How My Life Got Better When I Let Go and Let God

Why do we feel like we always need to be in control? What do we get out of making sure things always go our way? I used to want control to the point where I would get anxiety about the future. I would worry that if things didn’t work out the way I planned, that my whole life would fall apart. I’ve learned an important lesson lately, about why this kind of thinking is both unhealthy and impractical, and why surrendering control is the most liberating feeling one can have.

Control Is an Illusion

“… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) The truth is, we don’t have control. We can control our actions, and guide our thoughts, but we cannot make our own futures. Sometimes things happen that we do not expect or plan for, and if we hold onto the desire to control, we won’t be able to solve those problems, or handle the disappointments. Surrendering was a scary thing to do, but it brought me a feeling of acceptance at peace, that quickly led to more deep joy than I could’ve ever tried to attain on my own.

God’s Will Is Better than Ours

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) For years, I took matters into my own hands, trying to grasp the things I wanted and thought I needed. I even framed my prayers in a way that essentially asked God to make my will His own. It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally reached this huge milestone in my spiritual life. I realized and accepted that I do not have control over my life, and that’s okay, because God’s plan is better than mine. It will produce more growth in me, grant me wisdom through the challenges I face, and shape me into a person who reflects God’s love. It’s also helped me shed some of my selfishness, which was getting in the way of me serving others.

Loving God Leads to Contentment

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” (1 Timothy 6:6) Through surrender, God has granted me the desires of my heart in such a short period of time. I cannot even express how perfectly everything I prayed for the last few months are lining up. One thing, after the next.

It didn’t feel this way at first. The first feeling after letting go was an overwhelming hollowness. All the things I tried to gather up and focus my life on, I let go of. And in the place of all of that was emptiness, and my own inadequacy to fulfill myself. All my plans vanished. All the visions of my future became blurry. It felt like there was nothing ahead for me to grasp on that I could be sure of. I willingly have up my will so that I could be led by God, but was still scared about my future.

But sure enough, God broke through that vision and redirected me to a different path for my life. He provided opportunity after opportunity, and allowed me to have many of the things I had been desiring in my heart: stability, adventure, a clean slate, forgiveness, peace with the past, hope for the future, love, security, encouragement…

God Will Give You a New Way to Use Your Gifts

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:10) All through my life I’ve wanted to love people. Sometimes I feel like that’s my purpose and calling in life: to encourage, help, support, love, sacrifice, and give to someone else. Changing my approach to certain things in my personal life also took away some of that “work” I was doing. I felt useless, purposeless, and hollow. I didn’t like being by myself. I wanted someone or something to devote my attention, love, and efforts to. So, I went to the only places that I knew would give me that opportunity in a safe way, where my efforts would grow in someone else’s heart.

I spent a lot of time alone, meditating, praying, refocusing. Shedding my old ways of thinking and spending quality time with God. I started thinking of ways I could serve the church and really dug into the problems with myself that I had to grow out of. So, in that seemingly empty space, I began to see God create a new plan for me that would still allow me to use my gifts. He directed my attention to people who needed love, so I could keep serving. He filled me with a renewed hope for my future, peace in my present circumstances, and more genuine love began to grow within my heart. Selfless love. I wanted to give love even if I got nothing in return. And then my prayers started to be answered.

God Reveals Himself if You Take the Time to Look

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Some people say, “You can’t know that God exists because you can’t see Him.” I may not be able to see Him physically with my eyes but I can clearly see His work in my life. Looking at where I am now is absolutely mind-blowing, considering where I was mentally, and emotionally a few months ago. There is no way I could’ve ever reached this point through my own efforts. I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not wise enough, strong enough, or insightful enough to do this alone.

Surrendering Seems Reckless, but Actually Brings You Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Surrendering to God and waiting for Him to move gave me the peace I needed to fully trust Him with the direction of my life and my future. That actually healed me of my anxiety. It’s surreal. Secondly, surrendering to God taught me patience. Yes, I’m excited about my future. Yes, I don’t want to sit around and waste any time. Yes, I wanna DO things with my life, go on adventures, make a positive impact, and give with all my heart. But I’m learning how to wait for the right way, time, people, and places, with every decision. I’m learning to go through every decision with prayer at the beginning, through the middle, and at the end in gratitude for whatever the outcome.

