Power & Control

It feels good to be in control. If you call the shots, you don’t have to worry about what someone else says or does. The only limit is yourself; what you believe is best. But the reality is that few people find themselves in a situation where they can have enough control to successfully pursue whatever they want. There is only so much power in the world, and it seems like nearly everyone is vying for it.

This can be seen clearly in the recently released Dune: Part Two. Most characters in the story are competing for power, believing that gaining or maintaining control is the answer to their goals. Picking up where the previous movie ended, the latest film follows Paul Atreides as he begins to become a part of the Fremen, the native people of the sand-planet Arrakis. Before his father was murdered, he told Paul that the only way that his family would survive the harsh, barren planet and overcome plots against them was by harnessing desert power—that is, the power of the Fremen. To do this, Paul knows that he must become one of them by earning their trust and learning their ways. In the midst of this task are whispers that he is the long awaited messiah of the Fremen people, which causes some to accept him more quickly and others to distrust him even more.

As Paul becomes a part of the Fremen, he begins to have more visions of a distraught future of war, causing him to shy away from stepping into the role of messiah. He can see that his gain of control will cause galaxy-wide bloodshed. Yet, as stakes begin to rise and the opportunity to avenge his father’s murder becomes a real possibility, he begins to lean into the power offered by stepping into the role of messiah—whatever the cost.

The belief that gaining or maintaining control gives one what they want is a familiar idea in today’s culture. There are thousands of videos, ads, and programs about how to take control of your life. And in a world where time seems to be slipping away faster and faster, who wouldn’t want that?

Sadly, an unhealthy grasp for control leads only to anxiety, stress, and depression, which are hallmarks of many societies today. The more one tries to take control of their life, the more they realize how little control they have; causing them to strive more ardently for control. The negative cycle perpetuates itself because the perceived solution is what causes the problem. What other answer is there for us to have the lives we desire?

Finding Inner Peace

Different worldviews respond to the matter of control in various ways. What is often suggested is to let go of control to find inner peace or happiness. The first is a humanistic approach: recognizing that you’re only human and can’t control everything. By working through the stressors in your life, you can work through a psychology-based method of overcoming them. You can learn to accept that there will always be something you can’t control, and by letting go of those things, you can better manage your stress and be happier in life.

The next is a more spiritual oriented approach: you let things happen to you instead of you “making them happen.” People use practices like meditation to clear their minds, they ground themselves in the moment, and they focus on the energy the universe has to offer them. As a Buddhist site explains, it’s about surrendering and “Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input.”

Both of these approaches have validity to them. It is good to come to terms with the flaws one has and to find time to pause and practice stillness and mindfulness. Our minds weren’t created to have the constant input they receive in today’s world. However, the main goal of both of the above approaches is still to gain control: it’s control over oneself, but control nonetheless. The fact remains that even if you are perfectly healthy, the world around you is not. When loss, pain, and grief come, regardless of anything you have or have not done, no amount of mindfulness can make what causes these things any more okay.

Giving Up Control
The third approach to overcoming feelings of lacking control is one that Christianity alone offers: Jesus Christ. The answer to our negative thoughts, feelings, and longings is filling one’s life with more Jesus. And the answer to encountering the wrongness of life is also Christ. Jesus said the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-38). While we are called to use and pay attention to the faculties that God has given us, they can only take us so far. Only Jesus can make us new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

True Christianity doesn’t ultimately offer ways to achieve one’s own superficial wants and desires or to overcome one’s flaws in this lifetime. Christianity offers Christ Jesus and a way to become more and more like him by giving up oneself over and over again. This is not an easy or quick process. However, the Holy Spirit empowers us to practice the way of Jesus. Reading the stories about Godly people in the biblical narrative and prayer are two powerful ways to know Jesus, and by knowing him, to become like him This can be difficult to incorporate into day-to-day life. It can even feel difficult to know how to get started. Sometimes, pre-written prayers can help put words to what we really want to say. When we say them from the heart, we might be comforted to know we are not alone in what we are experiencing. The psalms are some of many great options for pre-written prayers.

Something else that can help us grow closer in our relationship with Christ and can become more like him is reading the stories of people who have gone before us who had great faith in God. Hebrews 11 offers us many examples of heroes of the faith, and Galatians 2:9 talks about people who were “pillars” of the Church. Reading the accounts of the apostles and those who were a part of the early Church can give us clear examples of what it looks like to become more like Jesus. We can further read stories of the Church Fathers, the Reformers, or other godly individuals throughout Church history.

When we allow God’s Spirit to transform us, things like attending church, fellowshipping with other believers, and appreciating the beauty of the world God created are excellent ways to connect with God in day-to-day life.

Each day we are met with thousands of decisions and opportunities. With each one we have a choice: will we draw closer to Jesus? Will we give him control? Or will we choose ourselves as ruler? The only thing we have to offer God is our life. And because he loves us, he gives us the autonomy to choose what we do with it.

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.