How to "Let Go and Let God"
The saying is so cliche', isn't it? The catch phrase is tossed around across churches, on Facebook, and is common in the "Christian-ese" vernacular. Yet, are you able to really "let go and let God?" What does that even mean?
I often have clients come into my office and report that they pray, and they pray, and they pray, but nothing changes and they find no relief despite all of their efforts at "letting go." You often hear people say, "I let it go, but then I pick it back up!" Or "I pray, but I don't think God is listening." Typically, it's our cares and worries that we're being encouraged to let go by this admonitional statement.
There are a few striking differences between biblical Christianity and all other organized world religions, but I'd like to focus primarily on one unique aspect today. Biblical Christianity is based on a relationship, NOT a "religion." But I'd like to explore this further through an analogy...
Let's say that it's Christmastime and you decide to go shopping with your friend. After loading up on gifts, you realize you need to use the restroom. You and your friend head to the bathrooms and your friend doesn't need to use the facilities, so he waits on the benches outside of the restrooms. Without much thought, you drop your shopping bags down in front of your friend and proceed to enter the bathroom.
Ask yourself, were you worried, even for a second that your friend might leave your bags unattended, or worse, that he might steal your bags? Of course not! The thought was unlikely to even cross your mind, for lack of a better way to put it, you were able to "pee in peace."
Now, let's change up our pretend scenario a bit... Let's say you decided to go Christmas shopping by yourself and the same scenario occurs. You find yourself needing to use the restroom, so you head there, only to find that there are no lockers and (for purposes of our analogy) you are unable to take your bags into the restroom with you. You see a stranger sitting on the bench outside of the restrooms and you say, "Excuse me sir, would you mind watching my bags for just a minute while I use the restroom?" He obliges.
How's your level of peace while you're peeing now? Probably not very good, right? More than likely, your bags would be the ONLY thing on your mind. You'd probably use the bathroom as quickly as possible, even skipping the hand washing to rush back to check on your valuables.
Now, what is the difference between these two scenarios, between your friend and the stranger? Obviously, you know your friend and you don't know the stranger. Take some time to consider how that happened, the "knowing" part. In order for you to get to a place with your friend that you could leave your bags and have complete peace in leaving them there, you had to build a relationship with that person. You had to spend time together, not once or twice, but repeatedly and consistently over time. You spent time talking, sharing more and more of yourself with that person. You also spent time listening.
Could you imagine if every time you got together with your friend, you did all the talking and the moment they began to speak, you cut them off or looked at your watch and said, "Sorry, I don't have any time to listen," or "I'm finding it really hard to understand what you're saying, so...I'm going to go." That friendship isn't going to last long, it's unlikely to ever even develop into what we'd call a friendship!
In developing friendships, we recognize that we need to make sacrifices of our time, forsaking other things and people in order to devote time to that person. We also build trust in a friend over time, by providing them with opportunities to prove themselves faithful and vice versa. For example, early on in a friendship, you decide to meet for coffee at 2pm, when your friend actually shows up at 2pm, you begin to gauge that they are reliable. Overtime, the level of trust builds, to where you may be handing over the keys to your house to feed the fish while you're on vacation.
Our relationship with our Creator is no different, in that, it's a relationship! Are you doing all the talking (you pray, and pray, and pray) but not much listening? Some people think that "listening" to God happens in some mystical, magical way. For example, I've heard many people say things like, "a butterfly landed on my arm yesterday and that was God's way of telling me that my sister is in heaven with Him," or "if that stoplight turns green in the next 5 seconds, that's God telling me to take that job in Atlanta." You might as well let tossing a coin make all of your important decisions in your life, it's equally ridiculous. Certainly, God does reveal Himself through His creation. The bible gives us many examples of this, here's just a few:
"Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)
“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
God's creation testifies to Him as Creator and magnifies His immense power, and should inspire awe in us. His creation tells us of Him, which is different than knowing Him. How then, do we come to know God? It's through His Word, the bible, that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. John 1:1-3 states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." So apart from reading and hearing God's Word, it is impossible to know Him.
Do you forsake other things and people to make time to listen (i.e., reading and studying God's Word)? Do you do it consistently and are maintaining the discipline over time? Prayer is essential and important, but prayer alone is a one-way relationship and as we just explored, that's not a relationship at all! If you aren't studying scripture, you aren't in a relationship with God. If you aren't in a relationship with God, you're essentially attempting to leave your bags with a stranger, it's no wonder you keep picking them back up! Once you really know God, you're better able to leave your "bags" with Him, knowing, without a doubt, that He's got them covered. This, my friend, is true peace.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24