Joy Journey Day 2: Let Go

Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“Be careful” in this context means afflicted. We are being told that we should not waste our time and energy worrying about things we cannot control. We are to pray about our concerns and give them to God. When we do this we will have peace and He will keep our hearts and minds safe, through Christ!

I love the story in Mark 4 where Christ calms the storm. It has been one of my favorites since childhood! Jesus had spent the day in a boat with his disciples teaching the multitude who stood on the shore. He was constantly bombarded by people needing Him, wanting Him to heal them and teach them and just be around them. I can only imagine how exhausted He must have been. So after He was done teaching He asked the disciples to row Him out into the lake. He was sleeping in the boat when a sudden and mighty storm came. The wind was blowing ferociously! The waves were crashing. And the boat was rocking like crazy! His friends were terrified… and Jesus slept. I can picture them trying desperately to row back to shore and maybe some of them were using a pail to try to keep the water out of the boat. Finally, in a panic, they woke Jesus and asked Him how He could be sleeping. Didn’t He care that they were going to die? Jesus calmly rebuked the wind and the waves telling them to be still. Then He asked them a question that so often can be applied to my life, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?” This was the man, the God, who had separated the water from the water, then the water from the land when the earth was created. The same One who had parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Of course He could handle a few elements of water on a lake. And of course He can handle a few elements of turmoil in our lives! We must have faith and allow Him to do so. Like Themistocles once wisely declared without understanding the full truth of his words, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.” Our Lord truly is the commander of the sea!

So why is it so hard for us to have faith and trust Him with the circumstances of our lives? I so often find myself desperate for control. I want to stay in my little comfort zone and orchestrate everything perfectly. I want things to be smooth and I don’t want any storms! But what I sometimes forget is that maybe God sees I need a storm in my life, to strengthen me, to refine me. If it were up to me, there would be no storm, or at very most a light storm. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees what the storm is doing for me. And even though He can stop it, and sometimes does, He often allows it to rage and do all the cleansing and rearranging it is meant to do. I have learned over the years that when I trust Him enough to give Him control of my storms, if they are meant to rage for a while longer, He will at least allow me to move to the eye of the storm for comfort.

We want to control the things in our life so we hang onto them. But if we will trust Him enough to let them go, we will find that He is much more capable of handling the messes we are in, even if we have created them ourselves. I sometimes don’t let go of things because I can’t see how they will ever be fixed, to me it looks impossible. And so I tie God’s hands. I don’t give Him room to work because I can’t solve them, so how could He? But He is the God of miracles! And truly I have seen Him work miracles in my life time and time again, especially in the impossible, but only once I step back and let go.

When we let go of the things that are worrying us we are showing God that we trust Him. We are choosing faith over fear. When we have patience with His timing we are showing Him that we know He sees a bigger picture than we do. When we calm our mind we allow our spirit to remind us that we are not in control and that we really don’t want to be.

Here are a few things that have worked for me when I am ready to let go and let God.

*Journaling: It is so therapeutic to write out the things I am concerned about and why. When I do this it makes it easier for me to take them out of my heart and leave them on the paper, it reminds me of times past when God has sorted things out for me and it allows me to trust Him once again.

*Mindfulness: When things feel uncomfortable we tend to push them away from us rather than spending enough time with them to really diagnose whey they are a concern. When we take the time to think through a feeling to understand where it comes from and why, we can often understand the underlying issue and work through it, but we have to lean into the discomfort to start with. When we can get to the root of the problem it makes it easier to solve it, or let it go.

*Affirmations: Sometimes speaking things out loud is the only way for me to disrupt the turmoil within. We can speak positive things about ourselves or truth filled phrases. One of mine is “Faith not Fear.” It is a way I tell myself to turn off the fear and let God work.

*Letting Go Ceremony: This is something I have heard about from several different people. It can be visual. You imagine the problem and make it tiny and squash it. You picture it as an object and throw it into a fire. You put it in a helium balloon and watch it float away. Or it can be literal. Write it on a piece of paper and bury it or throw it off a cliff. One of my favorite suggestions is a prayer box. If you notice you are thinking a lot about a problem you cannot see a way to fix, you write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a box. It is a signal to you mind and you spirit that you are giving it to God to work on.

These are just a few methods of letting go. If we can do something verbal, visual, or tactile it often helps us to connect the letting go action to our minds.

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

He wants us to have joy. When we let go of the worry over things we can do nothing about it allows Him to take them. It allows us to return to joy.

Soul searching question: What is one worry you are holding onto that you can let go of today?

Song: I’m Gonna Let It Go by Jason Gray

Face to face with author:

I Was Not Fully Healed, But I Was Made Whole

Up until about 6 years ago I would read the story of the 10 lepers and wonder how the leper who went back to show gratitude was any more blessed than the 9 who didn’t go back. I knew it was a story demonstrating the importance of gratitude, but they were all healed. Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind there was a wriggling feeling that there was something more, something bigger to be learned from this story.

