This is what I’ve learned about letting go

Over the weekend, my sister and I took a turn-around trip to Mississippi to pick up some furniture from our favorite auntie’s house. Aunt Venia is faced with the daunting task of downsizing from a 3000 square foot house nestled amongst acres of soybean fields to a 1200 square foot apartment in Shreveport suburbia. It’s going to be GREAT once it’s done, but the packing and the moving and the purging just plain stinks!

Ever the family historian, Aunt Venia has a nostalgic heart. Every item in her home has some kind of memory or meaning attached. But the fact is, she does not have room to bring it all with her. Some of it, she will have to let go.

My heart aches for her because I know how hard it is to part with the things that represent a happier time in life.

Memories, and the items attached to them, are so personal. You and I could attend the same event and leave with a completely different heart response. The mementos we gather along the way are as unique as we are. While one person snags a t-shirt from every port, another might pick up a piece of wall art or household decor. Others keep it simple with photos.

But we all have our stories. The ones that bring us to tears of laughter or tears of lament. Our memories are so much deeper than the items we attach them to.

We’ve been trying to convince Aunt Venia it’s time to let go. That her memories will remain even if the things don’t. That she has a lot more memories to make. We can say all those things ’til we’re blue in the face, but, ultimately, it’s her choice, and I believe God will help her release things slowly. Letting go of her homeplace is a pretty big release in its own right!

My auntie’s struggle has me thinking about the whole concept of letting go. We are a “graspy” people, aren’t we?

We hold on to things. We hold on to people. We hold on to habits. We hold on to grudges. We hold on to control.

When our hands and hearts are full of all those things, we can’t grasp hold of all God has for us.

God has been teaching me a lot lately about the whole concept of letting go.

Letting go of things.

Since most of my things are still boxed up in the barn after living here for close to two years, I realize how unimportant they are. If I don’t need those things bad enough to go out there and dig them out of boxes, I don’t need them at all. I sense a purging in my near future (when the weather cools down). I’ll hang on to some pictures of my sweet boys and the hand-painted metal platter my parents received as a wedding gift. Those items make me smile without cluttering my life. I’ll keep a few household items I actually use and sell or donate the rest.

Letting go of tangible things frees our hands for the intangible.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 NIV).

Letting go of people.

For the longest time, I held on to broken relationships. I blamed myself completely for the break-down. I begged them for another chance. I spiritualized the situation by pointing out God’s command to forgive. I tried to prove myself to them. I pleaded with God and with others to put in a good word for me. Truth is, I can’t force anyone to love me or even like me for that matter, and when my mind is consumed with scheming how to restore a broken relationship, it can’t be focused on nurturing the relationships I still have.

Letting go of people who don’t want to be held frees our arms to embrace the ones right there in front of us, especially our relationship with Christ.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19a NIV).
Letting go of habits.
Have you ever found yourself excusing your bad behavior by saying things like:
  • It’s just the way I am.
  • I’ve always been _______.
  • Bad tempers run in my family.
  • The devil made me do it.
  • If only I had _____________, I could ________.

Yeah, me too. We all have unpleasant tendencies, but that doesn’t mean we’re powerless to change. When we hold on to our bad habits, we’re exposing our lack of faith that God is strong enough to help us change.

Letting go of bad habits frees us to demonstrate God’s power.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).

Letting go of grudges.

I have a lot of struggles, but holding grudges isn’t one of them. Thank you, Lord! But I have seen, firsthand, how unforgiveness affects people. Holding a grudge against one person keeps us from having healthy relationships with anyone. The burden of unforgiveness makes us old before our time because it’s a heavy burden God never intended for us to bear.

Jesus, of all people, had the right to hold a grudge, yet some of his final words on the Cross were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). He forgave before the offense was even finished, yet so many of us dig our claws into our grudges for years, decades, even into the grave. What a waste of life!

I love how Dave Willis puts is. “Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.”

Letting go of grudges frees our hands to receive God’s grace for ourselves and to extend it to others.

“If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15 NIV).

Letting go of control.

This is the big one. The domino that knocks down all the rest. Think about it, when we cling to things or people or habits or grudges, we’re trying to exercise control. I think it’s natural to long for some measure of security and sure-thing-ness. We want some things we can count on. We can’t count on things or people or our own willpower. Things break or burn up. People walk away or pass away. Our willpower can only withstand so much opposition.

But Jesus!

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).

Jesus is our sure thing, but He refuses to compete with our stuff, our relationships, our habits, and our grudges. He’s an all-or-nothing God. It’s impossible to live free without letting go.

Letting go of control frees God to bring His own brand of beauty to our lives.

“But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:14-15 NIV).

