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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When Letting Go Costs Dearly

 Loss. It's a simple but powerful four-letter word. And it is a crucial one to understand when we are taking the journey to the secret. 
 The greatest gains we will ever have in life almost always follow a significant loss, a sacrifice of sorts that we have had to make in order for us to reach new heights of growth. It may be a financial loss, a physical loss, or even a personal loss. It's the way the journey works. God often demands that we give up something we love so that we can learn and ultimately gain a far more lasting possession. 
 Today, our society is so much about gain that we almost don't know how to handle loss. We've become so obsessed with pursuing success that we have a hard time handling failure. It seems to be getting harder and harder all the time to embrace setbacks, to make sacrifices, to let go. A lot of people find this out with financial crisis and so on. Folks who always depended on a steady income or lucrative lifestyle now find themselves pinching pennies and trying to just make ends meet. But losses sometimes involve more than money or time. They involve a life. 
 As I discovered in my own life, loss means more than simply being deprived of a cherished possession. Loss means surrender. Loss means letting go...and often this act costs us dearly. More than not, loss comes to us unexpectedly. We are suddenly faced with the fact that a prized something has been removed from our life. Especially in the case of a loved one's passing or a friendship's sour ending. We feel slighted because nobody asked us if we wanted to keep holding on or not. We never had a say and, naturally, we think we have a right to. Unless we voluntarily give our permission to let go of something or someone, no one can take it away from us...and, if they do, we deserve to have it back. So we think. This is human nature. We desire control. We want to be in charge over our lives and who is in them. It is bred into the human soul, thanks to our first parents in the Garden of Eden, to want to have the power to choose and order our realities the way we want them to be. Loss, however, destroys these carefully laid plans. We are confronted by the fact that we really have little say or control at all. And this truth is upsetting to us. Particularly when we realize that God is often behind such circumstances. 

Why would God promise to give only to take away?

I think of the story in the Bible where God promises Abraham that He will give him a son in his old age. Sarah, Abraham's wife, her womb barren, would be able to conceive and give birth to a long-awaited child. In the fullness of time, she bears a son, and he is named  Isaac. Years later, when Isaac has come of age, God asks Abraham to go to a nearby mountain to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. But, instead of the usual animal, God asks him to give up Isaac. His one and only son will be laid on the alter to die. Abraham must kill his only child. the end, God provided another way and spared Isaac's life but, through this biblical encounter, we see God setting a precedent for mankind: sometimes God asks for our best, and it may require the giving up of something or someone very dear. 
 I went through a season of loss a few years ago and, as a young teenager at the time, I found it difficult to grasp the reason behind what I was experiencing. In addition to my dad's illness in 2007 and the prospect that he might not survive, I was watching a long-time friendship grow cold. On top of that, it seemed like death loomed on the horizon constantly. Life appeared, to me, to be nothing more than one, giant funeral. 

Where was the "good life" I had always thought existed for a good Christian like me? 

I desperately wanted it all to just end. 

Just stop the bad dream, and let's move on.

At the time, I couldn't seem to reconcile with this God who appeared to take away more than He gave. 

Don't I deserve a little better here, God? I complained, You might supposedly know how to give good things to your children, but the things which seem to be happening now are certainly not good!

Grace seemed to be running thin. All I wanted was for the pain to end. But it just kept coming...and coming...and coming. And, as it did so, the darkness closed in tighter, and my faith in God grew small. 

A true God of love...a God who really cared, wouldn't take us through this, I reasoned. So why should I love Him anymore? He never listens to what I pray for, neither does He take away the suffocating hurt in my life. All He keeps asking me to do is to let go of someone else. Who is He to be trusted?

Many times, I echoed the words of the Psalmist when he said, 

"I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my
spirit was overwhelmed...Will the Lord reject us forever? Will
He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished
forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten
to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?"
(Psalm 77: 3, 7-9)

 What I didn't understand at the time but would later come to believe is that, while each loss tested my faith and fortitude to the absolute limit, it was in that grinding process of release that I discovered another key to the secret: in laying down our own Isaac, we are given the revelation of God's plan for our lives; we are blessed with a "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17) that only the suffering of having to let go will grant to you.
 For me, saying goodbye to one of the closest people I knew - my 85-year-old grandmother - in September of 2010 was the culmination of my losses. It was like laying down my Isaac. She was so special to me and, upon reflecting later, so many of my hopes and dreams were based upon her being with us for some time longer. Her death initially felt, to me, like I'd been robbed. 

God took her when I deserved to have more time!

I couldn't release her, couldn't turn her over to God. I was angry. I was sad. I was lost without her in my life. Even though I knew she was in a better place, it seemed impossible for me to give up. God was relentless, however, and eventually enabled me to see the bigger picture. I started to sense that, while I didn't understand the "why" behind the letting go, if I dared to believe the "Who" behind the letting go, I was promised a blessing disguised within the shadows. Through the darkness, I would be allowed to see the Light. Acceptance was what I needed. A faith that was brave enough to look for the blind discovery wrapped in the letting go. It was in being stripped away, in being emptied of everything that I thought my life depended on, that I would be fulfilled, restored, healed.
 Only you and God know what it is that you need to lose, to let go of. Perhaps your losses are already taking place. Whatever your situation, God wants for you to release your tight grip on life, to open up your hand and be blessed. His love for you, His plan for your life, cannot take place when your fists are still clenched. As the old saying goes, we need to "let go, and let God." Loss, while painful, can be the greatest thing to ever happen to us.