Walking Our Faith: What does it mean to let go and let God? (column)
January 12, 2018
This afternoon as I was transferring information from last year's daily planner to this year's, I ran across my goals for 2017. I'd planned to finish writing two books — I didn't finish either one, but I did write a completely different one. I'd planned to re-open my apron shop on Etsy, but instead, found new writing assignments and a certainty that writing is where my heart belonged.
As I write my goals for 2018, I'll add those two books back to my list with a plan to make sure they're accomplished this year. But I'll also allow myself to be open to new writing opportunities and a fresh understanding of this proverb: "A person's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines the steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
If I look at my list of goals from last year as only a list of tasks to be accomplished, I miss the realization that I have grown and changed as an individual: that what was relevant to my life last year has changed because I have changed. I have grown in a different direction and God is leading me into new endeavors.
We smile and nod at God's better wisdom when we view a change in our goals through the rearview mirror of time. Sewing aprons is fun, but last year I discovered I didn't want to give up writing time to pursue it full time. If I were to judge this a failure by a glance at my list, it wouldn't reflect exciting developments in other areas of my life.
But how do I do accept an unpleasant setback: an unforeseen expense that decimates my carefully built savings or a job opportunity I prayed about for months that went to someone else?
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But how do I do accept an unpleasant setback: an unforeseen expense that decimates my carefully built savings or a job opportunity I prayed about for months that went to someone else? Or what do I do when everything I try results in failure and every door is closed?
Last year, as I went through a particularly difficult time, my friend Barbara gave me a prayer card that said, "Let go and let God." This came at a time when I had reached a breaking point in the midst of an unanswered prayer. I had tried everything, both by my own efforts and by prayer. And still no answer. I'd shared this journey with Barbara, and she had prayed for me over months. Finally, she gave me the card and said, "Sometimes all we can do is turn the situation over to God."
"Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10)
I don't believe "let go and let God" means we are to give up and stop working toward the goal we feel called toward, especially important goals like employment, or housing, or health. I believe we should work hard. Yet, not be devastated by failure, see it as feedback (yes, I know how difficult that is).
But as we continue to work, I believe we need to keep our hearts open to God's leading. It's difficult to discern whether failure is a sign that we are growing or that we are being told to move in another direction. When I'm in the midst of a series of failures, it's impossible for me to feel anything other than frustration. But when I look over the past year, I can see God's hand guiding my steps.
When we cannot see or comprehend what God is doing, and when we are feeling defeated, I believe "let go and let God" is a call for us to trust God as we work and not to let our confidence rest in our own efforts, but in "being confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." (Philippians 1:6)
Part of "letting go and letting God," perhaps the hardest part when we are struggling, is learning to rest in God's love. My mother often asks if I'm getting enough rest, and by that she doesn't mean sleep, she means am I allowing my mind to rest. An essential part of trusting God and letting go, is to trade our worry for an assurance that God has heard us and knows our needs: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4)
As I plan my 2018 goals, some will be fun, like increasing the number of books I read this year or snowshoeing once a week. Others may not be entirely in my hands, like creating a full-time writing career, or buying a home in my beloved Breckenridge. As I work toward these goals, I will be tempted to ruminate and fret. But I hope when I do, I will turn to God and remember he knows my future, he loves me, and he has plans for my well-being, not for disaster, to give me a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of "A Map of Heaven." She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths or SuzanneElizabeths.com.
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