While We Wait, God Works

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You, who acts for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4) I believe that while we wait, God works behind the scenes, carefully moving and setting things into motion that we cannot imagine or see. I wish I could shout from the mountaintops in gratitude for how God has always had my back despite all my poor decisions and disobedience. I have experienced that God is real, that He loves us and watches over us, and if we take the time and effort to devote our lives to Him, and ask, seek, and knock, wisdom will come to us. Everything in our lives is going to be so much better than anything we could’ve tried to make happen on our own, when we trust and follow Him.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.”

Proverbs 21:21

Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?

 

This is a question that people have been asking since the beginning. Why does God allow evil and suffering? While I believe no one can fully understand or know God’s reasons, the scriptures give a lot of insight into the purpose of evil and suffering in the world. As I studied and went through some key passages, a few thoughts came to mind. My intention for this post is not to offend or belittle the grief or pain in anyone’s life, but to provide what I believe are reasonable explanations for the imperfection of our human lives. I hope this brings clarity and understanding to some of you, or challenges you to think outside the box. To anyone who has suffered loss or who is going through a tough time, you have my deepest sympathies and I hope you can find healing.

 

1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering, but allows the potential for it.

“God saw all He made and that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Moral and natural evil came from our abuse of that free will, to go against God since the very beginning; therefore “we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) But we can’t blame Adam and Eve because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) People do evil things (moral) and nature is in revolt (natural) as it longs for redemption and for things to be set right. Disorder and chaos stem from that.

 

2. Death and illness remind us that this life is temporary and refocuses us on our role on earth before we go to the eternal realm.

We are in a stage of preparation. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) God created us as physical and spiritual beings – hardships make us uncomfortable in our life here. Heaven will be free of all suffering and that is what we wait for. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4)

Notice how many people with wealth and comfort do not consider death (ex. some Hollywood celebrities), but those who live in war torn or impoverished countries do. Danger, sickness and death awaken us to our need for God and those with faith and hope can find comfort that this life is not all there is. “No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Consider the author C.S. Lewis (creator of The Chronicles of Narnia series): He is considered to be one of the most faith-filled Christians, yet he lost his wife to a harsh battle with cancer. We get to choose whether in suffering we turn to God for comfort, or if we turn away from Him in blame. Also consider Jesus and his friend Lazarus as told in John 11. When Jesus found out Lazarus died and saw the grief of his friends, he wept. God grieves with us in our suffering. He may allow it but He has a bigger purpose than what we can see. But, we have hope because He has a plan to relieve us of it and this is unfolding day by day, until the final day when he will banish all evil (natural and moral) from existence.

 

3. God is our protector and comforter and His plan is to reunite us with Himself.

Over and over the Bible shows how God has rescued His people – His aim is not to rescue us from the tragedies of this life but to perfect our minds and hearts for the life to come. “In this world you will have suffering, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He also gives us what we need to be comforted through struggle: His promises, family, friends, nurses, comfort, perspective, hope, etc.

 

4. We do not have the eyes or mind of God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Almost everything in this life is foggy and confusing when we try to line it up with God’s perfect knowledge – it’s unfathomable. There are many mysteries and questions, but God gives the wisdom we need, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;” (Proverbs 2:6) One day we will know everything, just not right now. “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)

 

5. The unknowns of life are meant to draw us to God for wisdom (see point 4) and to teach us how to have more faith.

“Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

 

Closing Thoughts

If humanity believed that if they did good things they would be instantly rewarded or have an easy life, the temptation to do this out of a selfish, impure heart would be much greater. Doing good for the main goal of receiving blessings is not genuine. God knows our hearts and He knows how we think.

