It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way — Chapter 8

Letting Go of What’s Holding Me Back.

A few years ago I read this amazing book, Anything, by Jennie Allen, and I think that was the first time I was confronted with the reality that something was “holding me back” from doing ANYTHING God asked me to do. Something was holding me back from growing in my faith.

And it bothered me.

Am I not a Christ follower? Sold out for his kingdom? Wanting His plan for my life? Hasn’t God been faithful in my life…enough that I can trust in His provision and equipping? Don’t I want healing and wholeness?

So, why the holding back? What is holding me back?

Over time God revealed that for me it’s fear. At first it was a general revelation…that “fear” holds me back from stepping fully into an unknown future with God, from growing closer to Him with greater and greater trust.

More recently, He nailed it down more specifically — it’s a fear of what people think. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing to admit…that at 50 I’m still worried about what people think.

So, to see this week’s title, “Letting Go of What’s Holding Me Back,” I turned the page with equal parts apprehension and excitement. I vacillate from, “I am so ready to deal with what’s holding me back” to “I’m not ready to deal with what’s holding me back.”

Yet I turn the page and start the chapter. And I can’t quit reading.

I’m grateful for Lysa and her willingness to let us into her messy faith journey, the one that has all kinds of bumps and bruises, missteps and mistakes along the way. It’s so tempting for us to look at someone like Lysa and assume that because God’s given her a platform that reaches thousands of women daily with the love and truth of Christ, she has it all together.

She’s quick to say she does not.

The reality is, none of us do. I don’t know about you, but it’s hope-giving to know Lysa’s life is as messy as mine. She wisely goes on to warn us not to give in to the temptation of thinking that when our lives get messy, it means our faith isn’t strong enough.

“Weak moments don’t make weak faith. Weak moments make us even more aware of our need to press in to faith. A faith in God that helps us know that what we see isn’t all there is. Weak moments are also clues telling us what needs to be addressed right now in this part of the journey. Don’t beat yourself up for weak moments. But don’t ignore them either” (page 128).

Feeling weak? Lean in to God. Lean in to discover what it is that fuels the weakness, to see what might need healing, to find a strength and a hope that can only come from God.

How do we lean in? How do we let go of what’s holding us back?

Lysa points us to Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

From this passage, she pulls out three key things we can to do to live a free life — free to deal with past hurts, free to move forward in wholeness, free to engage in whatever God has for us.

  1. We are to throw off what hinders us.
  2. We are to stay free of the entanglements of sin.
  3. We are to persevere by keeping our eyes on Jesus, who is the author of our story of faith.

Throwing Off What Hinders.

First, we need to recognize that some of our hurt and disappointment, fear and shame comes from a suffering that is not a consequence of anything we’ve done.

Maybe something was done to us or against us by someone else. Perhaps our struggles come because of an accident or a natural disaster…or disease. And there are those times when evil has its way in this world.

Lysa assures us that it is not in God’s nature to CAUSE these things. But He does allow them. In His vast, sovereign, mighty, and mysterious ways (those ways that are not our ways…), He allows life to happen…the joys and the sorrows. The good and the bad. The holy and the hard.

But no matter what happens, He is there. He is always there. With us. His Word promises over and over again that He is with us and won’t forsake us. We can lean in to that truth and find comfort and strength. We can also trust that He wants to work all things for our good — His Word promises that too (see Romans 8:28).

The more we get to know God, the more we can trust Him. And Lysa encourages us to trust God to lead us through the hard things, past them to a new day, a new season.

“Hang on to God’s perspective. Give Jesus the weight of what you’re carrying. Stay unburdened and moldable. And you’ll be light to many others” (pages 134-5).

With Jesus, we can throw off what hinders us from growing further in our faith.

Getting Rid of Sin That So Easily Entangles.

Next, we have to face the fact that some of our troubles come as a direct result of our own decisions. We can be held back by sin we bring on ourselves.

