Highlands Blog

Control in Difficult Relationships

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Relationships

When you were a child, you had no responsibility for anyone except yourself. You did not realize how good you had it. Instead of enjoying your freedom, you set out to control your parents—a losing proposition. You sought to subdue your siblings; they were not too keen on your plans. You tried to command your friends, but soon found they opposed your desire to enslave them. If you had simply worked on self-control, you could have had a wonderful childhood, but the little tyrant in your heart wanted to rule the people around you. So you were frustrated in your tyrannical desires. Frustration is the lot of a controlling person.

Solomon says a child has foolishness in his heart and part of that folly can be his Napoleonic inclinations to control his fellow man. If he could be convinced to control himself and obey his God-given authorities, he could have joy and peace, but instead, this indwelling tyrant sniffs out the liberty of his fellow creatures. So frustration replaces childhood joy and peace.

Now, however, you have grown up. God has given you authority and responsibility. You may have a wife and children. You might have employees. Childhood’s blissful freedom from responsibility is over. You are supposed to manage your household well. You have a business to run with people depending on you. You are responsible for other people and some of them are difficult.

If these difficult ones would do what they are supposed to do, if they would quit doing whatever it is that adds unneeded trouble to your life, then you would not be so frustrated. There is that word again, frustrated. It is not a fruit of the Spirit. So what will you do with the difficult person? You are in charge. You cannot let him continue to trouble the world with his transgressions. You also cannot continue in bitterness and frustration. This is not the way of God’s Spirit.

You must surrender control to God and take up His means of changing sinners. If the difficult one is not a believer, you must call on God to give the new birth. The Spirit alone gives new life (John 3). You cannot do it. You can only use the means of God’s grace—pray and proclaim God’s word. If he is a believer who needs correction, again pray and gently correct him, always remembering that God alone grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Controlling sinners is God’s business, not yours. Use God’s means and watch for His transforming work. And since love is patient and God is love, this may take a while. Remember, God is long-suffering.

If frustration arises again, it is not the Holy Spirit. You may be trying to seize control again and usurp God’s dominion. Confess your sin and bend your neck to His rule! Put your inner tyrant to death. It is your business to trust God and use the lawful means of persuasion to direct a difficult person in God’s ways, which brings up an important point. You must make sure you are directing the person in God’s way, not your version of Stalin’s five-year plan. If you are lording over another’s conscience, your despotism should be frustrated. If, however, you want what is best for the person, as defined by God’s word, may joy, peace, and patience be your lot. These are the fruit of the Spirit.

You cannot control other people, but you can control yourself. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. You cannot change another person’s heart, but the Spirit can blow where He pleases and make the dead to live. You cannot make another person repent, but God can grant repentance and rescue one ensnared by the devil. Pray that God would do the necessary work, and then use every lawful means God has placed at your disposal to seek your neighbor’s good. If after all this he is still just as difficult, go eat your food, drink your wine, and rest in the sovereign Lord of the universe. He does all things well and things are going along just as He planned.

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