Some would say Christianity is an excuse to escape the harshness of life. Well, we have the same question to ask about Atheists: it could equally be argued that they are finding excuses to escape the harshness of judgment, through their denial of the Creator. Only God has all wisdom, and He loves those who, although have questions and challenge the things they hear, still choose to seek, love and trust Him.

 

“Now we see things imperfectly — like puzzling reflections in a mirror — but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

God’s Timing

Here are some observations I’ve recently made in my life. During my life as a Christian, the term, “Trust God’s timing,” has always been sound advice given to me. It makes sense, I mean, obviously the Creator of the universe should know when things should begin or end for us, better than we could with our limited perspective. But, actually doing that is challenging. There have been many times in my life that I’ve taken matters into my own hands because I wanted results right then and there. When I look back, I see the trail of disaster left behind. I’ve made so many bad judgement calls and mistakes because I didn’t trust God’s timing. I wanted instant gratification for the things I thought I was missing out on in my life: popularity, entertainment, relationships, you name it. But this isn’t about all the mistakes I’ve made, this is about how God has literally picked me up, spun me around, and set me on the right path.

Timing. When I go forward with a decision without praying about it and waiting for little signs and inner confidence first, things inevitably fall apart. Fairly recently I had to do something pretty scary, without knowing how it would turn out, but because I prayed, gained counsel and advice, trusted God’s wisdom and chose to obey Him, I was convicted that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the hardest things we have to do are the best things for our future. Sometimes God takes something away, or draws us away from a circumstance, because it’s not part of His plan for us–because He has something more enriching and uplifting ahead for us.

I’ve fought against that pull for a long time and when I finally surrendered, everything started to come together. When I rush things, it’s messy and misguided, and causes me a ton of pain throughout. Although trusting God is scary, because I’m giving up my will and waiting for His to reveal itself, I know it’s the wise thing to do. I still wrestled with my thoughts and feelings in prayer, but I set my mind to wait and observe. I decided to use my time to prepare myself for whatever He had ahead.

The purpose of waiting is to eventually be convicted with full clarity that God approves of your decision, before you make it. Instead of following my emotionally wrecked heart, I decided to think about what the wise thing for me to do was.

“Based on my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?”

That’s from Andy Stanley and it’s one of the best quotes I could ever live by. We have to be wise, we have to direct our hearts to what’s right and pleasant to God, as Christians. That’s what I’m learning to do and it’s crazy how God delivers. At the time you feel so unsure because you can’t see the future–it’s intangible. But when I saw my prayers being answered, and when I felt the peace of knowing, that yes, God’s with me in this, He approves of this, He supports this… life became so much better! It’s still terrifying, there are so many things in this life that could go wrong, but God’s got us! He’s right here, directing, leading, and providing the perfect opportunities for us.

All I can see is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s one pretty, shiny, sparkly sight, and although I have no idea what God’s got in store for me next, I fully trust that He’s going to bring the BEST things if I trust His lead above my own. I’m so excited for whatever is ahead, and if it’s a tough season, well, I’ve been through those already and God’s always brought me through. Super grateful and happy!!! 🙂

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

– Proverbs 3:5-6

“Church”

Loneliness is within her. Wherever she goes, it follows.

She lays in bed too long on Saturday morning. She gets ready and steps outside,  breathing in the icy air, watching the bright sun blind the city. She warms her insides with the city’s best coffee, and spends the last of her “leisure” cash on a syrupy pancake breakfast that’s too much to finish on her own. She walks for hours, taking pictures of anything she finds interesting because it passes the time. She smiles at every stranger who passes her way, wondering if they’re lonely too. She sits on a bus for its whole route and reads from a Book.

She shops for groceries on her own and pretends it’s a performance of how best to look “okay.” She cooks and eats whatever she wants, because it’s dinner for one, again. She throws her socks across the room because there’s no one to object. She wraps in multiple blankets when there’s no one to hold her. She spends the night sitting on the balcony watching the stars, wondering…

Sunday morning she greets the church and feels the best she’s felt all week. The loneliness seems smaller. She remembers Who’s with her. She knows this is temporary. She knows it’s a season.