Lord,

Forgive me for holding on to lesser things. I can’t hold Your hand and hold on to the things of this world. I surrender everything to You, Lord. My stuff. My sticky relationships. My sinful habits. My skinned-up heart. Take control of every area of my life, Lord, and help me live in the freedom Christ died for me to enjoy.

In the name of Jesus, my sure thing, I pray,

AMEN

Are you having trouble letting go? I’d love to pray with you! 

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

The Word of God is our Road Map to Freedom from Strongholds

God was all over the place at Woodridge Baptist Church yesterday! From the graying, grinning greeter lady at the front door to the kids shouting praises upstairs during children’s worship. I couldn’t stop smiling.

One of my favorite moments was singing “My Tribute” shoulder-to-shoulder with my dear friend, Carolyn Brumley. I haven’t heard her sing in 30 years, but her Spirit-filled tones sounded like heaven to me. Carolyn is one of those women God placed in my life way back then to help train me in the faith that sustains me in the here and now. I can’t even articulate how grateful I am for Carolyn Brumley, Carolyn Whitten, and Cathie Grayson for being mentors in my younger days and treasured friends, always.

Oh, Lord, thank you! And help me follow in their footsteps to love on young girls and women you place in my sphere of influence. 

Last week, my pastor started a series of sermons on demolishing strongholds. You can go back and read about the first sermon here. In that sermon, he shared that the first step in demolishing strongholds is to surrender. To admit that we can’t kick that sin habit to the curb on our own.

But surrender doesn’t mean we’re off the hook and it’s all on God to fix us. God’s power is the fuel to get this freedom truck moving, but we have to stomp on the gas! God’s Word is the perfect roadmap.

This battle we fight is a battle of the mind. The evil one knows if he can keep our minds off track, he will keep our lives off track. If we know we’re off course, we just might make a u-turn, but if we have no idea we’re on the wrong road, we’ll just keep toodling along straight to a dead end.

The Word of God is our roadmap to freedom from strongholds, but, just like a closed map, it won’t do any good if we don’t pick it up and study it.

God’s Word exposes our stronghold as the death trap it really is. 

When we apply the light of God’s Word to our strongholds, our excuses scatter like roaches in a dark room. None of our justifications or comparisons can stand up to God’s truth. God doesn’t care that Betty Lou next door drinks way more than you do. It’s not about Betty Lou. It’s about you. God doesn’t care that those pain killers were prescribed by a doctor. He cares that you are enslaved to them and that they are killing you. God doesn’t care that overeating is a socially acceptable sin. He cares that you are turning to fried chicken for comfort instead of Him.

God’s Word helps us navigate life according to God’s clear vision rather than our cloudy emotions.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). Our emotions flip and flop and swell and fade like ocean waves in hurricane season.

God’s Word allows us to replace our thoughts with God’s thoughts. 

The Bible is a powerful distraction from strongholds. When tempted to turn to that besetting sin, we can fight the urge by replacing those temptation tapes playing in our heads with truth tapes.

How does that look in real life? We can’t just sit around with our Bibles in hand all day, but we can store up God’s Word through scripture memorization and strategically placed visual reminders.

Psalm 119:11 says, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV).

Ask God for a scripture or two that speaks to your specific struggle. Post it in the places where the struggle is most real.

  • If your stronghold is porn or some other media-oriented thing, post a sticky note on your computer or TV with a Scripture that reminds you of God’s heart on the matter. “Get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Ezekiel 20:7 NIV).
  • If your stronghold is food, post a sticky note on the fridge or pantry. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NIV).
  • If your stronghold calls to you the most at a certain time of day, set an alarm on your phone for that time and name it, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
  • A spiral-bound book of index cards makes a perfect home for scriptures you are trying to memorize and mediate on. It’s small enough to keep in your purse or pocket, and you can pull it out and flip through it any time you need it. Sitting in parent pick-up or the drive-thru. On your lunch break or potty break. At the very moment when temptation hits you like a Mack truck, that notebook of truth can be your detour.

We express our faith when we turn our attention to God’s Word and away from our stronghold.

Essentially, we are saying, “God, you are bigger than this stronghold. There’s nothing You can’t do! Meet me here and fight for me as I battle to choose Your way over mine.”

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

God’s Word is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and worthy of our praise. Turning to God’s Word again and again and again strips our strongholds of their power.

Lord,

You are my path and my destination, and Your Word is the flawless map to show me the way. Show me in Your Word the scripture truths specific to my need. I want the mind of Christ, so I can live a life that pleases You. I don’t want any strongholds blocking my path to freedom. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN

How will you use God’s Word and the pray without ceasing life to demolish strongholds in your life? I’d love to hear how God’s Word is helping you walk in freedom.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube