By Leslie Colaw
Have you ever had a really hard time letting go of something? Like face on the floor, gut wrenching, ugly cry kind of hard? Maybe you lost someone you love, or someone you loved left you. Maybe the future you once envisioned is seeming less and less likely. Perhaps a lifelong dream got crushed, or physical challenges limit you from doing the things you love. Maybe there is something in your life you know God wants you to let go, but you just can’t seem to muster the faith.
Letting go can be really hard. We make plans or place our hope in things or people we think will always be there, and suddenly they’re not. We’re left feeling empty and disoriented. It can even feel like a bit of our identity has been lost. Sometimes God moves us in a direction where we begin to sense it will mean letting go of something precious to us, or maybe something comfortable and familiar, and we cling to it, our tightly clenched fists raised to the heavens, pleading for another way, hoping to walk through a door that we already know has been shut.
If this is our posture, oh how much we risk missing out on!
We look to the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, one called to a task that required her to let go of the life she had planned. “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:30). Usually our idea of God’s favor means an easy life – wealth, prosperity, the love of the masses. What we learn from Mary’s story, however, is God’s favor meant a great and noble calling, yes, but also loss of all that was familiar, public humiliation, and heartbreak. As Simeon said to her in Luke 2:35, “a sword will pierce through your own soul.”
When the angel appeared to her, we would assume she had questions, wondering how people would respond when her belly started growing, Joseph in particular. In those days an illegitimate pregnancy was major scandal, punishable by death. But what was her response? “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Let it be to me…
Mary’s response reveals her humility and desire. She received her task with humility, fully submitting to and embracing God’s plan. Her words also indicate an expression of desire, not the indication of doubt. She desired God to do a great work, and trusted he would do it. She goes on to say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..for he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46-49). This does not carry a tone of doubt, fear, or hesitation. She only looks back to remember the great things God has done and looks ahead with desire and anticipation for what he will continue to do.
She understood that what was being asked of her led to something good because she recognized the one asking as the Giver of all good things, the one who satisfies the desires of those who fear him.
Recently I was having a difficult time with letting go. One day I was struggling with it in prayer and I asked God to speak a word to me. After waiting a few moments, I heard him speak…
I knew instantly this was a word from him, and I knew what he was saying to me: “Instead of focusing on what you are letting go, embrace what is in front of you.” Notice he didn’t say, “Let it go.” He said “Embrace.” He was urging me to stop looking behind and instead look to what was ahead. To stop trying to hold on so I could fully embrace what was being held out to me, to move forward with desire…because he always leads us to something better.
When we understand this, when we really believe it, the letting go isn’t so hard…because we realize we are letting go of something in order to free our arms to embrace something more.
Sometimes we are so consumed with things not going according to our wishes that we lose sight of God’s promises. Our wishes are very limiting. If we try and dictate how our lives should go we eliminate the extraordinary possibilities that could be accomplished when we fully embrace the work of God.
This is when something really new, something beyond our expectations can happen.
That’s what Mary did. She fully embraced the calling God placed on her even though the future was uncertain. She didn’t ask a bunch of questions, needing to know how it would all play out. God’s favor on her life led her to some places she probably would have preferred not to go. Who wants to see their beloved child die a public, gruesome death? But her willingness played a part in the redemption of the whole world…and I’m sure God exceeded her expectations when she learned her son was brought back from the dead in order to free her once and for all from the bondage of sin and death.
Mary teaches us it’s not about us or our wishes. It’s not about how we would prefer things to go. “I am the servant of the Lord,” Mary said. “Let it be to me according to your word.” In other words, let it be to me according to HIS wishes, HIS design, HIS plan. I willingly let go of what is familiar and safe, of what I believe will make me most happy and fulfilled. Not out of duty but desire; not just because that’s what I should do, but because I really believe his plan is better!! I am optimistic because he is a God that always exceeds expectations, always delivers on his promises.
We can rest assured God will always enable us to accomplish his purposes, however daunting the task ahead may seem. Mary asked the angel how it would be possible that she, a virgin, could conceive a child. The angel’s response to her tells us all how God will accomplish his purpose through us: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).
What a promise. I would rather see God’s power work in me according to His promises than grant me my wishes. As I trust Him with this, the more I will see Him exceed my expectations, and the more likely I will be to readily respond as Mary did: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me as you have said.”