Peace is within her. Wherever she goes, it follows.

He’s the hope she carries in each step. He’s with her on Saturday morning, in that quiet, undisturbed space, listening to her thoughts. His evidence is in the winter air and blinding sun. He’s the cozy feeling of comfort she gets when she drinks her coffee. He walks with her and smiles at her through strangers’ eyes. He speaks to her through the words of the Book she reads on the bus. He sees through her performance as she attempts to look “okay,” and knows the longing within her. He doesn’t mind what she cooks or how many socks she throws across the room. Unlike the blankets, He holds her all the time. He looks down from his garden of stars and sees exactly where she fits in His plan. And on Sunday, He reminds her she’s not alone.

The Spirit is within her. Wherever He goes, she follows.

Gratitober: Entry 29, 30, 31

It’s the last day of October, and you’re all getting a special last-minute, procrastinated three-part gratitude list! Yaaayyyyy (@ making failures sound epic). This month has been full of SO MUCH reflection. Reflection of self, others, circumstances, past, present, and future. I’ve worked through some old ways of thinking, changed my perspective a couple times, realized that patience is something you develop with time, and was reminded of how extremely valuable the close people in my life are to me. I started the month in Ottawa, and pretty much ended it there, too. Some things came full circle, while others will never be the same again. A lot of good happened, and some really tough things, too, but I’m really happy to share my last three entries…

29. I’m grateful that gratitude can be chosen every day.

It sure can. Regardless of circumstances, or where you are in life, you can still choose to see life through rose-coloured glasses. And to me, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, it means you can get hurt and mislead easily. Sure, it means that you have to work extra hard to figure out who you should trust and who you shouldn’t. Sure, it means that you’ll have your party rained on a few times. But you get to carry a little joy with you every single day, because you choose to see the world as a place where dreams can actually come true, and where things can always get better.

30. I’m grateful that God accomplishes what I cannot.

God’s had my back this whole month. There were times I second guessed it but truthfully I know it’s true. He has answered so many of my prayers, sometimes by making me wait, and refusing to let me have things I thought I wanted. He’s opened my eyes and changed my understanding by loading me with wisdom. He’s helped me realize that even if you keep your heart soft, you should still be smart, and that there’s a nice safe balance between the two. He’s brought me new friendships and connections, opportunities to explore and have quality time with dear friends, and keeps loving me through the protective yet encouraging nature of my family. He’s moved me out of one path, and set me onto a different one, accomplishing what I never would’ve been able to do on my own.

31. I’m grateful for October 2017.

This month has been indescribably challenging spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, but I have been tremendously blessed through it. October 2017 was a transition month, and I’m excited to see where God will take me in November, and December, and in 2018. I’m ready.

Striving to Achieve the Impossible Goal of Perfection, Starting with My Attitude

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

– Romans 8:18

I’m sitting at my work desk wondering how on earth to begin writing this post. I have had this on my heart for a long time but haven’t had the time or words to express myself, but it needs to be said and needs to be heard so here I go.

COMPASSION is absolutely essential to life. I can’t tell you the things I’ve been through this year but it has moved me to redefine my standards and find value within myself outside of anything else. It has also challenged me to love and forgive beyond what I thought I was capable of and have the courage to reach for what’s good for my life. But let me start somewhere else…

It’s much easier to do the wrong thing and seek to defend ourselves in battle, than it is to do good and show mercy to others, but it’s a worthy effort for the sake of showing real love to another broken, hurting person [Matthew 6:14]. Humans are naturally rebellious to good and flutter towards evil like moths to a flame. We don’t realize the danger as we draw towards the alluring, flickering light, until it singes us or flat out burns us alive. We almost can’t help ourselves and that’s one fact we have to realize about each other. The desire for evil is so much stronger than the desire to do good [Romans 7:15] even though we all think of ourselves as good, wholesome life-seekers. This is why compassion and mercy are imperative.

