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White Knuckles

Published on July 30, 2020

Dan Britton



“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ― Corrie Ten Boom

When a crisis hits (for example, an unplanned pandemic), we usually respond one of three ways: fight, flight or freeze. Worry, anxiety and insecurity can replace peace, joy and patience. Instead of being full of faith, we can become full of fear. We desperately hold on to what we have instead of surrendering it. When we grip tightly to the things we can’t control, we quickly get white knuckles. Usually we don’t see them turn white, but everyone around us does!

In the Bible, King Saul was a white-knuckle leader. He gripped his power. Nobody was going to take it from him, even if it meant giving up his life! The young warrior, David, was the new hero. A new, popular song was being sung about him: “Saul has killed his thousands and David has killed his tens of thousands.” Saul did the math: he was losing his power and fame. Saul gripped his kingship with everything he had, but it was being ripped from his white knuckles not by David, but by God.

White-knuckle people are control freaks driven by fear and anxiety. 

Imagine if Saul would have embraced God’s plan and invested in David as a young leader. Imagine if he saw the greatness in David and helped him grow and develop as the next king. It would have been one of the best biblical examples of mentoring. Instead, a horrific circumstance occurred, and Saul tried to kill David. White-knuckle people cannot empower others. They only empower themselves. We hold or give—control or empower—it is impossible to do both at the same time. It is one or the other, and the choice is ours.

Insecure people try to take out anyone who is a potential threat.

We shy away from empowerment because we love power too much. Power means we are in control. When we control things, we get white knuckles. We hold onto our position, our people, our programs, our paycheck and our perks. Releasing is difficult. It is natural to hold onto things and unnatural to give away. It’s always hard to give total control to God and others.

Give up control and give away power.

White-knuckle people are everywhere… and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are white-knuckle leaders, white-knuckle moms and dads, white-knuckle coaches and athletes, white-knuckle employees, white-knuckle businessmen and white-knuckle kids. Bottom line, we all have white knuckles!

The key to empowerment is investing in others. Give responsibility away and trust those you empower with the results. Empowerment usually applies to legal power or official authority. It means we give up control and give away power by investing in others. It’s saying and showing, “I believe in you!” These are four powerful words of trust and belief.

Blessing others and giving the gift of power seems foreign. Even if we do finally learn to invest in others, we can do it for the wrong reasons, such as pride, pleasure and profit. These self-centered motives will stunt our impact capacity. Seeing greatness in others and asking the Lord for opportunities to empower others keeps our hearts pure and full of right motives.

Pure hearts produce open hands.

There are three important principles of empowerment:

  1. Empowerment comes through relationships… not roles.

    Empowerment happens through healthy, vibrant relationships—not titles or roles. When you build trust and loyalty, you have an open door to empower. Relationships are the foundation to empowerment.

  2. Empowerment comes through investment… not involvement.

    Making an investment in others is pouring out what God has poured into you. We need to intentionally empower the next generation. Give them ownership.

  3. Empowerment comes through anointing… not availability.

    Empowerment will produce lasting fruit when there is a calling by God on someone’s life. Fruit won’t come simply because someone is available. Anointing allows the person to hear from God and walk the path God has for them with power. We need to discern who God has anointed and empower them.


During my 30 years of serving with FCA, many people ask me what I love most about FCA. Besides keeping Christ at the center of our ministry for 65 years, I always say FCA loves to give away the ministry to volunteers. Our volunteers are the secret sauce! Since the very beginning, FCA has been a ministry of empowerment that desires to see disciples make disciples. We trust and believe in others! We are committed to not having white knuckles.

In the middle of these unprecedented times, one of the best things we can do is empower others! No more white knuckles. Live a life committed to giving up control and giving away power. Trust God. Trust others. And watch God work! 

Father, reveal to me when I have white knuckles. I confess it is hard to surrender to You and give power to others. Teach me how to let go and trust Your ways. Remove fear, anxiety and insecurity. Replace it with peace, joy and patience. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.