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How to Surrender When Your Painful Past Makes it Impossible

How to Surrender When Your Painful Past Makes it Impossible

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 KJV

Thanks to my frequent run-ins with insomnia, I’m often wide awake at weird times of the night. When I can’t stand watching my phone tick off the minutes of sleep I’m losing any longer, I go out to the living room and flip through streaming services until I find something soothing to watch. 

The other night, I was sure I’d hit the jackpot when I found a sermon on modeling our prayers after The Lord’s Prayer. I mean, what could be more serene than learning how to better come into God’s presence? Stretching out on the couch, I got comfortable and waited to savor God’s peace. 

The peace lasted of all five minutes, right up until the pastor got to “Thy will be done.” Thy will. Not my will. For the first time in all the years I’d been casually repeating The Lord’s Prayer, that part of Matthew 6 lit up inside me like a burning neon sign—the way conviction often does. 

Are you praying for My will? 

It was a fair question, and one I didn’t want to answer because the longer I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t pray that way and mean it. It was tempting to push that away and change the channel. But I didn’t. Instead, I forced myself to come up with the why. 

Why don’t I ask for what He wants? 

Why don’t I think what He wants is better than what I want? 

Why don’t I trust Him to take care of me and the people I love? 

Why don’t I believe He’ll get me through the storms He decides not to take away?

The answer to every “why” was “fear.” 

Fear of physical, mental, and spiritual pain. No one likes to hurt, and I have a low pain tolerance to all of the above.  

Fear of failure. I hate to be embarrassed or humiliated or seen as weak or inadequate. 

But mostly, fear of having to walk through the hard things. And I’ve hoofed it through some pretty hard things.

My Story

I’ll hit the highlights.

The father I believed would never turn his back on me did exactly that when I was nineteen, making me question whether anyone would love me and mean it enough to stick around. I struggled in my marriage for fifteen years because of that. My oldest son fought two lengthy battles—four years and three years—with leukemia that led to other health crisis that will be lifelong. We’re on year seventeen.

I broke my ankle so badly in the middle of his last round with cancer that I had an almost year-long recovery while I was supposed to be his caretaker. Right after that, my daughter dealt with some serious anxiety/depression that I wasn’t sure we were going to make it through.

And last month, I packed up and moved my elderly mother 1,000 miles from Wisconsin to Texas to live with me after she had a stroke. It’s a joke in our family that “it’s always something.” As soon as one situation resolves, another pops up to take its place. There were years I felt like Eeyore stumbling under that dark cloud while everyone else was basking under a bright sun.

When it comes to saying, “Thy will be done,” and meaning it, I have a lot to be afraid of. Because me taking the easy way out is never in His will—at least not for me. Each time I pray for God to whisk the hard things away, His answer is no.

The Purpose behind the Pain

But I also realize the purpose behind those hard times was not to instill fear. In fact, fear is the last thing He wants for any of us. He tells us exactly that over and over in His Word.    

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“... Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 

“You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear!’” Lamentations 3:57

Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!” Joel 2:21

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31

There are many more references in the Bible about fear. According to Rick Warren, “God encourages his followers to fear not 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year.” It must be important because that’s a lot of fear nots.

My favorite verse is 1 John 4:18. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... ” And knowing it’s not my love—it’s God’s—that has to be perfect is such a relief.  

So, if He doesn’t want me to be afraid and He doesn’t want to detour me around the hard paths, what does He want? I believe His desire is for me to make it to the other side. Every single time. And with His help, I have.

Letting go of fear is difficult for me. Until that changes, I won’t be able to pray “Thy will be done” and mean it. The good news is that God never asks me to conquer fear on my own. He’s offered to bear it for me like all my other burdens.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30

Here are 5 steps I’m taking to learn how to let Him. 

1. Keep a Trust Journal

God does what He says He will. It’s His nature to follow through and to keep His promises. The more times you “see Him in action,” the easier it will be to trust Him again.

Write down your prayer requests and how and when they were answered. Keep track of His blessings. Date your entries. When my kids were little, we wrote prayer requests on rocks we kept in a bowl by the fireplace. Then we added the date as God followed through.

Those rocks are still a blessing to me.   

2. Open Your Eyes, Ears, and Heart

Having trouble seeing prayers answered? Feeling God’s blessings? Understanding His plans? Ask Him to show you the big picture. Tell Him you don’t want to miss a moment of the way He’s moving in your life.

Make it a point to look for how He’s working. Listen for His voice. Give over your heart and let Him soften it. Be prepared to accept a different answer than you expected.

I’ve found His ideas of meeting my needs are far from my ideas, and I can easily overlook them if I’m not willing to be okay with being blessed in ways I never saw coming.

3. Ditch Your Plan

When I prayer, I like to give God a step-by-step plan to get me to the end goal. I need D, therefor You have to do A, B, and C. But what if He wants to pick me up and put me right down on D? What if He wants me to pass through Z?

Like traveling across the country, there are many highways to take and multiple modes of transportation. If you’re stuck praying your car will get you there, you might miss the first-class flight He’s prepared for you. Don’t give God a map.

When I do that, I miss the roads that lead to the biggest blessings. And yes, sometimes those roads are hard. Let Him get you where you need to be—the way He wants to get you there. 

4. Believe He’s Got Your Back  

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and dive into deep water. I love the song “Oceans” by Hillsong. It’s hard for me to say, “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”

But the more I stretch my faith, the farther God leads me. And I’m always glad I went.  

5. Understand That Giving Up Your Burdens is a Gift

My grandmother was a control freak. My mother’s a control freak. I’m a control freak. I truly wonder if that’s genetic. It’s hard carrying the world on your shoulders. And if you’re a part of anyone else’s lives, it’s not just your burdens you’re balancing, which can make the load impossibly heavy.

Want to hear something strange? It’s harder for me to give up control of the smaller things than it was for me to give up control of my son’s health when he had cancer. Why? Because I truly had no control over leukemia or his body or the days God set out for him. And that made it easier to let go and let God.

Honestly, it’s a relief not to have to plan for every contingency. God didn’t have to offer to take my burdens. But He did. Why waste such amazing generosity?

I don’t know about you, but I want to pray The Lord’s Prayer and mean it. I want to give my fear and my burdens over to God. I want the freedom He’s offered me. Settling into a new perspective isn’t quick or easy, but I do know it will be worth it. Are you willing to take the chance to trust Him? I am. 

Lord, help. Just help. You want me to jump all in with You—no matter where You take me and what You ask me to go through. Yet sometimes and in some situations, I don’t. Or I won’t. Or maybe I feel like I can’t. That giving up my fears and burdens, whatever they may be, is beyond me. And it is. Because You want to do it for me. But for that to happen, I need to let You. Thank You that You haven’t left me to drown in fear. Thank You that You want to take my burdens. Thank You that You love me all the time and want the best for me—even if it means walking through the hard things. Today, help me to be able to say, “Thy will be done” and mean it.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash

Lori Freeland headshotLori Freeland, an encourager at heart, believes everyone has a story to tell and wants to help make those stories as strong as possible. An author, editor, and writing coach, she holds a BA in psychology from The University of Wisconsin and currently lives in the Dallas area. She’s presented multiple workshops at conferences across the country, has experience in developmental and copy edits in various genres, and writes nonfiction, novels, and everything in between. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, she loves to mess with the lives of the imaginary people living in her head. You can find her inspirational blog and writing tips at lafreeland.com.