is rooted in a misunderstanding of what surrender actually is.
One way we might think of surrender is this: “I give up. There is nothing I can do or say that is going to make a difference here. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. My influence in my kid’s lives is useless and exhausted. I’m done trying. I surrender.”
But if we look to Jesus we find an entirely different lens through which to view surrender.
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, we find that Jesus is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (v. 34 NIV). Jesus knew that the fulfillment of his mission was imminent. He would soon take on the sin of the world and bear the wrath and shame for the entire human race. Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled” when he prayed: “Abba Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (v. 36 NIV).
This simple but profound prayer shows us what surrender really is. Surrender is acknowledging God’s power, submitting to his will, and trusting in his goodness.
When we find ourselves grasping for control over our kid’s lives, or our own circumstances, we can pray like Jesus prayed to his Father: “I know you can. I pray you would. Your will be done.”
The above prayer, which my pastor Drew Williams shared at church many years ago, has expanded my heart and opened my hands to God’s perfect will in times when I have come to him very fearful and close-fisted.
This can be our prayer of surrender when:
- Our hearts are aching and our fears are raging over the choices our kids are making.
- We crash into the reality that our kids unique needs will seriously mess with our perfect plans.
- We have so much anxiety over our role as moms that we witness our anxiety spilling over into our homes and onto our kids, who then take on our anxiety.
- We feel helpless and hopeless.
This is a prayer that we probably need to pray over and over and over again, each and every day: “I know you can. I pray you would. Your will be done.”
Prayer is not only the antidote to finding peace amidst all of the anxiety-inducing pressure, but it is our most powerful weapon against the enemy who, like it or not, is working against us. He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).
I don’t say this to scare us. I say this to encourage us to get on our knees in surrender and fight for our kids in prayer.
Our prayers for our children (and with our children) are unimaginably significant. Through prayer, we get to partner with God in the work he is doing in the lives of our kids, all the while remembering that: “It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does!” (1 Peter 5:11 MSG).
In other words, as we pray for our kids, we can trust that God – who is abundantly generous – has great plans for our kids in Christ. And not just temporal plans, but eternal plans. And he gets the last word.
We can rest in his sovereignty and surrender to his will, just as we saw Jesus surrendering to his Father’s will in his prayer at Gethsemane. Jesus models this life of surrender for us, demonstrating that surrender is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.
Surrender isn’t giving up. It’s giving over every one of our fears and worries and problems and weaknesses to God. And in turn, receiving his peace as we partner with him, rather than trying to be him in our kid’s lives.
We have a profound role to play in our kid’s lives, by establishing healthy boundaries and enforcing consistent consequences, wrapped in unconditional love. But as we do that, we have to remember that we are not the originator and orchestrator of our kid’s lives.
Our role is to seek and surrender to “The Great Originator and Orchestrator” and trust him to be – and to do – everything we can’t. He’s good at that, you know. He’s good at being God. So let’s let him. And in doing so, we are enabled to release the anxiety and reclaim the adventure that we’ve lost in the quest to play his role.
God can be trusted with the kids he has entrusted to us.