Editor’s Note: In honor of National Let It Go Day this Thursday, June 20th here’s some wise words on how to let go of what may be holding you back.
I remember going to a local festival when I was in first grade. There was a clown selling balloons and, to my surprise, my parents bought one and promptly tied it to my wrist. I loved that balloon. I don’t know why, but it instantly felt special to me. As I walked around with my balloon proudly stretching out from my tiny wrist—I felt it. The knot that secured my prize to my person slowly unraveled and slipped away. I watched the balloon float up as my heart sank.
Letting go is not easy. Whether you’re letting go of your hometown, watching your child walk into pre-k for the first time or drive off to college, seeing a parent slowly slip away, saying farewell to coworkers, or realizing a dream will never be—it's never easy.
So why must we ever let go? Simply put, that is the cycle of life. New life buds and blooms, shines brightly and fills us with hope. Then, just as the browning edges of a rose tell us it's time to clip it, time and circumstances reveal a withering that let us know it’s time to let go.
I could have written a super practical article on a narrow circumstance of letting go. But then I realized that the cycle of blooming and withering, waxing and waning, receiving and exhaling breath is something that God has built into the fabric of the universe and our personal beings. The author of Ecclesiastes summarizes this underlying pattern in chapter 3.
For now, let’s take a short look at the 3 basic phases of letting go and why it is vital that we follow through on this as more than a discipline of obedience to God.
1. Radical acceptance.
The first step to letting go is using what therapists call radical acceptance. This is the practice of accepting a circumstance for how it currently is, without judgment or blame. In doing so, we find peace and contentment despite circumstances. Accepting the need to let go recognizes that the only thing we were ever meant to hold onto for eternity is God himself.
2. Evaluate your circumstance.
Once you have accepted that letting go is simply a part of life, you can then move on to evaluate your personal circumstances.
Is the Holy Spirit prompting you to let go?
Are you running away because of fear?
Are you refusing to let go out of fear?
Prayerfully seek wisdom from God and good counsel to confirm that letting go is your best choice. God is not the master of confusion, chaos, or fear. Nor does He always give us the perfect clarity that we seek. Ultimately you have one of 2 decisions: let go or lean in. Sometimes God is asking us to let go of something; sometimes He is asking us to lean into it. Leaning in could mean staying at the job you don’t like, giving your marriage a second chance, sticking with a major, or holding out hope on a dream that you have no guarantee will be fulfilled. Sometimes it’s best to lean into the journey, not let go of it.
Most letting go causes grief. Sadness is, in fact, given to us to tell us that we have lost something. Sadness also reminds us of our love for that person or thing. The deeper we loved, the deeper we grieve.
Maybe your love for that thing you let go of was appropriate. Then your grief is the final receipt of the goodness and love of that relationship or circumstance. Hold on to that love you felt and hope in Jesus.
Maybe your love for that thing you let go of was not appropriate. Then your grief is two fold: a sense of sadness over its loss and sadness over your own misplaced love. Hold on to God’s redemption and hope in Jesus.
When we have problems letting go of what we need to, we can look to our beliefs about God and examine whether what we feel is true about Him actually lines up with Scripture. We know suffering is a part of this life, but sometimes it feels like the void left from letting go will never be filled. We need the Truth of Scripture to anchor us in who He is and what He has promised us.
Letting go is a spiritual practice that reminds us of God’s personal care for us and His sovereignty all at the same time. It simultaneously points us to God as our intimate provider of the thing we are afraid we’ll be deprived of if we let go and that the things we let go of are ultimately His call in the first place. He is both our most loving caretaker and the almighty King over the entire Universe. This is what makes letting go a spiritual practice.
Letting go is our mini-version of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Not my will but Yours be done, Father” (Matthew 26:39). If God asked Jesus to let go of his life to gain salvation for humanity, can you trust Him in giving up your circumstance to gain something that does not wither or float away?
Meet the Author!
Phoebe is a therapist in private practice at Bethany Counseling Center, mom to the very lively Vivi and very chill Charlie, and wife to Jeff. You may spot her out and about at almost any Target in the area with a coconut milk latte in hand. She enjoys nonfiction books, Disney movies, and helping others find peace and healing in the hope of the Gospel.
This blog is meant to further the conversation about mental health and is not intended as medical or professional advice.