Letting go and trusting God. It sounds like such a simple thing and yet, it rarely is. No matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, you are likely to encounter situations where letting go and trusting him is still a challenge. How much more so for children, who don’t yet have the experience of walking with God through many trials?
In this post, I’m going to walk you through four steps I take—on my own and with my kids—when we struggle with letting God lead us in a direction we’re not sure we want to go. If your family feels like God is calling you into something and you’re struggling to say yes, these steps will help you work through the things you worry about and follow the Lord wholeheartedly.
Seeing your kids suffer is difficult. Knowing you’re the cause of their pain is harder still.
Not being able to fix it is almost unbearable.
I’ve dealt with that feeling a lot in the past few years.
We’re a big, busy family. Until recently, our little train chugged along just fine. We kept up with our commitments, participated in our community, and generally did all the things.
But when our fourth child was born, it was as though our train suddenly had a thousand more cars tacked onto the end. Going anywhere—getting anything done—took a massive effort.
We struggled so hard to continue at our normal pace that we started to lose our sense of family identity. We were flying off the tracks at full speed.
Then God intervened.
Our Chief Mechanical Engineer had a plan to get us back on track, but it would come at a cost.
He laid it on my heart that we needed to walk away from almost everything. Every single commitment and activity our kids were involved in and everything except the most essential for my husband and me. No musical theatre productions. No dance classes. No small group. No major volunteer commitments.
The Holy Spirit was leading us toward a Sabbath year, an opportunity to reconnect with Him and with each other. He wanted to teach us the discipline of letting go and trusting God.
I didn’t think it was possible.
Through ongoing prayer and words of inspiration, he assured me it was not only possible but necessary.
He was right, of course, but I hadn’t wanted to see it because I knew it would break my children’s hearts to give up so many things they love.
And I was not wrong about that.
They were devastated. The next few weeks were a mess. It was an emotional roller coaster. They pleaded with us to “change our minds.” But it wasn’t our place to change our minds, because our minds were not responsible for the decision. We had a clear request from God for our lives that we needed to obey.
That doesn’t mean it was easy for me, though. I was also walking away from things I cared deeply about. But because I know God wants better for me than I can achieve by doing things my, letting go and trusting God came a bit more naturally to me.
As we made the transition into our Sabbath year, we took intentional steps as a family to develop a deeper trust in the Lord. These steps served as reminders to us that our loving Father was in control, even if we couldn’t see it and helped us relax into the rest to which he’d called us.
Be Honest about Your Struggle to Let Go
Sometimes, even when God is very clearly calling us into something new, we are hesitant to leave our comfort zones. Think of Moses and the burning bush. God was right in front of him telling him exactly what to do, but Moses put up a serious fight. He had all kinds of excuses and questions for God.
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)
“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Ex. 4:1)
“I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex. 4:10)
It’s okay to have uncertainties and doubts. It’s okay to acknowledge your own weaknesses, and fears, and limitations. In fact, if you didn’t, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be the one God was calling to do this work. He opposes the proud and lifts up the humble. He seeks those who will trust in him, not in themselves, and who will lean on him completely.
You can come to your Father with these concerns and cast them on him. Your strength is found in Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:13), not in your own abilities.
Also, let’s not hide our struggles from our kids. As parents, it’s tempting to try to hold everything together in front of our kids and convince them we’ve got everything under control when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
If our kids don’t see us struggle, how will they know how to handle their own struggles, which will inevitably arise? If they don’t know how much we struggled to let go and trust God, how will they feel when he calls them to do something they don’t believe they’re capable of doing?
We are our children’s role models, but that doesn’t mean always having it all together or pretending we’re perfect. We need to be honest with them, letting them see that we struggle too and showing them how we handle that challenge.
Grieve for What You Feel You’re Giving Up
As Moses led Israel through the wilderness to the Promised Land, the people grumbled. God had brought them out of Egypt because he loved them and wanted to bless them and increase their numbers. He promised to bless their crops and their herds and to protect them from horrible diseases. (Deut. 7:8,13-15). But the journey was long and arduous. The people—thought they knew they were being led into something wonderful—began to focus on what they’d left behind.
“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’” (Num. 21:5).
When God calls us into something, it can feel the same way. We see all the barriers in our way but miss the reality of the promise that is yet to come. This leads us to focus on what we’re being asked to give up—that safe, known place he is asking us to leave.
Since we struggle with this as adults, how much more will our children—who have not yet experienced this cycle of stepping out in faith to obey God and being rewarded with his grace—struggle with it?
Talk about your fears and encourage your children or anyone else affected by God’s request to discuss their fears with you too.
Have honest conversations about what you might have to give up. What will giving things up look like? How do you think the process might unfold? What do you think the worst-case scenarios are? Don’t be afraid to put your fears under a microscope and examine them from multiple directions.
I want to be clear here: I’m not suggesting that you weigh the pros and cons of obeying God. I’m assuming you plan to obey in what he’s asking you to do.
However, one of the best ways to deal with fears is to explore them, to dig up the ground around them until you can see their roots. When you do this, you can gain the freedom to let go and trust God completely in the thing he’s asking you to do. Perhaps not all of your fears (or those of your kids) are even grounded in truth.
But if sacrifices are necessary—and they often are—allow for time and space to grieve that loss. Grief requires time, but with time will come healing. You and your kids will be okay, and more than that, you will both gain experience dealing with one of life’s hardest emotions.
Focus On the Benefits of Letting Go and Trusting God
Even when the task ahead of you seems insurmountable, God has probably given you a glimpse of some of the blessings that may follow from your obedience.
Share these with your kids, or if you’re going through this process on your own, write about them in your journal. Think about both the spiritual benefits of obedience (see Rom. 6:16 and Zech. 3:7) as well as the specific benefits that may arise naturally from your new situation.
In our case, we talked about how we would have more time together and save money, and how my husband and I would be less stressed. Hearing these things didn’t take away from the pain of their loss, but it did give them other things to look forward to.
Or consider the example or Margaret Nicholl Laird, who was called to work as a missionary in The Central African Republic in the early 20th century. Upon arriving in the French colony of Ubangi-Shari after a long journey, she learned she’d have to sleep in the goat house.
After the goats spend all of her first night ramming their horns into the side of the house, a young boy is stationed outside the hut to watch over them at night. The next day, she befriends him, and they start teaching each other their own languages.
Their friendship blooms over the course of several days as she reads to him from the Bible and he translates it into his native tongue. When Kongi, ‘the goat boy,’ gives his life to Jesus, she cries, “This is why I came!” She looks beyond the hardships she’s endured and the sacrifices she’s made because she sees the reward God has in mind.
This is not to imply that the expected blessings will take the place of what you’re giving up, but it’s crucial to remember that there will be light where only darkness is now evident. Jesus said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Finally, as in any situation, frequent prayer is required. With our kids, we prayed that God would reveal to them the gift of our situation, that he would comfort them as they mourned, and that they would experience his presence intimately for themselves during our Sabbath year.
When he calls us into new things, he never abandons us. He is right there with us and with our children. He knows their hearts even better than we do and he knows what is best for each of us. By praying these prayers aloud with them, we’re reinforcing that he is with us always and he uses our obedience for good.
And that’s a lesson we all need reminding of once in a while.
Here’s a simple prayer you can pray if you’re struggling to let go and trust God:
“Heavenly Father, thank you for speaking into my life and calling me to live a life that honors you. You are the God of love, light, and life, and I want to trust you completely with all that I am. Help me to overcome my fears and release me from the strongholds that are holding me back from letting go and trusting your plans. It is my desire to serve you and I ask you to give me the courage to do so. In the name of Jesus, amen.”