Chapter 6: Autonomy

Our culture increasingly values autonomy and distrusts authority figures like pastors. While some autonomy is healthy, absolutizing autonomy becomes an unhealthy form of control. We've confused freedom with the ability to do whatever we want without accountability, when true freedom comes from following Christ.

1.     Our culture increasingly places a high value on personal autonomy and being able to make our own choices without accountability to authority figures or outside voices. Miller suggests this is an "unhealthy form of control."

2.     There is a connection drawn between declining social trust in institutions/leaders and the rise of valuing autonomy over submitting to any authority. As trust in others declines, people place more authority in themselves.

3.     Miller argues that exercising total autonomy and rejecting any accountability actually "short-circuits community and stunts our spiritual growth." Absolute autonomy undermines the biblical vision of interdependent community.

4.     The idea that we have confused true freedom with merely the ability to do whatever we want without having to follow anyone else's lead. Miller contends biblical freedom is actually found in submission to God, not personal autonomy.

5.     Provocative claim: "whenever we try to control something in order to fix it, we will end up breaking it even more." Miller applies this principle to relationships fractured by attempts to control others.

6.     The notion that we cannot be "in control" and "in community" at the same time - exercising total personal autonomy sabotages our ability to function as an interdependent part of the Body of Christ.

Prayer at the end of Chapter 6:

Gracious God,

I confess to you that I love accountability only in theory. Too often, I appreciate accountability abstractly, but not personally.  I confess the times I have rejected accountability by becoming defensive, making excuses, or lashing out at the source. I confess to distancing myself from the kind of honest relationships that would challenge and refine me. I confess the belief that I alone know what is best for me.

God, you know all the ways authority is abused, and you do not scrutinize my fear of this. But help me to be honest and repentant when I am withholding trust from trustworthy people— and more importantly, a trustworthy Savior!— because I am only willing to trust myself. And thank you for patiently loving me as I do.



1.       How do you relate to authority? Do you easily trust authority, or do you push back?

2.       Whether you trust or distrust authority figures and experts, what led you to this perspective?

3.       How does our culture define freedom? (There are many answers to this!)

4.       Be honest. Are there areas of your life that are off limits to receiving advice?

Chapter 7: Theology

The "prosperity gospel" claims faith leads to material wealth and success. This functions as a means of control, giving us a false sense that we can dictate outcomes in our lives through our faith and actions. The true gospel offers unconditional love, not a rigid contract to earn blessings.

1.     The "prosperity gospel" gives people a false sense of control over their lives and outcomes based on their faith and obedience.

2.     The prosperity gospel departs from biblical doctrine in implying a contractual, earn-it-yourself relationship with God rather than a covenantal relationship based on grace.

3.     The prosperity gospel's promise of earthly, material rewards actually cheapens the gospel, which defines our true reward and "riches" as Christ himself.

4.     Attempts to explain suffering through a prosperity gospel lens ("they must have sinned") are cruel attempts to regain a sense of predictability and control in the face of tragedy.

5.     The concept that theology itself can become a means of control, "a false sense that we have a monopoly on God's truth."

6.     "whenever we try to explain why bad things happen, we are making a theological claim about God's design for the world."

The prosperity gospel exhausts its adherents through the fear of never doing enough, striving ceaselessly because they can never rest in God's unmerited grace.

Prayer at the end of Chapter 7:

Sovereign Lord, you cannot be played. There are no strings I can pull or buttons I can push to manipulate your will for my life. But I confess that I still try. I confess that sometimes I think I am owed, and I confess to blaming others for their misfortune, because it makes me feel safer and more secure.

Save me from this false theology. Open my eyes to the prosperity theologies I subscribe to in my life, and restore me to the one true gospel that does not give me control but gives me a freedom infinitely better.



1.       In what contexts have you heard or experienced the term “prosperity gospel” before?

2.       What forms of the prosperity gospel can you detect in your life?

3.       Why is the prosperity gospel so enticing when the gospel of Jesus requires less?

Chapter 8: Shame

Shame is used as a tool for control - either to control ourselves by believing we deserve mistreatment, or to control others through public humiliation. Shame never produces genuine change, only outward conformity, and that God's way is to transform us through love, not condemnation.

1.     There is a connection between shame and control - using shame to feel a sense of control over oneself or to control the behavior of others through public humiliation.

2.     Victims of trauma or abuse will sometimes blame themselves as a way to purchase a sense of control, operating under the false logic that "if I caused it, I can prevent it from happening again."

3.     Shame only produces outward conformity and the appearance of change, not genuine inner transformation. "Shame never produces genuine change, only outward conformity."

4.     Using shame as a tool is antithetical to how God loves and transforms people. Shame is a tactic of God's enemy, not of God himself.

