Years ago I was broken because in spite of relentless prayers and pleading with God, nothing seemed to have changed. Six months earlier I learned that my sister had a major drug addiction. Her life was in ruins. As a naïve 18 year old, I strategized how I could help. First, she would need to move to a new city and develop new friendships. Second, I would piece together the perfect care package with inspirational quotes and a devotional book. Third, I would sit down with her and re-walk her through the gospel and show her all of God’s love… I knew deep down that the moment all of this came together, she would be changed and could move forward from this addiction.
I quickly worked to put my plan into action. However, when I began the implementation, I was met with great resistance. I was astounded to realize that my sister did not want my help. In fact, all of my efforts only seemed to push her further away from me. Our relationship became strained. My objectives all failed. Nothing worked! At the end of myself, fed up and in tears I cried out to God. I wanted my sister back. I began to wrestle with God wondering what was happening to my family.
This all came to a climax while I sat in church wrestling with the Lord. As I struggled with God, the Holy Spirit began to work within me. He began to call me to surrender. I was not in control. My great plans were insufficient. My scheming didn’t matter. God was asking me to release my grip and allow Him to handle the situation. He was the only one capable of fixing this problem. In those moments, Scripture popped into my mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) I knelt and visualized my sister in my arms. I was clinging to her. Trying to do everything I could to stop this evil from being in her life. Then I slowly raised her up to the Lord. Literally raising my hands to God, I gave Him control in that moment. I prayed, “Lord, she is now in your hands. I realize I have been trying in my own power to ‘fix’ rather than simply trusting you with her. I give her to you. Lead me as I navigate life with her. It is by your power that she can be healed.” That was a marked moment for me.
God was asking me to release my grip and allow Him to handle the situation. He was the only one capable of fixing this problem.
In an instant, the burden of my sister was lifted. This action did not change my love for her. I didn’t even really change any of my actions toward her. The difference was that I no longer carried the weight of her life on my shoulders. The weight passed that day from me to God. The strain was gone.
This moment of surrender was the first of many in the journey with my sister, and I continue to learn this lesson in so many other contexts. The choice for me always comes back to this question, “Do I really trust the Lord with open hands?” Whether it was the fear of losing a child or the day I found out my husband had a rare cancerous brain tumor, God called me to have an open hand with my life and my agenda. My ways are not always His ways. My will does not always line up with His will. The trick in this walk of faith is to trust God fully.
Jesus provides the ultimate example of this when He cried out to the Father the night before His crucifixion. He said “Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Jesus understood the big picture. He knew that despite His desires, God’s plan was more important. God knew that despite the pain, this sacrifice needed to happen. Jesus opened His hands and allowed God to act
God called me to have an open hand with my life and my agenda.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) James sees the bigger picture and is willing to open up his clenched fist and allow God’s plan to unfold without trying to interfere, even calling us to do so with joy.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself how tightly you grip the issues in your life. Do you allow God to control all areas of your life? Your family? Your finances? Even life and death? If you lost a husband or a child (Heaven forbid), how would you respond?
That day in church, as I prayed for my sister, I realized she is not mine to hold. Surrendering that to God took a conscious effort on my end. How many areas are you holding on to? What do you need to bring before the Lord to release to His control? The burden is not ours to carry. Cast your cares upon the Lord and trust that He is in complete control.
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Image Credit: Richard Cuppini, Creative Commons