Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I have a friend who recently asked me, “How do you let go?” He’s had a very rough couple of years. It started with one event and it has snow-balled to the point that it has affected every area of his life. He no longer has an optimistic outlook on life. He’s waiting for the bottom to fall out again. You see, every time he thinks he’s hit rock bottom, something else happens and the bottom falls out. This one event has changed not just his life, but who he is. He struggles with bitterness and he’s holding on to resentment. He doesn’t need or want a shallow answer to his question.
I could only share what worked in my life when I had held on to that kind of pain. My catalytic event was different than his, but I recognized the pain and hopelessness in him. I know all too well the mental battle he is facing. It took years for me to let go even after I finally did hit rock bottom. Everything I did for the next few years was done out of a heart that was still holding on to the pain and trying prove that they had made a mistake. I wasn’t living for something. I was living against someone. There is no peace when you live like that.
It wasn’t until I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:15. He said, “If you refuse to forgive others, your Father (God) will not forgive your sins.” I couldn’t find peace in my life because I was holding on to bitterness and I wouldn’t forgive. I had to make the mental choice to forgive and to let it go. I had to go through a mindset change because for years I had let that control my thoughts and actions. When I finally let go, the Prince of Peace came in brought balance back to my life. Thoughts of anger and bitterness no longer controlled me. It was still a fight to keep them out though, so I had to be on constant guard against them.
When I did let go of the things that were holding me captive, I found that my hands were free to receive from God. I also noticed that my motives changed and my outlook did too. I was no longer bound to the mindset that bad things were just going to keep happening and I needed to put my head down and deal with if. I now had a source of peace in my life. When bad things happen now, I hold on to the Prince of Peace instead of the pain and bitterness that the situations could cause.
We each have that choice. We can let events define us and change us, or we can cling to the one who created us. I saw a quote the other day that said, “You won’t know the strength of the anchor until you feel the force of the storm.” Too many times we don’t trust the anchor so we let go of it when the storms come. Bitterness then becomes a sail on the mast of pain. The winds of life blow us around until we crash on the rocks. We have to consciously pull down that sail and cut down that mast because ultimately it’s our choice of what we hold on to. I have decided to put my trust in the anchor, the Prince of Peace, and hold onto it instead of my past.
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash
They say there are four things you can never take back: the stone after it’s thrown, the moment after it’s missed, the time after it’s gone and the word after it’s spoken. There are many things in life you can undo, but words spoken in anger or in the heat of the moment usually hit their intended target and do damage beyond repair. Words can be powerful weapons that destroy or they can bring life to someone. It’s amazing how much they can affect us.
I was training a sales psychology where we look at reluctances of people. As we went through them one by one, the test showed that a person in my class was afraid to admit he was in sales. He had made a good living at it, but in that moment, a lightbulb went off. He said, “I know why that’s there. A few years ago, my mom asked, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’” Her words echoed in his subconscious and were affecting his ability to make money.
Those words were spoken only once and in a passing moment, but they stuck. Each of us have words that were spoken to us somewhere along the line that are limiting our ability to love ourself, to make more money, to love certain people, to see our own potential or to have a higher self esteem. Those words float around in the back of our mind, and keep us from so much. We need to set ourselves free from their power and quit letting them hold us back.
Along the same lines, we need to learn to speak the right words to ourself and to others. In Psalm 141:3, there is a prayer we all need to pray. It says, “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (NLT). Whether it’s words you are telling yourself or to others, give control of what you say to God. Let Him be your filter so you can live a limitless life, and allow others to do the same. You can never get your words back, so choose wisely.
Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression.
People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.
You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.
I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming.
When I was a kid, another kid dared me to go up to a wasp nest and swat it down. After knocking it down, I ran as fast as I could. It turns out, I wasn’t faster than some angry wasps! I got stung all over. I wish I could say I learned my lesson that time, but I’m a try, try again kind of guy. It took a few times before I was convinced I wasn’t fast enough to outrun angry wasps. As you can guess, I got stung a lot as a kid by just about every kind of wasp, hornet, and bee.
Now that I’m older, if a friend dared me to do that same thing, I would decline that dare. I can still hear my parent’s voices, “Just because you’re dared, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it.” Over time, I’ve learned to listen to those voices of wisdom in my head, and to let them drown out the other voices that would like me to do some foolish things. It’s taken me some time to learn which voices to listen to. Pain and experience have taught me well!
No matter how old we get, we’re all given opportunities to do things that go against God’s Word. We all struggle with the voices that are trying to get us to try it and run, or with the voice that tries to keep us from doing it. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge” (NLT). Many times each of us fail to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in those situations because we haven’t attuned our ear to listen carefully to Him in those situations. The result is that we sin.
