Our sense of control is a reality because we are accountable for our choices. Scripture calls us to behave righteously, speak truthfully, and forgive lavishly. We are to be wise planners and prudent managers.

But it is also an illusion. Far too often, our sense of personal power becomes inflated, and we presume control that we simply do not possess.

Steve Jobs is an apt example. To develop breakthrough products, he created what biographer Walter Isaacson calls a “distortion reality field.” “Just as Star Trek aliens created their own new world through sheer mental force,” writes Isaacson, “in Jobs’s presence reality was malleable.”

This grand sense of self caught up with Jobs when, at the age of 48, he was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor. Rather than follow his doctors’ advice and pursue immediate surgery, he visited a psychic and purged himself of what he called “negative energy.” As Isaacson observes: “This was the dark side of his reality distortion field—his assumption that he could will things to be as he wanted.”

Tragically, Steve Jobs waited nine months to follow his doctors’ advice. But by then it was too late.

The Shattered Illusion

I, too, was a leader who loved control. And I, too, was laid low by an out-of-the-blue diagnosis. My cancer involved a failing immune system, similar to what you see in AIDS patients. Without a risky bone marrow transplant, I would die of a common cold within 18 months. Given the thread-the-needle nature of such a procedure, my odds of regaining decent health were 20 percent. My odds of surviving were 50 percent.

Post-transplant, as I lingered on the edge of death, my white cell count plunged to zero. Depleted ...

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