“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’” – Matthew 16:24-25 (NLT)
Lately, God has been teaching me about letting go. It seems like in the span of a couple of months, several situations have come up involving long periods of uncertainty. This uncertainty has led to chronic worry, particularly about my children, and a couple of episodes of acute anxiety. In my head I know this isn’t the “life to the full” God wants for me – that I need to cast my burdens at the feet of Jesus – but to be completely honest with you, it’s been a process.
In her book Unshaken: Experience the Power and Peace of a Life of Prayer, Sally Burke said something that really struck a chord with me: that worry isn’t just a bad habit or even our right as parents; it’s sin. Immediately after reading that, I went to my favorite prayer closet (which happens to be our garage) and confessed my sin against God. As I prayed out loud, I quoted one of my favorite scriptures, claiming faith in Jesus instead of the worry I had been indulging in:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
Learning to Let Go
I felt the Lord asking me a simple question: How do you expect to be crucified with clenched fists? A picture of Jesus came into my mind – hands outstretched and open, ready to receive the nails.
I needed to let go, to unclench my fists. And in thinking over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come up with three things I need to let go of if I truly want to live by “faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I hope they will be an encouragement to you as well!
Let Go of Fear
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” -2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Satan would love for us to allow fear to keep us from breaking into the abundant life that God has planned for us. In fact, I think fear of pain or difficult circumstances is a tool the enemy uses to keep us from ultimate joy. How like God is it to birth joy out of pain? But don’t we welcome the pain of childbirth, doing all we can to induce those excruciating contractions, because we know the gift that awaits us on the other end of that pain?
If we would just let go of fear, and embrace the uncertainties and even potential pains of life, we might just find freedom and joy beyond anything our mortal minds could have planned or imagined. There are too many “what ifs” to count, and I’m afraid lately I’ve been letting worry about those uncertainties keep me from pressing into what God has for me now, distracting me from doing His work, and preventing me from experiencing His “peace that transcends understanding.” And maybe even from recognizing the gifts He is birthing along the way.
Let Go of Plans
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)
Some of my anxiety has stemmed from plans I had in my mind being shaken up. I have a hard time shifting gears when life throws me curveballs, but God is teaching me that any idea of control over life’s circumstances is only an illusion. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be wise, plan ahead or have goals – there are scriptures that tell us those things are good! But as Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, no matter how many plans we have, we need to unclench those fists and hold the plans up to the Lord with open hands, submitting to His ultimate purposes and plans for us. When we do this, we open ourselves up to paths we never would have taken if we’d been given the choice, and to walking those paths with confidence and grace that will ultimately bring glory to God.
Let Go of Loved Ones
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one”. – John 17:15 (NIV)
Oh, Lord – not this! I’ll hold out my fears and plans, but please let me keep my babies close! I have three children – 11, 6 and 3. Many of my struggles with worry lately have stemmed from decisions and issues surrounding my children.
I’m afraid that this “letting go” is the most difficult of all, much like the rich man asking “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him he must give up that which was most dear – to let go of his great wealth, to hold it with open hands. He could not. But being a child of God, walking this life of faith, taking up our cross and following Jesus means letting go even of the things – and people – we love most. If we want to be obedient, we have no choice but to hold them out to God with open hands, trusting that He loves them even more than we do. Trusting that God’s best for them may not look “good” to us right now, in our limited understanding.
[ctt template=”2″ link=”6GnqF” via=”yes” ]Do you trust God with your children? It’s a yes or no question, but it’s something Jaime struggles with.[/ctt]
If we look to Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17:15 (quoted above), the people He loved more than anyone on planet Earth, we see that His prayer for them was not that they would be sheltered from the troubles of the world, or placed in a bubble. He knew that they needed to go into the world, maybe even fail a little, and then come back again stronger for it. He prayed that they would be protected spiritually from the evil one, but He surrendered them into God’s loving hands.
The hard truth?
Most of them died terrible deaths. But Jesus knew Gods plan for their lives was the best plan. They could have gone on quietly fishing, or tax collecting for the rest of their lives if they hadn’t met Jesus, and could have died peacefully in their sleep, snug in their beds. But they have an eternal glory and inheritance that far outweighs the temporary sufferings they may have endured for the sake of Christ (Romans 8:17, Matthew 5:10, 2 Corinthians 4:17).
What Do You Need to Let Go Of?
What are you struggling to let go of? Fears? Plans? Loved ones? We would love to hear your prayer requests and struggles, as well as some of the blessings you’ve discovered as you have been obedient to God in letting go. Whatever your struggles may be, just remember that as we go through this painful process of letting go, we aren’t alone! We can grab onto one another for support and encouragement. And most importantly, we can grab onto God – our solid rock, our fortress, the One from whom our help comes.
A clinched-fist…I like that visual because it puts a picture to the way I have felt before too. Trying to keep control. However, I need to let go of control. I don’t have it anyway. It is a false sense of ownership that leads to anxiety and living without joy. I want to let go of control.
Me too, JJ. Sometimes it is a minute-by-minute process of surrender; those fists can be stubborn! But having the head knowledge is the first step. God bless you!
Letting go is never easy for me, but when we truly surrender to Jesus, life is so much sweeter.
Amen to that, Heather!
I love the visual of hands open (willingness) versus hands clenched (willfulness). Completely God’s tasks and desires for our life is so much easier with hands open!
I love the way you put that, Melissa- willingness vs willfulness. Thanks for stopping by!
I think letting go of loved ones is the hardest thing for me. I once had to confront someone I loved about sin, and I knew I might lose this person’s love, and sure enough, there were horrible repercussions from having confronted the person. God would not leave me alone until I spoke to this person, so I had to obey.
Wow, Susan – That takes such guts! My husband was confronted in college by a friend regarding sin and it caused damage at first, but he is now one of my husband’s oldest and dearest friends. Praying even now for restoration in your relationship. God bless you for your willingness to let go and obey even at the expense of your own comfort!
I know anxiety all to well having developed an anxiety disorder from letting it overrun me. The visual of the clenched fists really moved me. Thank you for a great post!
Thank you, Julie!
I am entering another season of letting go. You never quite get used to it, but I can’t help but think that life really is a process of letting things go, ending with our last breath.
Alice, I couldn’t agree more! I feel that way especially about my children. I just keep praying God will give me little glimpses of how He is at work even in the areas of life I don’t see as “good.” That makes each little incremental letting go feel less scary. But it’s always hard!
Oh my, yes! It is true to realize that our physical protection is not the highest priority can make us take a step back and consider if we are really trusting God or just wanting him to let us live comfortably. He is constantly calling us out of our comfort zones and we have to choose whether or not to truly follow him.
Kristi, I’ve been convicted lately of my unconscious prayer for comfort and ease. There have been several painful “thy will be done” moments in the last year that have been huge growing experiences. But they make me realize I’m not nearly as strong as I thought! Praise God that His power is made perfect in our weakness!
I had to recently let go of what made sense and step out in faith that I don’t need to see the way, bu instead trust in the One who leads the way. Thanks for the reminder of letting go…