December 28, 2018

One thing I know for sure we have in common. As we come to the end of 2018, you and I have both been through some disappointments and setbacks and things that we don't understand. Maybe you prayed for a loved one but they didn't get well. Or maybe you worked hard for a promotion but you didn't get it. You were the best-qualified for a job, but they overlooked you anyway. You stood in faith for a relationship, you did everything within your power to see it through, but it didn't work out. What now?

I have learned, through many disappointments and failures, that one of the very best things you can do—perhaps the best thing—is just let it go. Asking continual questions, wondering why your love didn’t get returned, wondering why God didn’t answer as you hoped, will get you nowhere good. Let it go. Before you know it your questions will turn into blaming God, blaming others, blaming yourself. That turns into bitterness and self-pity, and gets you stuck in a pattern that will destroy you. Letting go is an act of faith. You are actively saying, “God, I don’t see how this was right or fair. I don’t understand why it couldn’t have been different. But I choose to trust you. You said that all things will work together for my good when I am trusting You and working with You, so I believe it. I have faith that even though I have been disappointed, You still have good ahead for me.”

Keep in mind, there is a big difference between letting go of your hurt and giving up. Don’t let go of God’s promises. Don’t let go of the dreams He has put in your heart. Let go of frustration and bitterness and looking back. Let go of needing to have it your way to be happy. Let God know you are ready and willing to cooperate with Him, giving Him complete freedom to take you where He wants you to go. Affirm that you know His plans for you are wiser and better than your plans for yourself. Too often we are only happy to have God’s will when He is doing what WE told Him to do. We want God to help us do OUR will, the way we have it planned, the way we want it to work out.

But in order for God to help us, we have to let go and take a bigger view. Instead of being angry or frustrated that God didn’t do things the way we wanted, maybe we need to consider God sees a bigger picture and He may have something better in store for us. He always knows what we don’t know, and maybe He knew that what you wanted to happen was not the best for you. Maybe he saw further hurt down the road. Maybe what you wanted would have been far from His best for you, and some day you will see that. I remember when I was graduating from college and anticipating marriage shortly after, my heart was broken to discover that the girl I had given my heart to was unwilling to make some changes that could have saved our relationship. I wanted to simply delay the date; she said if we didn’t marry on our original date, the wedding was off. So, the engagement was broken, and my heart with it. But God had Patty prepared for me. I would have missed my incredible life with her, our children, and everything that has accompanied it. God knew. If I had held on to my broken heart, or tried to push open a door He had closed,my whole world would be different and diminished. Letting go was imperative for me.

The Word says, "God's ways are not our ways. They are higher and better than our ways.” Sometimes what we're believing for is not God's best. We have good intentions, but God loves us too much to answer that prayer. Here’s the truth: Any time you HAVE to have someone or something, or have life turn out in a certain way to be happy, you are out of balance. Your happiness, my happiness, can never depend on anyone or anything outside of myself and Jesus. To put your hope in someone or something you cannot control is to insure a lack of happiness.

It's good to have dreams and goals. It is understandable to be disappointed and even broken-hearted. But you have to be mature enough to put that dream on the altar and say, "God, this is what I wanted.But since it didn’t happen my way or on my time table, I won’t get bitter or frustrated. My life is in Your hands, and I trust You.”

I've had big dreams and big plans most of my life, and 2018 was no exception. I am thrilled that God has fulfilled many of them in ways I hoped. Many He did not, some of them very important to me. But here’s the truth: I have learned that some of the best happiness, and most of the real growth in my life, came from my hard times and disappointments. These have taught me so much. I had a big dream and a big prayer back as a young pastor, and when my congregation’s vote didn’t go as I thought it should, I was so disappointed I considered leaving. I KNEW God had great dreams for our church and I felt like this door got closed. But I surrendered that disappointment to God, and before I knew it, God and the people had decided to support an even bigger dream. Now I try very hard to see things differently. If a door closes, and things are not going to go as I hoped, I shrug my shoulders as quickly as I can and say, “No big deal.” I let it go. If my plans don't work out, I know God has a reason I would completely agree with if I saw everything He sees.

That’s my favorite definition of God’s will—“God’s will is exactly what I would choose if I had all the information He has.” I recommend you think on that as you end 2018. Your disappointment may have been truly heartbreaking, and you see nothing good ahead. Let it go. God is working. You can’t move into the great future He wants for you until you let go of the weight of disappointment and sadness that is weighing you down. Let it go.