Ever had a tough stain? Maybe you spilled wine on your brand new white carpet, or accidentally got motor oil on your child’s favorite stuffed toy when it fell in a parking lot. I once removed a tough salad dressing stain from my husband’s favorite white linen shirt, and before he ever got a chance to wear it again, he managed to get a huge splotch of black, semi-liquid rubber right on the collar – and it was impossible to remove and ultimately led us to just throw the shirt away.
Tough stains take work, they need to soak. They need pretreatment; they need time.
The same kind of dedication and perseverance is needed when we try to change behaviors in ourselves or give our problems over to God. In the same way that tough stains on our clothing don’t just wipe away, the stains on our heart also need time, intentionality and direction to remove.
However we often treat giving problems over to God in the same way we do a crash diet. Once we realize that an issue in our life is too much to continue along bearing entirely on our own, and recognize that we truly need God’s help, we announce, either publicly or privately, “I am done living this way and I’m giving this over to God.” We might keep that declaration to ourselves, or we might share it with confidants, or even proclaim on a more public level.
Making such a declaration is great, and it really is the first step in the process of giving an issue over to God. But it certainly isn’t the final step either. Not by any means.
When you give something over to God, it’s not a one-time occurrence. Although we might be able to look back and point to a specific moment when we decided to give an issue over to God, there is really never an exact point in time when you can completely say, “I left it all with God then and there.”
There is always a process.
Even for those instances in which you feel God miraculously healed you from an issue – there is still, if you examine it, a process behind all the circumstances.
It’s very important that we recognize the process of giving something over to God. Because sometimes God does miraculously cure people from their addictions, suffering, vices, or whatever else is plaguing them. But usually, healing through God requires going on a journey with God through our issue.
And often, giving something over to God takes an enormous amount of time, energy and persistence.
This is not like flipping a light switch. It is not a simple cause and effect equation. But unfortunately, we as Christians treat like it is. We expect only the most miraculous of healings, and don’t recognize and appreciate the incredible love God has to offer us in the mundane temptations and silent struggles.
Just to help us think about this issue further, here are a couple hypothetical scenarios depicting what often happens when a person decides to give over an issue to God.
Imagine for a moment someone who has a problem with gossip (a person probably immediately jumped in your head, right?) Now, imagine that one day that person feels convicted about their behavior (which is a prompting by God to indicate an area where He wants you to heal from) and they become aware that gossip is something they wish to remove from their life. They think about it and decide to quit cold turkey, declaring “I will never gossip again.” They feel really good about their decision.
A few hours, they’re scrolling through their Facebook and notice an old high school classmate no longer has a picture featuring themselves with their spouse. Within minutes, and without thinking, they message another old friend and begin speculating about possible marriage problems their old classmate may or may not be having. The declaration to stop gossiping never crosses their mind, even though only hours before it felt very important.
Imagine another person has a problem with stewardship. They mishandle their funds, are resistant to giving and basically squander their resources irresponsibly and are always having money problems. They feel that God is revealing the problem in their life and respond, “Okay God I have a problem with finances and I need you to help me with it.” They end their time with God feeling good, and move on with their day. However, the next morning their bills are still there unpaid, and a strong urge to go out to eat at a nice restaurant and go on a shopping spree looms over them. They remember discussing the issue with God the previous day, but that experience pales in the moment next to their present temptation. They stop and pray, “Ok God, just one last shopping trip, and I’m done.”
Of course the issue could be even simpler than the ones described above. Maybe it’s nothing more than just desire. Maybe you want something so bad and your mind is consumed with getting what you want. You are a bit obsessed, and maybe it’s over a bad conversation you had with a loved one or a deep desire for a promotion, a dream vacation, or new car. You find yourself in a tizzy constantly hoping that this will happen for you and live life in this mental frame work. God reveals to you that your heart is not placed in Him, but rather on your desires. You repent and give it over to God, but you still can’t help to think about it.
Perhaps one of these scenarios fits you, or perhaps not.
Maybe your issues are completely different, but we all have things that occupy our minds and hearts. Our goal as Christians is to have God occupy that space, not our desire, vices or wants-which of course is sin.
And that’s the thing about sin, it feels like a comfort. It feels so good in the moment, but it is false, it’s not lasting, it’s not real. But sin is very clever, because it almost always feels natural and right in the moment. It is only God, who is the true comfort, and because of His goodness that He awakens our eyes to our false senses of comfort.
Again, this isn’t easy. Those comforts are tricky, and they feel right, but they aren’t.
They never bring truth, healing, nor intimacy with God.
You see this whole issue – giving an issue over to God – it is about God’s love for you, and for us all. He loves us too much to keep us separated from Him. Sin is a major barrier between us and God. It’s a huge barrier because we simply cannot run to both sin and God. They are in opposite directions of one another.
But this isn’t news, right?
We know we are supposed to turn to God and give our issues over to him. That’s the message we’ve heard countless times in Christian communities, churches and other faith circles, right?
