The Hard Work of Hanging on and the Brave Work of Letting Go

The Hard Work of Hanging On and the Brave Work of Letting Go

Twenty years ago, my husband and I made one of the most difficult decisions of our married life:  we decided to leave a church and to worship elsewhere. Leaving behind dear people we loved (and likely offending more than one person in the process), we left that fellowship convinced that God was telling us it was time to let go. Soon, our roots were planted deeply in the good soil of another church family. They welcomed us with warmth and enthusiasm and the years have flown. The church with the white steeple and the red doors is home to us and to our sons, but, quite honestly, there have been seasons when it was not a joy to be there–hard seasons of pastoral searches, dry spells when nothing seemed to click, frustrating years when I would scan the horizon for a sign–sky writing, a whisper from the Word, ANYTHING that would release us and give us a green light to let go. I was tired of holding on, but the clear assignment from God was to do that very thing, and I’m thankful now that we did.

In It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible, Jennifer Dukes Lee devotes two full chapters and a lot of wisdom to the tightrope walk of hanging on and letting go. It turns out that “Let Go and Let God” may not be the best advice all the time, but there are also times when letting go is a true mark of bravery. It was good news to hear that “gospel living is not an either/or question. It’s both/and. It’s coming back to that fork in the road every day–with every decision, every obligation, and every relationship–and asking God to help you choose.”  (77) This is a recipe for living surrendered, and it comes back to persevering through the hard work, believing through the messy middle, and practicing the spiritual discipline of active trust.

Persevere through the Hard Work

“Just because something is hard work, doesn’t mean it’s wrong or should be abandoned.” (85) God may call you to write a book, start a new career, or to persevere through a hard season with a needy friend. It is also likely that at some point you will be called into the hard work of letting go, of opening your hands to release grown children, to relinquish a project that has gone off the rails or a task that is not yours to do.  The privilege and the challenge of this following life is living close to Truth so when God’s voice comes, our ears are accustomed to its pitch and timbre, and our hearts are in good shape for the hard work of obedience.

Believe in the Messy Middle

Living on the horns of a dilemma is just as uncomfortable as the metaphor sounds. We reach a point where we want ANY decision that will take the place of indecision, and yet holding on in the midst of the unknown is a powerful affirmation that we are not in control of the situation and are yielding to the One who is.  When guidance comes, if God calls you to hang on, He has the end of the rope alongside you. However, if you are called to release instead and to move on in faith, Jennifer reminds readers that “for everything you’ve ever let go, Jesus is still hanging on.” (107)

Practice the Discipline of Active Trust

Does it help your heart to know that God knows the end result of your holding on/letting go dilemma?  It is entirely true that we may “have to wait until heaven to know he was trustworthy in all that is yet to unfold in our lives. But until then, we have a choice. We can trust him with all that we are because we believe he is all he says he is. He hasn’t done all that we wanted, but he has done all that is right.” (108)

Releasing our white-knuckle control over every aspect of our lives (and those we love) is fueled by that relationship of trust. The prophet Isaiah painted a picture of the point of release around seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. He did not know your situation, whether you are struggling to let go or straining to hold on, but his words come as fresh reassurance today:

“Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: ‘This is the right road. Walk down this road.'”  (Isaiah 30:21, MSG)

 May we find grace to wait, to listen, and then to follow,

Michele Morin

Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Back in 2016, Jennifer Dukes Lee released The Happiness Dare in which sheThe Happiness Dare lays down the challenge to overcome obstacles to happiness with truth that jumps into our hole of unhappiness and builds a ladder toward the light.  To the defeatist notion that “This is just the way I am,” she offers the happiness booster that “little by little, I can become happier by changing the way I think.” The truth of Romans 12:2 is nowhere more practical than in the “renewal” that takes place when the believer alters her thoughts toward happiness. I invite you to check out my review of The Happiness Dare here.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible, simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

49 thoughts on “The Hard Work of Hanging On and the Brave Work of Letting Go”

  1. What a great topic for me to read this morning, Michele. We are in a transition in our church, and it has been hard for me to hang on – we have been wondering if we need to go to another church. We have had times like this before and we’ve held on. It was our relationships and love for other members that kept us where we are. That will likely to be the case this time, too, but we are not blind to the possibility that we might need to make a change. It is so hard but we have done it before and it strengthened our relationship with God.

    Like

    1. I marvel at the way God has made it so clear to us in both situations: the call to go came as clearly as the call to stay has come over the years. I wish the guidance was always so obvious, but (alas!) it hasn’t been in other areas.
      I think the church issue is especially challenging here in our beautiful home state, because a good church is a tough thing to find. And the ones that are really good are often struggling with a shortage of helpers and leaders.
      I agree with you, too, that we are strengthened in the struggle. Sorry, though, that you have to be in the midst of this as you adjust to retirement. I hope you’ll keep me posted!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m watching and waiting for clarity, Michele. And yes, church is a challenge in the most unchurched state in the nation. The shortage of helpers and leaders is what has led us to our frustration and feelings of burnout. When ‘doing’ becomes another ‘job’ then we find it hard to feel close to God. Then we feel guilty for not being able to serve with ‘joy.’ And there is judgement from others when you take a break and become less involved. Doing = good Christian to many. And that is not Biblical at all, though of course we do need to serve in whatever capacity we have. I’ll keep you posted!

        Like

  2. It is a tightrope isn’t it – knowing when to hang on and when to let go? I love the phrase and the concept of “active trust”. I understand that God will do what is right, but when it is not what I wanted, I need to learn to practice the discipline (great word) of active trust.

