Jesus models for us the practice of letting go of control, earthly power and reputation. He empties himself at the cross, trusting in the goodness and love of the Father. God intends that we follow the same path. Yet, in situations both large and small, we find this incredibly difficult. Why?
I have been wrestling with this dilemma for months. Last week I preached a message on this called,“The Cross: The Deepest Wisdom of God.” Afterward, I found myself listing the top reasons why I, along with so many others, continue to resist the very thing (our need to let go of control) that is the rich source of so much life and power.
The following are my top ten reasons we fail to trust God.
1. Fear. Is it any wonder God says to us over and over again in Scripture, “Do not fear?”
2. We worry that things will fall apart. That is true—at least the things that God never intended to remain in the first place. Regardless, we can only keep our plans and agendas from falling apart for a short time. “Unless the Lord builds a house, we labor in vain who build it?” (Ps. 127:1).
3. We worry that we will fall apart. Yes, that is true, and it may be a very good thing. Our false selves, our protectiveness and our striving need to be dismembered and dismantled by the Spirit. When we fall apart, it offers God the opportunity to rebuild us.
4. Our families of origin. For many of us, things were out of control in our families growing up. We were helpless and, in some cases, victimized. So now, as adults, we resist letting go of our control of life.
5. Past betrayals. A 26 year-old young adult recently told me how impossible it is for him to trust God since he was betrayed by so many authority figures in his life. ”With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
6. A distorted image of God. We serve a God who loves us with inexhaustible love and with no strings attached. Our heavenly Father seeks our good in any and every situation. Yet many of us relate to God as if he were an angry deity—demanding and consistently frustrated with us. It is hard to let go and trust that kind of God.
7. Lack of stillness and silence before him. Without a dimension of silence and stillness in our lives (arguably two of the most difficult spiritual practices in the church today), we don’t offer the Holy Spirit space where he can tenderize our willfulness and turn it into willingness.
8. Perfectionism. Many of us who seek excellence carry the shadow of a driving perfectionism. When we begin to learn to let go, we find that God is passionate that we become excellent at letting go and trusting him (an interior state). And that is much more important to him than having our environment marked by order and perfection (an exterior state).
9. A limited view of letting go. This is not about answering an altar call, having a crisis moment of surrender or praying once a day. Letting go of control and trusting Jesus is the core of the Christian life—every day, every hour, every moment, of every day.
10. Denial. A day is coming when our earthly life will be over. We will let go of everything—health, relationships, status, possessions. We are all very vulnerable. In a moment, our lives can completely change. To think that we are in control is an illusion.
There are few greater gifts we can give those we serve than the gift of letting go and trusting Jesus. May you let go and experience the promise of Jesus: ”Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).
Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.