So, like good children, we tell ourselves that we are going to run to God and give it to Him. I think just about every Christian understands this, but what I want to speak to is the broken process.
Because our process is broken.
We repent and turn to God, only to find ourselves, sometimes within minutes, picking back up our bad habit that we just gave to God.
I’m talking about real life, not what you might hear at the end of a sermon, or discussed in a prayer group. This is what real life looks like.
Again, being aware of the vice or attitude you would like to change is a wonderful thing. It’s the first step in the process of “recovery.”
But it’s never an easy thing to do
The first step in the process is key, to turn it over to God, but it’s never as easy as it seems.
When helping people give over something to God, I have often encountered defeat and depression. People just have a hard time with the process. I think they envision this glorious clean quick change, but in actuality it takes a lot of time, it’s messy and sometimes not noticeable to the untrained eye.
I have often had heart-to-hearts with people I’m ministering to where a breakthrough happens and they feel as if they are ready to hand over their problem to God, but they only do so for a short period of time, and the next time I talk to them, they really don’t know how to respond. They either forget about their problem, or got used to it, or they are frustrated with the lack of progress so they give up. This is where I usually try to step in again and remind them that this is a process.
It’s a healthy lifestyle not a crash diet.
More specifically, I think we all tend to forget, that this is how God works. We feel God moving in us to change our behavior or attitude and we get really excited. But, that excitement often turns into anxiety and then into desperation. It seems, we just can’t wait to get rid of our problem. And in the end, we forget who initiated our awareness to the problem in the first place.
See God is the one who opened your eyes to the problem, only for you to accept that it is indeed a problem. This is done as an act of love; God wants to be close to you and in order for that to occur, He must remove the stumbling blocks in the way to intimacy.
But it’s tough, because the awareness to our problem often feels overwhelming and embarrassing. We run to shame and quickness to cover up our problem and feel better.
And the cycle continues…
But God know this. He knows how limited we are, He knows how we desperately need Him and He provides grace. All the grace you’ll ever need.
You see, it is never our issue alone to give over our problems. All we need to do is simply run to our good parent’s arms. He is waiting. He is already there.
I really want to challenge you to take hold of that message, because it is essential to learning to give God your issues.
Because if you can’t recognize that it’s actually God who takes away the issues, and not us “giving them to God” then we will really never make much progress. Sure we may be professing that we are giving it over, but in our heart we are thinking and acting like, “I got this, I just need to clean up my act. I need to be better; I will overcome this.”
I’d like to really encourage you to try not to think like that. I want to implore you to try on the truth that God is the One who fixes your problems, the One to make you clean, the One who brings about true change.
We are not to do this in our strength, but by humbling ourselves and giving it to God which brings strength.
It’s amazing, this process.
Steps to giving something over to God
- Acknowledge the problem to God.
- Thank God for opening your eyes to the problem.
- Resist the urge to feel shame, embarrassment and/or impatience to resolve it.
- Return to God with the problem and ask Him to take it from you. Dialogue with Him about what’s stirring in your heart and ask for help.
- Leave the problem with God.
- Rest in the goodness, mercy and love of God that He will handle your problem.
- When you inevitably pick your problem up again, simply return to God and give it back over. Do not beat yourself up, this is the process of letting something go. You will pick it up again and again and lay it down again and again.
- Be open to how God leads you in the process of letting go of your problem.
Handing something over to God isn’t like waving a magic wand, it is acknowledging that God has the best plan for redemption.
That He knows better than you and He is the only one who can handle this in the way that it needs handled. Often, when we give things over to God, He takes us on a journey to a deeper issue that needs His tenderness, truth and love; a place that needs healed. God is interested in that spot.
I really hope you have success in your endeavors to give your issues over to God. By success, I mean that you can meet God (who is already with you) with your problem. That you can have a holy encounter, a child and parent embracing in love, not shame, embarrassment or defeat. God loves you so much that He wants to take your problems and transform them into closeness with Him.
Because that is what this is all about. It’s not about a mean God wanting you to be perfect and nothing but perfection will do.
No way. This is God who came down into our mess and while we were still dirty loved and offered us a way to be closer to Him.
God wants to unload your problems and worries. He doesn’t want you to be stressed and tethered to circumstances but wants you to be free in Him and His love.
Understanding just who you are giving your problems over to is utterly important. Once you realize that you are giving them over to a good, good parent, I believe it becomes easier and easier to hand over your concerns. This allows you to let God do what God does, which is transform you and bring depth to your relationship with Him.
Remember you do have your own responsibility in changing your behavior, but your man concern is to simply turn to God and be open to how He leads the change.
And when you inevitably pick up your problem, again by either returning to that unwanted behavior or trying to fix it yourself, just remember it’s a process that takes time and intentionality.
It won’t happen over night, nothing ever worth while is. It is a process.
Rinse, Repeat, Rinse, Repeat.
How about you? How do you handle giving something over to God? Any tips, suggestions or perhaps struggles with the practice? Please share below! And thanks!