    Like

    1. Yes, I appreciated Jennifer’s use of that term also. It’s not a passive thing, and that helps us (especially if we’re kind of hooked on action!) to embrace trust as a viable stance when we’re feeling out of control.

      Like

  3. I just finished this book as well, Michele, and it hit me right where I’m at. I laughed out loud, nodded my head in agreement, and sent plenty of great one-liners to friends! Wonderful review!

    Like

    1. Jennifer’s journalism background comes out strong in those “great one-liners.” And I wonder if our shared laughter and nodding have something to do with our ability to identify with that huge struggle to acknowledge and worship the sovereignty of God–instead of coveting it!

      Like

  4. Michele, on many blogs I visit I see that you have left a sweet and encouraging comment. I clicked on you and read some of your posts. Then yesterday I checked my own blog, and there you were, leaving ME a sweet note of encouragement! Thank you. This looks like an interesting book. We, too, are in a church search. My son and I loved our old church but my DH didn’t, and now we are in that wandering season.

    Like

    1. It’s a rough season to be in, and my prayer for you is that you will find the church that needs you and your unique giftings –and at the same time, the church that can become your community and your accountability!
      Blessings to you as you seek guidance.
      And thank you for your kind comment!

      Like

  5. It must have been really tough leaving a church where you were really connected to the community, but I’m sure it was worth it in the end.
    x, Julie

    Like

  6. This is a great review, Michele. I have this book on my Amazon wish list. I love this quote you share – “gospel living is not an either/or question. It’s both/and. It’s coming back to that fork in the road every day–with every decision, every obligation, and every relationship–and asking God to help you choose.” Thanks also for sharing your own story of letting go and hanging on. Blessings and hugs to you!

    Like

    1. That either/or versus both/and view of God is also beautifully written about in Andy Stanley’s book called Strong and Weak.
      And I understand that Jen Pollock Michel has an entire book about this coming up sometime next year from IVP. Really looking forward to it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Michelle, it’s always a delight to read your words. I appreciate how they dance on the page as you write your reviews. It’s such a treat to me as a reader. Great review! You’ve done Jen’s book justice.

    Like

    1. Oh, that’s so good to hear, Tiffiney. Whenever I write a review, I cringe at the idea of the author looking at it and thinking that I missed the whole point of their book.
      Thanks for this encouragement!

      Like

  8. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Michele. It seems that living a fulfilled life is all about knowing when to hang on and when to let go. I have hung on through some difficult times and been richly rewarded for doing so. I have also let go with some difficulty of a marriage that wasn’t working and couldn’t be fixed and of my childhood religion, which didn’t fit the adult me. The hard part, as you pointed out, is the messy middle and knowing which is right for any given situation–the holding on or letting go.

    ~Christie

    Like

  9. Sounds like Jennifer has another book of great wisdom and truth! Hanging on in the messy middle is what stands out to me here. Sometimes we have a surge of strength in the beginning or near the end, but those middles can be trying times. Thanks for sharing about this book, Michele.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, this is a really challenging read while at the same time being reassuring. A right view of the sovereignty of God is huge in taking the right view of our place in making things happen and keeping things going.

      Like

  10. We met and married and had our children while in our previous church but left when our eldest was 18 yrs old. It was difficult – more for us than our kids as we friendships going back to our single days. It’s hard building new friendships, starting from scratch when you’ve had those long friendships because they don’t happen overnight! Looking back, it was a good move but not easy.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Carol, for being so honest in the sharing of your story. It’s not easy to cut ties and move on. Letting Go can be a real test of our faith–as can Hanging On when that is our assignment.

      Like

  11. I can’t wait to read this book! It’s on my list. And I love your story about your call to STICK WITH your church, even in the hard times. It was hard for us to obey the call to leave Turkey, and while we are delighted with our church home, they are going through a hard season of building (repairing flood damage). But I know God is calling us to stick it out!

    Like

    1. Isn’t it just a wonderful and freeing decision to reach the point where we say, “This is my church family and I’m stickin’ with them through the hard times!”
      Good for you that you’re sticking it out through flood damage. It must be such a lot of plain old hard work!

      Like

    1. It’s certainly a process of surrender that gives us the kind of freedom God desires for us to have. So grateful for the words of writers like you and Jennifer who keep us living our way in that direction.

      Like

  12. Excellent post! We felt like we were hanging on at our previous church for at least 5 years – hanging on by a thread. It seemed to us that the Lord had shut the door there for us but another door didn’t seem to be opening. Thus, we stayed faithful – and prayed and prayed and prayed. Finally, a new church was started in another town last January. It was twice the distance, but we visited and it immediately felt right. After meeting with the pastor to get our doctrinal questions answered, it was very clear to us that we needed to let go of our previous church and align ourselves with this new one. What a blessing! Those years of hanging on were tough, but we know the Lord had reasons for it.

    Like

  13. I love Jennifer’s book and it’s great to read your thoughts on it, Michele! It is tricky to know when to hold on and when to let go at times. Moving church was one of the biggest decisions for me too but I have been truly blessed in letting go to take hold of the new thing God was calling me to. I really appreciated Jennifer’s insights that it’s not just about passively “letting go and letting God” and that there are times when we need to persevere even when it’s tough.

    Like

  14. Michele, I’ve bought Jennifer’s book, but haven’t had time to read it. Reading your review prompts me to move it to the top of my list! Your post reminds me of one of my favorite hymns from childhood: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.