There is a very familiar song from a very popular movie that continually tells us to “let it go.” Not a bad thought considering how many things in life seem to take us down in one way or another. We are hit continually with circumstances beyond our control – jobs, family issues, health issues, even the political climate – all of it can just wear us down to the point we truly feel like we cannot get up one more time. After all, why get up when life is just going to knock you back down again? That seems like a very valid question, doesn’t it? Of course it does, until you remember something all people of faith forget: Our circumstances may be out of our our control, but they are never out of God’s.
I have written a lot about the struggle with trying to control everything in our lives, to mitigate the effects of the world around us. We save to avoid financial collapse. We work out and eat right to avoid illness and disease. We go into professions that we don’t want to be in because they provide stability. We do all kinds of things to keep from being at the mercy of the elements. The truth is we can do everything perfectly and think we are prepared for (and protected from) almost anything, but we aren’t. I’m not saying it doesn’t help, but saving won’t prevent a financial disaster if the conditions are right. Eating right and exercising won’t keep you from getting sick. There are people every day who are examples of perfect health who suddenly drop dead from a heart attack, or find out they have cancer or some other dreaded disease. We don’t want to consider it, but it seems we really are at the mercy of the elements. Or are we? How do we walk through this life, bombarded with situations that shake us to our core or bring us to our knees? How do we keep moving when things fall apart? How do we press on, when we’ve been betrayed or let down by someone we love? How do we lift our heads when we lose jobs, homes, or even families? How do we actually let it go?
We tend to hold on to things; it is in our nature. We even hold onto things that are harmful for/to us. How many people remain in terrible relationships because they can’t let go? How many jobs do we stay in because we can’t let go? How many places do we live in because we can’t let go? We like the familiar, even when it’s bad. We like to be in control, or have the illusion of control. Sometimes the illusion of control is more powerful than actually being in control. We mix up those two things often – actual control vs the illusion of control. We rationalize our hoarding of things or relationships and then wonder why we feel so bogged down, stressed out or depressed. God never meant for us to hoard things in this world. He never wanted us to put down roots here when our forever home is actually with Him. “Yeah, yeah, but that’s just a nebulous concept when I’m living in the NOW.” We really struggle with letting go of anything! The things we consider “good” in life (money, secure jobs, good relationships, homes and possessions, etc.) are hard to let go of because we think if we “let it go” that means we lose it. The things we consider “bad” (money, secure jobs, bad relationships, possessions we’ve acquired, etc.) are hard to let go of because they are familiar and serve a purpose for us – even if that purpose is less than desirable. What we have is what we know, and we don’t like to consider the unknown. We don’t want to consider that letting go means everything might change. Letting go of the “good” means we lose and letting go of the “bad” means everything will be unfamiliar. After all, either way, what if we let it go and then don’t make it? What if we don’t survive? What if, what if, what if?
What if? Therein lies the problem. We don’t know the “what ifs,” but as children of God we know that HE does. He knows what is around the corner and tells us over and over to trust Him even though His ways are not our ways. As people of faith, we talk a good talk but our “what ifs” paralyze us and keep us from letting go. We can’t let it go because we don’t trust the One in whom we claim to place our trust. The truth is that it is impossible to let go without having trust in something higher than ourselves. That is true not just for people of faith, but for everyone. We tend to make our decisions from a place of emotion rather than a place of reason, but God wants us to look at what He has said/promised to us and then trust Him to keep His word. Trust is not an emotion; it is a decision. We can trust and let things go, even if we are fearful or apprehensive. We can have faith even though our knees are shaking. We can decide to let go and trust, even when we may feel like it’s crazy to do so. Trust (or faith) and fear are not mutually exclusive. We can let go and be afraid. We can let go and be sad. We can let go and feel all kinds of things, but we cannot let go without trust. No one can – people of faith or not.
Life is difficult. We were never promised it would be easy, but it can be rich and fulfilling if we can learn to let things go. When we learn to let go, we also learn to embrace. Hurts that we have endured through various means or people can cripple us forever if we let them. People who have let us down, angered us, treated us poorly or unfairly, or rejected us completely don’t have to diminish us. Situations that have (or are) less than perfect don’t have to destroy us. We don’t have to hold onto our grudges or hurts. We don’t even have to hold on to our expectations that have gone unfulfilled. We probably need to readjust those expectations anyway. We, especially as people of faith, have a problem. We hold ourselves in such high regard that we feel like we have a right to hold onto our anger and hurt. We think so highly of ourselves that we feel entitled to NOT let things go. We think it is our right to make sure everything is eventually evened out in our world and that we are treated fairly, and we spend a lot of our time, energy and resources to ensure it happens. I have news for you: making things “fair” is not your responsibility. Do you know what IS your responsibility? Loving God, loving each other and letting things go.
The key to being able to let go is in rationally, reasonably and logically taking God at His word, in spite of our emotions or our desire for control. It isn’t an easy thing to do, and I struggle with it continually, but it doesn’t change the truth of it. Emotions are powerful things that can drive us into all kinds of states. They are volatile and yet they are a very real part of who we are and how God created us to be. Every emotion we experience, God himself has experienced. Every betrayal and hurt, every anger and fear, He has experienced them all. Yes, in the fleshly manifestation as Jesus Christ, He had to deal with every emotion we have dealt with – or ever will. He was betrayed by those He trusted, his closest friends. He wept with sadness and grief over losses during His earthly life. He was terrified in the garden of Gethsemane as He looked at what He was going to have to endure. But you know what? He let it go. He let all of it go and died for us anyway, in spite of how He was treated or how we would dismiss Him today. He loved us even though He knew we would often reject, disobey and even hate Him. How was He able to endure such emotion and still press on? Because He knew the truth and rested in it. He knew He had a higher purpose and the end result was worth it all, regardless of how he felt emotionally. When we are able to live from a place of knowing the truth and being willing to walk in it, regardless of how we feel, THAT is when we are able to finally trust and let go.
So I guess I will leave you with what I desire for myself as well as all of you. I pray we all can step back and realize just what we give up when we are afraid to lose what we already have. Stop trying to cling to the familiar or to your desire to see that others get what you think they deserve. Quit holding onto your wounds as badges of honor and be willing to let the wounds in your heart heal. Let it go. Open your heart and let go of the pain from those who didn’t love you and embrace the One who does. And when the circumstances in your life start overwhelming you, or you feel that need for revenge start to rise within you, let it go. It isn’t worth it. We were never meant to carry around the weight of the world with us. We can do exactly what God’s word says in 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.” When we do that, we can still see the sun, no matter how the storms may rage around us. We can say, with great assurance, “Here I stand in the light of day. Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway.”