Now, none of us are perfect, and none of us can go the rest of our lives without sinning. However, we can commit to putting God’s Word (instruction) into our hearts so that we won’t sin. The more of God’s Word we read, listen to, and meditate on, the more likely we will listen to the words of wisdom God tries to speak to us in those moments. I’d rather take the route of listening to wisdom than to continue learning from the sting of sin. The Holy Spirit is a much better teacher if only we’ll learn to listen.
A couple of years ago, I read about a high school basketball team that went to play another school. When the game started, they noticed that the other team had no fans. The gym was empty. It didn’t feel right. The next time they played this team was going to be in their own gym, so the boys put a plan together. They asked all of their fans to show up and cheer for the other team. When the other team showed up, they were surprised to find signs encouraging them and fans who rooted loudly for them to win.
I’ve loved that story from the moment I read it, and I’m proud that it took place in my home state of Texas. I love it because there are times where all of us feel like that other team. It can feel like there is no one on our side. No one to cheer us on. Oh what we would give to have someone encourage us. It’s a difficult thing to be in a position where no one is on your side. It’s tough to keep going to be honest.
I’m sure all of us have felt that way at one point or another. I know I have. David felt that way too. He had been anointed king, but Saul was still on the throne and was out to kill him. Instead of being in the palace, David was hiding for his life in a cave in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. But then, in Psalm 56:9, he reminded himself of something important. He wrote, “I know this: God is on my side” (NLT). When it feels like no one else is on your side, remind yourself that God is.
As Romans 8:31 puts it, if God is for you, who can be against you? No matter what you’re going through in this life, no matter how badly things look, know that God is on your side. He’s cheering for you to succeed. He’s giving you the tools you need to make it through. Even if no one is there to help, God is. I’ve always heard that you plus God equals a majority. You have the King of the universe in your corner rooting for you. This too shall pass, and you will be victorious.
If you’d like to read about the story I referenced, here’s the link.
There’s an exercise I do with people to show how our minds jump to conclusions and we assume. We observe a conversation where a lot of things are left open, and then I ask them questions about it. The group doesn’t know that I’m exposing how their brain works. As I ask the questions, they typically make assumptions. I keep asking questions to get as much detail from them as I can to see how much they’ve made up.
I keep asking questions until someone inevitably says, “I don’t know.” I then go back to what was said and ask, “So what do we really know?” I sometimes have to go through it several times before they get it. Most of the answers they give are based on their assumptions and not on what they know. I then like to ask, “How much of your life is based on what you’re assuming versus what you know?” It’s a heavy question that I usually leave several seconds of silence after while they think.
Job was a righteous man in the Bible. He honored God in all he did and even fell down to worship God when he lost his kids and his wealth. As time went on and he was struck with boils, his friends began to question his integrity. In their conversations back and forth, it’s clear that they make many assumptions about his predicament and how God is doing it to Him. They don’t know that Satan is behind the whole thing and is the one tormenting Job.
In Job 19:25, Job makes a great statement. He says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives” (NLT). We may not know why we go through certain things or why things happen, but we can know that our redeemer lives. We can live with assurance that He is in control and our lives are in His hands. We need to stop our assumptions that God is behind everything bad that happens in our lives. We know that it’s the enemy who steals, kills and destroys. It’s God who brings life. So they next time things happen, don’t make decisions based on assumptions. Go with what you know.
There was a period in my life where I fell like I had it worse than Job. I was losing everything in my life, and I was helpless to stop it. I felt like a knife had been put in my chest, pulled down to my waist and all my guts had fallen out. I was knocked down and didn’t want to get back up. I couldn’t see the future or any path forward. It was easier to just stay there and deal with the pain than it was to get back up and to keep moving.
As Christians, quitting shouldn’t be in our vocabulary. Giving up shouldn’t be considered. If we get knocked down six times, we get up seven. I had to remind myself of these things in those dark moments. I had to tell myself that others had it worse than I did and that I needed to start moving forward even if it wasn’t much. Between putting God’s Word in my mind and spending time in prayer, I was able to get back up and move forward. Doing the same, I believe you can find the strength you need to move forward as well.
Here are some Bible verses about not giving up.
1. The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.
Job 17:9 NLT
2. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7 NIV
3. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
4. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.
Proverbs 24:16 MSG
5. The Lord guides us in the way we should go and protects those who please him. If they fall, they will not stay down, because the Lord will help them up.
Psalm 37:23-24 GNT