Then in March or 2011 I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a terrible accident, but I did hit my head and shortly thereafter I started seeing stars and shimmering lights around my right eye. I had everything checked out and they couldn’t find anything wrong, but advised me to keep an eye on it. About 3 months later I noticed (as a teacher’s aid after summer break) that the writing on the whiteboard was no longer clear. I went to my eye doctor to have the power of my contact prescription increased. It was then that I found out I was losing the central vision in my right eye. A little in my left eye as well, but drastically in my right. I started searching out specialists. I was told by two different specialists in Ogden it was probably as a result of my car accident and that it was most likely permanent and I’d need to just get used to it. A very good friend of mine was appalled by that answer and demanded that I go to the Moran Institute at the University of Utah and get a second opinion. I am so grateful for her and her response to my disappointment!

Very quickly I was seen by 3 different specialists who took my problem very seriously. I spent days completing tests, having photos taken of my eyes, inside and out, and lots of medical tests too. I had a CT Scan, an MRI, a chest Xray, an ultrasound of my heart through my stomach and about 12 vials of blood drawb abd tested for anything and everything they could think of that might be causing my loss of vision. They didn’t know what it was, but they were determined to find out. They thought it might be autoimmune. They guaranteed me that it was not a result of the accident and that if was just coincidental that the symptoms started at the same time. In the end they could not pin it to any particular thing, but they did find that the blood vessels in my eye were leaking and it was causing major damage to my retinas. They decided to treat my symptoms since they couldn’t find a cause to treat instead. By that time most of the vision in my right eye had been affected (I was seeing 20/300 at that point, with my contacts in) and I was at about half vision in my left eye. Thanks to those doctors and the God inspired technology and medications that they have they were able to stabilize my vision and by some miracle the vision in my left eye has come back almost completely.

That first year and a half was probably my hardest year of life up to that point. I was scared. Really I was terrified! I didn’t know if what I had was life threatening or if I was just going to lose my vision completely. In either case, it was life altering for me. I am an artist, a baker, a reader, and an outdoor adventurist (ghost towning to be specific). Everything I love to do requires my vision. I’m sure no one is happy to lose their vision, but I was feeling especially devastated. Not only was I an emotional wreck with the worry of what might happen to me, but my every day routine was exhausting! I had no idea how much losing some of your vision would affect you. I had to exert so much energy straining to read with the kids I was helping in school, I found myself forgetting things my past peripheral vision would have picked up, therefore much of my day was spent retracing my steps. I lost my depth perception and would find myself tripping over things I didn’t realize were poking up a little or falling off little ledges I didn’t see were there. I was tired. I was sad. I was scared. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too. It was so hard!

Phew… that was a long story to prove my point. In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through the Priesthood. I had A LOT of blessings during that year. After about a year of working through things including going to a specialist in Oregon to get another opinion on the permanence of my condition I had gotten another blessing. After that blessing I had the strangest calm come over me. And in that calm I distinctly felt a lesson being taught to me. The anguish and uncertainty that had been so prevalent in my life for almost two years was gone. I felt peace. I could look back and see times of comfort, tender mercies of love, and so much I had gained… empathy for others, gratitude for the blessings in my life, an increased closeness to my family, and a better relationship with my God. I had received the miracle of one eye being healed and the other eye was being left with me the way it was, maybe as a reminder of those lessons. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe so I would remember to testify of God’s mercy in the other things I had learned. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Even though I had not been physically healed in that eye, I had through God’s power, my faith, my positive attitude, my searching for lessons in the trial, and my patience over that year been made whole.

I now know for myself that the leper who came back was blessed far more, beyond what words can express, for having come back. He was made whole. The others were, like him, healed physically. But unlike the others, the anguish and grief of the previous years or pain, sickness, and banishment, the emotional aching and mental stress were wiped away when he was made whole.

A Window to God’s Love

To answer the ponder question posted with the scripture on Sunday, tribulation is a part of life. It has a Divine purpose. I’m sure there are many reasons a kind and loving Father would allow His children to suffer. A few of the reasons that come to my mind are (in no particular order.):

1. To help us grow. Just like a muscle cannot develop without resistance neither can our spiritual strength.

2. To bless those around us. Many times we learn great lessons by watching those who ensure trials with faith and Grace.

3. To give us empathy. We have much more compassion for those around us when we can relate to their struggles.

4. To draw us to Him. It seems that we year for heaven and its help more fervently when we are struggling than when we are doing well.

5. He values agency. Or agency is so important to Him that He respects the line we draw on the ground between us.

The second question is a little trickier because we tend to identify peace as having our trials removed. But when everything revolves around God’s timing sometimes that is not possible at the moment. But I have found that no matter what we are going through we can always ask for peace, a little reprieve from the storm. I have had times when I have asked for this and could feel a blanket of comfort wrap around me and feel an almost tangible hug from heaven.

We can seek this peace through many tools. We can feaast on the word of God. We can pray and center ourselves. We can serve someone else in a meaningful way. We can choose to read/listen to uplifting books and music. We can pray and meditate. We can process or problems thorough journaling or talking to a friend. We can accept God’s willy for us and keep a cheerful demeanor. We can show God’s love to His other children by becoming a window to His love.