I often wonder if we, the American church, are ultra sensitive to the word “sin” because we have come out of a not too distant history where we were beaten over the head about our sinful ways — the rules were set and “the fear of God” was put in us so that we wouldn’t break said rules.

That’s religion. Rules without relationship.

And maybe in an effort to avoid that sort of “bashing,” we’ve just avoided the topic of sin altogether. Only, that isn’t the answer either. That just leaves us entangled, tripped up in our own self-produced messes.

It’s good for us to differentiate between “religion of rules” and a faith in Christ that is based on a relationship with a living, breathing God who wants what’s best for us. And, as any good parent would, He has given us some great boundaries and guidelines to try to point us down a path that keeps us from entangling ourselves.

As our good parent, God also lets us live in the consequences of our actions and reactions. However painful they might be.

Yet He never leaves us. He never gives up on us. He always stands at the ready to offer grace and forgiveness and way forward.

This is what Lysa is talking about. She hopes we’ll see that when we choose sin, we’re choosing our own path…not God’s. And that our sin breaks trust.

“Therefore, we can’t expect God to entrust a calling to us before our full confession, cleansing, and having a new heart created in place of our broken heart. When trust has been shattered it has to be rebuilt with believable behavior in our actions and reactions over time” (page 138).

Did you catch all those “C” words? Confess, Cleanse, Create, Call. These are simple but important steps toward restoration we can take with the Lord, just as King David did after his sin season with Bathsheba. In his repentant Psalm 51, David moved through each of these steps, giving us a pattern we can follow today (see pages 136-138).

There’s a progression in Psalm 51 that shows us how

“God took the dust of David’s sin and remolded him. David confessed. He asked God to cleanse him. He asked God to create within him a new heart. And then a calling was formed.”

David’s deepest desperation led to a great revelation from God.

And the same can be true for us when we surrender to the Lord” (page 138).

Despite our past experiences with churches and other Christians, we would be wise to remember there is no condemnation in Christ (see Romans 8:1). Even with our sin, God can make things new. He can mold us in the process of our confession and cleansing to give us a new heart, a new calling.

But it starts with us. We need to be willing to allow God to search our hearts and bring to mind the sin we need to confess. Not to leave us in it, but to move us out from its entangling arms…to freedom.

Persevering by Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus.

Lysa opens this section with the Eugene Peterson (The Message) paraphrase of Hebrews 12:1-3.  It’s worth sharing here:

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

What Lysa sees in this paraphrase is the “secret of being a person who keeps going” …the “secret of being steadfast” (page 140).

Because Jesus lived life here, fully human, fully tempted, fully feeling all the feelings, He gets it. He gets us. Which is why it is so good for us to keep our eyes on Him. As Eugene Peterson put it — we need to go over His story again, item by item. His story? The Bible.

If ever there was a way to navigate this life we live, a way to understand all that we are going through, a way to build belief that God is good even when life isn’t — it’s going to the Word itself, looking at how Jesus did life.

I love that Eugene Peterson described Jesus as never losing sight of where He was headed because some days I don’t actually know where I’m headed. But with my eyes on Jesus, I can get back on the right path. I can persevere. So can you!

Pulling It All Together…

We want to let go of what’s holding us back, so we start with identifying the WHAT. What’s holding you back? Some sort of suffering placed on you? The entanglements of your own sin? Failure to persevere in a hard season? When we get a clear picture of the WHAT, then we look to WHO.

Look to Jesus — for strength. For direction. For healing. For comfort.

Trust His heart for you. Trust His love for you. Our circumstances won’t always change, but whatever we face, whatever we’re dealing with, we have a Savior who wants to be in it all with us.

We want to remember to wrestle well — from feelings to faith. And to trust that nothing is wasted with God. He will have purpose for all we go through.

“Isn’t it a beautiful thing that keeping our eyes on the Lord makes our burden light? And then He takes our burden and uses it as light? In the end, not only will our suffering produce perseverance–endurance for our race–but it will bring forth hope. Glorious, glorious hope for all” (page 144).

Running the race, Shelley Johnson

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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