I’ve always heard that the best way to catch a raccoon is to create a trap with a shiny coin dangling, and then put a small hole in her side. A raccoon will reach in, grab the coin, and not be able to get his hand out because it’s in a fist. The simple way to get out is to let go, but the raccoon won’t because he wants the coin to badly. I’ve laughed at how stupid a raccoon must be, but then had to stop when the mirror was turned to me.
Each time I hear the story of the raccoon, I wonder what things I’m holding on to that I need to let go of. There was a young man who approached Jesus in Mark 10, and he asked Him what he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus rattled off several commandments, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother” (MSG). This got the young man excited because he had kept all of those. Just then, Jesus added one more to the list.
Jesus said, “There’s just one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor.” The young man’s face dropped, and he went away with a heavy heart. Verse 22 says, “He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.” He got caught in the raccoon trap. He was holding on to things God was asking Him to let go of. In the end, he lost it all because he couldn’t let go. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
What are you holding on to that God has asked you to let go of? It could be hurt, regret, pain, bitterness, or something physical that you own. Whatever it is, it’s best to let go of it before God pries it out. Don’t let those things trap you and keep you where you are. Release them, no matter how important they may seem. You’ll find that God’s freedom is greater than whatever you’re holding on to. I’ve also learned that I have to let go of things before God can give me new and better things. The choice is ours. What’s it going to be?
When you’ve been hurt by someone, you can either forgive them or you can hold a grudge. Holding a grudge makes you look at the chain reaction of what they did to you, and then blame them for how you ended up where you are. It creates “if then” statements in your mind: “If they hadn’t done that to me, then I wouldn’t have been in this miserable place in life.” Anything bad that happens in your life gets blamed on them. Your mind becomes consumed with how bad things are, and you create a perpetual cycle of a downward spiral.
When you forgive someone for hurting you, you set your mind free. You no longer give that person power over you and the direction of your life. You are no longer consumed by the bitterness that creeps into every area of your life. You no longer dread waking up each day, and your perspective changes. You can look back at that moment and see how God used it to get you where you to be. You quit despising the life you have, and begin to see it as a blessing.
If anyone ever had a reason to hold a grudge, it was Joseph. His brothers beat him, threw him in a cistern, and sold him as a slave. That event took him away from all he had known. His freedom and all he had were taken from him in an instant. Hew as Farley accused and spent years in prison because of their betrayal. Bitterness could have linked it all together and made him hate his brothers. Instead, he chose forgiveness and God blessed him for it.
Forgiveness is about remembering we aren’t perfect ourselves. We make mistakes and hurt others too. God wants us to give people room to make mistakes and then to forgive them. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). If you’ve held onto a grudge towards someone because they’ve hurt you, let it go snd forgive them. Quit giving them control of your life and your mind. Bitterness is unbecoming.
When you let go of it, instead of always thinking about how bad your life has gotten, you will be able to see how God has used that situation for your good. You will see that the path you were on wasn’t going to get you where God wanted you. It’s easier to move on when you see that God can use what’s been done to you to help someone else. You can now shine a light into someone else’s darkness and show them the way out if you choose forgiveness.
I believe that there are several habits we as Christians can adopt in our lives to become the type of believer we truly aspire to be. While Hebrews 11 has compiled a list of heroes of the faith for us, there have been many people who have lived since that time whom we can learn from as well. If I were to ask you to think of a person, past or present, who exemplified a life of faith as a believer, you could probably think of a name quickly. Whether they were written about in the Bible, history, or have just touched your life in some way, they have habits in their life that you and I can adopt into our own lives to become that type of Christian.
One of the hardest habits for us to adopt is the habit of forgiveness. When we’ve been wronged, we feel justified in holding anger and resentment against the one who wronged us. I’ve learned in my own life that anger, resentment and being hurt are all that’s needed to become bitter. That bitterness then becomes a prison that holds your thoughts captive and stops any progress in your life. It has the power to consume you and that kind of bitterness causes you to spread that poison to others.
God wants us to let go of the wrongs that have been done to us because He knows that’s where our freedom lies. You cannot be a productive Christian if you’re holding anger, resentment, or bitterness towards someone else. God’s desire is that we turn the other cheek, not so we can get hurt again, but so we can lead with our un-bruised side. He knows that we will be better witnesses for Him when we don’t lead with our hurts and bruises out front. He knows that we can be healed in time when we first learn the habit of forgiveness.
In Matthew 6, we find the Lord’s Prayer. I’m sure you’ve memorized it at one point in your life. What you may not have memorized are verses 14-15 which come immediately after it. Jesus followed up His prayer with, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in Heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father in Heaven will not forgive the wrongs you have done” (GNT). Your forgiveness from God is dependent on your ability to forgive others.
I like how the Amplified Bible describes what forgiving “wrongs” is and looks like. It says, “Their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up your resentment.” All of this is put on you, not the other person or God. Your own forgiveness starts with your ability to let go of what someone else has willfully done to wrong you. The life God has for you will be bright and fresh again once you choose to adopt the habit of forgiveness.
The other night, my nephew and I went for a late night Wal-Mart run. We just needed to get one thing. As we entered the store, he asked, “Do you want a basket?” I told him we didn’t because we only needed this one item. As we walked past the aisles on the way, I spotted something my wife would love. I said, “Let’s get a box of these for your aunt!” As we went down the aisle, I spotted something else. The further into the store we went, the more I grabbed. He asked, “Are you sure we don’t need a basket?” I declined again. By the time we got to the item we were after, our hands were full.
I limited myself to what I could have because I refused to let go and to put them in a basket. God has great things in store for each of us, but we rarely want to let go of what’s in our hands in order to get more. When you think about it, that’s the underlying theme in so many stories in the Bible. Abraham had to let go of the place he called home in order to receive the Promised Land. What of he had tried to hold onto it? What would have happened if he refused to let go and to trust God?
Moses’ mom had to let go of him so that he could lead his people out of slavery. Moses had to let go of the riches of Egypt and his title of being the grandson of Pharaoh. He could have lived a life of luxury and had it easy. Hebrews 11:26 says, “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ rather than to own the treasures of Egypt.” When he let go of what was in his hands, God was able to use him for a greater purpose. Would we even know Moses’ name if he hadn’t let go?
Think about David. He had to let go of His sheep in order to rule a nation. He let go of what was comfortable to him. He let go of the job he had known since he was a boy in order to be king. He could have looked at the greatness God had in store for him and chosen to watch sheep instead. It would have been less stressful. It would have been easier and required less faith, but he chose to let go of what he had in order to embrace what God had in store. I wonder if we would have the Psalms today had he not chosen to let go.
I could go on and on with example after example in the Bible. Paul let go of his life of persecuting to be persecuted, the disciples gave up family and income, Joseph gave up bitterness to save his family and the future nation of Israel, Jesus gave up all of Heaven to walk among us so that we could be with Him one day. The story of the Bible is all about giving up what’s in your hand so that you can accept more from God. Don’t be selfish with what The Lord has given you. Give it back to Him and He will open the windows of Heaven and pout out blessings you can’t even contain. That’s a promise He made and it doesn’t just apply to money.
What are you holding on to that God has asked you to let go of?