5.     Jesus took on human shame and condemnation on the cross, denouncing shame as unfit for God's kingdom.

6.     Parents often unintentionally pass down shame to control their children's behavior, creating lasting negative impacts.

Spiritually mature Christians can fall into patterns of using shame rather than grace when trying to influence others' behavior, contradicting how God operates.

Prayer at end of Chapter 8:


I confess that I sometimes bow to the power of shame. I also confess that I have used shame to change people, including myself. Thank you that shame is not your way. Thank you for taking my shame and nailing it to the cross so that it would be as far from me as the east is from the west. Thank you for loving me and building me up in your love. Restrain me from using shame to influence myself or others and deliver me from the false predictability of shame. Help me find perfect security in you.




1.       Can you remember a time as a child when you were shamed into obedience? How did it shape you as an adult?

2.       Why do you think shame is so tempting to use, even when we know it isn’t Christlike?

3.       What has helped you break free from shame?

Chapter 9: Broken Relationships

Attempts to control other people, even with good intentions, inevitably damage those relationships. Example: Abraham deceiving others to try to engineer God's promises. Controlling behaviors victimize the innocent and undermine God's design for interdependent community.

Any attempt to control other people will inevitably damage and fracture those relationships, because people are not designed by God to be controlled against their will.

 Provides examples from the Bible of relationships broken by Abraham and Sarah trying to control situations and "engineer" the fulfillment of God's promises through deception.

When we try to control others, even those we victimize unintentionally, the innocent bear the brunt of the relational fallout disproportionately.

"Relationships and control cannot coexist because God did not design them to."

"Triangulation" - bringing a third party into a two-person conflict or instability as a way to neutralize it or distract from the core tensions.

Triangulation and anxiety are related: "much relational anxiety is generated when we want to change the other, rather than work on ourselves."

Those with tremendous worldly power and authority, like British monarchs, are not immune to the anxiety that comes from the failed pursuit of controlling other people.

Prayer at the end of Chapter 9:

God of grace,

You are not a controlling God. You do not coerce. You do not manipulate. You do not strong-arm. And you do not force. I confess that I have not always imitated your loving gracious influence, but have, at times, tried to control the people I love. I repent of this. Holy Spirit, help me to love and influence those around me according to your character, and restore any relationships that were fractured when I didn’t. Thank you that you do not love the way humans love. Thank you for pointing us to a better way.




1.       Have you ever felt controlled by another person? How did it affect your relationship with them?

2.       Looking back on your life, which people or relationships have you found yourself most tempted to control?

3.       What are some of the ways you mask your efforts to control people as “concern”?

4.       What were the consequences of trying to control people in your life?

Chapter 10: Burnout

We believe we can control our life circumstances through effort and willpower, even when reality proves otherwise. This leads to anxiety, exhaustion, and a diminished ability to simply trust God. She encourages embracing our limitations as an opportunity to depend on Christ.

Millennials have faced a unique disconnect between the success and control over their futures they were promised from working hard, and the actual opportunities available to them, leading to widespread burnout.

Our culture trains us to trust and strive for what we can control, while fearing what we cannot see or control, diminishing our ability to live by faith.

 Trying to control uncontrollable circumstances is not a calm, rational response but a "panic-driven" survival mechanism rooted in anxiety.

 The more we try to control unpredictable circumstances, the more we undermine our own wellbeing through anxiety and exhaustion.

There is a contrast between the cultural promise that effort leads to control over life outcomes ("works righteousness") and the biblical view of finding contentment by resting in Christ regardless of circumstances.

Philippians 4:13 ("I can do all things through Christ") is not about fulfilling dreams through willpower, but finding sufficiency in Christ amid any reality.

Embracing our limited human capacity to control is an opportunity to build "the spiritual muscle" of surrendering circumstances to God's sovereignty.

Prayer at the end of Chapter 10:

Loving Father,

You promise to work all things for good for those who love you, which means I do not have to “work all things for good” for myself. And yet, I struggle to trust you in this. I confess that I have engineered outcomes, and I have lived as if my human might was more powerful and necessary for my flourishing than trusting you. I repent of this self-reliance. I repent of striving. I repent of denying my smallness in the world. Thank you that I can trust your plans even more than my own. But I also ask you, Holy Spirit, to teach me that trust.



1.       Did you grow up believing hard work would guarantee you a certain future? Has that matched with your lived experience?

2.       As you read through this chapter, did any current circumstance come to mind? What situation do you wish you could control right now?

3.       As you reflect on that situation and the outcome you want for it, pay attention to how your body feels. And your mind, your heart rate, your jaw, your shoulders, your breathing. How have you responded?