Last week was trying for me, at work and at home. Nothing life-threatening or overwhelming, but more impacting and challenging than usual. And I observed some things about myself and how God deals with me at times like this.
Acquaintances might say that I am a rather calm and studious individual. But those who know me better know that I have a very passionate, determined aspect to my personality. I have a fire within me. But I don’t typically react to things with emotions at first. I am a thinker.
When things come at me fast and furiously, my instinct is to retreat and process. Like a dog with a bone, I have to chew on things for a while before I even understand how I feel, or what actions I am to take in response. You might say I have to brood and wait and feel the ache. I feel so very human and vulnerable at these times.
What I’ve noticed is that God is gracious toward me and allows me to hold on to my troubles for a bit. He allows me to be angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, or anxious. He never forces me to let go before I am ready.
God gave us our minds and our emotions. Each of us has a unique blend of emotional responsiveness and intellectual reasoning. We need both. Sometimes we need to take time to get them to match up and lead us to a good decision about what to do next. We must respond with both what feels right and what is right.
I’m reminded of the story of Jacob wrestling with God all night. At daybreak, he tells God’s angel, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob receives his blessing, and a change of his name from Jacob to Israel, signifying, “You have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Gen 32:26-28).
Like Jacob, if I wrestle with God and man from a rebellious spirit and with an ungodly motive, I will lose in the end. But if I wrestle to gain God’s blessing and his wisdom, there is fruit to be gained. The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). When the fruit comes, I realize that I am so much better off than I would be if the struggle had never come. I am stronger, freer, and more at peace.
Another biblical allusion is Jesus contending with Satan in the wilderness. Jesus won, the devil departed, and “angels came and attended him” (Matt. 4:11). Isn’t that a beautiful picture? Staying in the fight until it is time to let go and let God move in to bless and heal us.
The moment of letting go can be so lovely. A few days ago, while I was out walking my little dogs and listening to beautiful worship music, I felt that moment come. I was flooded with gratitude for God’s fatherly kindness. He didn’t yank the bone out of my mouth but let me hold it as long as I needed to. I felt as though he trusted me—that I would let go when the time was right, and that I would respond rightly to his guidance. This greatly enriched my communion with him.
I’ve written this in the first person, but I’m sure some of you who read this can relate, and I hope it helps. Our loving Father knows us so well and deals with us so personally to reveal his good thoughts and plans, when we are ready. Because he is always holding on to us, we can be secure in the letting go.