Since we all fall short of goodness [Romans 3:23], since we all fail over and over again and since we all screw up and cause harm to the people we love, we all need the compassion of others to help us change and move forward. One of the saddest, most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen is when people get so consumed with their guilt and shame they get paralyzed in self-hate [Ezra 9:13]. When you’re so consumed in hating yourself for who you are, what you look like, or the mistakes you made in the past, you cannot move forward to embrace the compassion and mercy of others and you refuse to see any good in yourself because you feel you deserve the punishment. This view of oneself is a misleading, incomplete image. Everyone has evil AND good in them. Guilt forces you to only see the bad. Accepting the compassion and forgiveness from the person you’ve wronged is the only thing that can help you overcome guilt and heal from your pain. It is the only thing that works and it takes faith on YOUR part. No other person can do the healing for you and if you believe another person is the sole reason for your healing, you are a) mislead and b) going to unintentionally make them your crutch. I cannot emphasize this enough… healing takes action on your part.

Unfortunately the common thing that happens is people try to fill the void of hurt with objects and people. The problem is, coping is sometimes like a black hole. It sucks in everything in its path: the people you love, the things you enjoy, your hobbies, your goals, all the good things and the bad things, until you’ve used up everyone and everything and you’re onto another fix until you’re hollowed out and unfulfilled. You suck the life out of people because you’re trying to fill a void that cannot be filled. The only solution is to destroy the void completely — obliterate self-hate through the acceptance of how someone Greater values you.

Another obstacle to this recovery goal is people try to get forgiveness from each other… rebuild their earthly reputation, regain dignity and respect. All of that is super important and it does help, but it doesn’t get deep enough. There’s still a speck of dust in your heart you just can’t scrub away with the approval or compliments or encouragements from others. When you truly despise yourself, nothing anyone does or says will convince you of your value.

But then there is God who designed you in His image [Genesis 1:27] and made you who you are, loves you and deems you worthy of existence, wants good things for you, waits for you, accepts you where you’re at and wants to draw you to where you need to be for His purpose in you. He sees the GOOD in you and loves you DESPITE the bad. Knowing someone greater than you, who PUT you here on this earth, will help you surrender to REAL love and put your mistakes behind you. In God’s eyes we are all valuable and accepting that truth ultimately helps me get through every rough day when I feel like my own flaws and failures define me. As I said before, healing takes action on your part. Sometimes the first step is believing and having a constant faith that you are loved, forgiven, capable of improvement and worthy of this life. You can choose to take this present challenge as an opportunity to be transformed [Matthew 5:6, 2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 4:13].

For those of us who are recovering from hurt or dealing with people who have hurt us, we have a responsibility to show compassion to everyone, even the people who hurt us. We don’t know the level of guilt, shame and self-hate going on inside of them and by having a bitter, hateful, vengeful, hostile attitude towards them, we do far more harm than good to ourselves, to them and to loved ones new and old. Think about it. What if the last words you spoke to someone were “I hate you.” What if that was their last day and that’s what you left them with. Now you have to go on for the rest of your life in guilt because you didn’t tame your tongue and find peace in your heart to be compassionate. It is much easier said than done, especially when our focus is on our internal hurt or betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, there are people with an evil state of heart, who deliberately and consciously do horrible things and have zero remorse for it. Protect yourselves and flee from such people. But keep in mind that only God knows the heart of each man and woman [1 Corinthians 2:11] and learning to be compassionate at all times is not just for them, it’s also for you. What’s that saying? “Forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you.”

I honestly believe with God everything is possible and without Him, nothing truly is [Mark 10:27]. I often try to do things on my own because I’m impatient and I think I know best, but then I get a wakeup call and realize how off the path I am and how much re-direction I need. Our attitude towards others could be a life-changing factor for them and for us. Every challenge we face is an opportunity for us to learn and grow from it, building our character and strengthening our morals and standards. This shifting of attitude is something I have to work on in myself and man, do I suck at getting this right most of the time, but that’s life: A CONSTANT EFFORT TO ACHIEVE THE UNREACHABLE GOAL OF PERFECTION. Aim high, love big.

“What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.”

– Ezra 9:13