Photo credit: Dollar photo club

Photo credit: Dollar photo club

By Erica Rivers, MA, LPC, CPT, MBA

Have you ever had your heart so set on something that you focused on it, worked toward it, and thought you were just about to attain it when it escaped your grasp?  Perhaps a new job or a promotion?  Or maybe a relationship that you had been craving?  It’s only normal to get mad, hurt, or disappointed about that loss.  Sometimes we want it so badly that we can taste it, as the saying goes.  We even imagine ourselves experiencing it… and it’s quite a vivid thought!

For sure, we have all been there, and if we are honest, there are times when we can’t just shrug it off or let it roll.  Sometimes it’s quite a blow.  There are times when we are tempted to blame God and think that He doesn’t love us.  Ever had the thought:  “Man, I can never get a break!!” or, “Everybody else seems to figure this out, why not me?”?  It’s hard not to think that God is holding out on us.  “Does He really love me?” we might wonder.  I’d say it’s pretty normal for most of us to have doubts at times.

There’s a common story about how certain people-groups in Africa used to catch monkeys by hollowing out a coconut and placing a piece of fruit inside.  Then, when a monkey came and put his hand in, grabbing the fruit, the monkey would get stuck because it could not extract the fruit with its’ fist clenched and the trapper would simply come up behind the monkey that was stuck and capture it.  All the monkey had to do to get free was release the fruit inside the coconut.  And, of course, this parallel is drawn to us (whether this is a true story or not, I’m unsure) regarding how sometimes our failure to let go hinders our freedom and keeps us trapped.

I’ve heard many people struggle in an unhealthy or toxic relationship and stay, simply because they do not want to be alone and not because it is the right thing to fight for the relationship.  They hold on, wishing for something better within it and settling for scraps of love.  A friend of mine shared the illustration once that in the circus trapeze act, the trapeze artist has to build momentum and then, with faith, let go of one bar, soar through the space between, and latch on to the other bar.   He/she can’t get to the next bar without letting go of the first and to brave the time hovering in space in between.   It takes courage to let go and to know that there is a period of discomfort without our secure surroundings, whatever those might be.  Change is often difficult and yet, sometimes very worth the risk.

It seems that life is filled with many occasions where we have to figure out when to stay and fight, when to be proactive, when to wait, and when to release and let go.  It’s a challenge to discern which one is appropriate much of the time.  In making that choice, for the Christian, it’s important to spend time in prayer, consult wise, caring, and supportive individuals, and to weigh the possible consequences of our action/inaction.  Then the brave part comes in: the action.  Take a step.  Make a move.  Let go of the bar.  Release.  The challenging part, however, is remaining unclenched with our hands, trusting that God is in control and allowing Him to work out the details.  It’s hard to trust Him when things look bleak or when we experience significant loss and yet, Job’s powerful words can be remembered here:  “ ‘Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’” (Job 2:10, NLT)  If we were to be honest, most of us have a difficult time with that!

So, why make the effort to trust God when things look bleak?  Why unclench our hands??  There could be books written on this subject but in brief, because as God, He has revealed Himself to us showing us His character, His heart, and His faithfulness.  Psalm 103:8-14:  “The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.  He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.  For his unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  The LORD is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.  For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust (NLT).”

He is a God that came near and loved us so much that He died for us, taking on the wrath we deserved.  John 3:16-17: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him (NLT).”   He not only died but He rose again, conquering death, giving us hope for something more down the road, something better beyond this painful life.  As Casting Crowns in their song Just Be Held says, “And when you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control; There’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go.”  We can trust a God who has a heart like a loving Father to His children and who knows how to see us through this life.  He carries us through the space between when we unclench our hands and trust His presence.

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