[Some of you have told me these Tuesday letters are going into your spam or junk folders or not reaching you at all. Please add my new email address email@example.com to your contact file and that may help. Or just hit “reply’ with a quick hello and that should do it!]
Now, you know that situation you’ve told God about constantly? The one you’ve prayed over, bent under, lifted up and cried out?
The adult child who is estranged from you or her siblings.
The horrific assaults on your health.
A loved one’s battle with depression.
The betrayal you cannot seem to forgive.
You smile politely when well-meaning friends advise you to “let go and let God.” Not that they aren’t right. But why is it so doggone hard to do?
Over 25 years ago, a situation arose that I never write or speak publicly about, and I won’t here. It’s enough to say there was nothing my husband nor I did to create the mess, and nothing we could do to fix it. Any attempts we made towards resolution were like the fable of the Tar Baby – it got uglier and stickier the more we tried.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
What began as a simple misunderstanding with another individual spiraled into a fear-inducing nightmare that went on for years. And years. And years.
While I pressed forward parenting our five teenagers and keeping my commitments to church, employer, and speaking ministry, my body took a beating. Although I was eating normally, my metabolic system spun out of control like a gas meter in a cold snap, my weight plummeting to a number the scale hadn’t seen since I was sixteen.
I prayed constantly for God to resolve that which we could not. I ranted, wept, profusely thanked the off-duty policeman my organization hired to stand outside my door when I spoke at conferences.
At around the five-year mark, nothing had changed except one thing.
I’m done, Lord, I cried out. I give up. If this situation bedevils us until the day I die, I accept that You have a purpose in allowing it to continue. I’m not going to ask you when or why any longer.
Outwardly nothing changed. In fact, in the years to come incidents multiplied that were so bizarre I wouldn’t have believed it if we weren’t living it.
But I was at peace. I had learned to relinquish that which I no longer had to hold.
Years earlier, I had been cast as the late author Catherine Marshall In a summer stock theatre production. The play was A Man Called Peter, the dramatization of Catherine's three-year battle with tuberculosis and her marriage to U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall.
I wrote Catherine for advice about her wardrobe in the 1940’s and how she styled her hair. She graciously loaned me personal photos, and we struck up a warm correspondence. Catherine passed away just three years later.
Widowed at 35, Catherine was no stranger to heartache. But it wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered a prayer she wrote that that has impacted millions.
If you are tired and sick of agonizing over a situation that resists resolution, perhaps Catherine Marshall’s prayer is meant for you today:
“Father, for such a long time I have pleaded before You this, the deep desire of my heart:_______. Yet, the more I have clamored for Your help with this, the more remote You have seemed. I confess my demanding spirit in this matter. I’ve tried suggesting to You ways my prayer could be answered. To my shame, I have even bargained with You. Yet I know that trying to manipulate the Lord of the Universe is utter foolishness. I want to trust You, Father. My spirit knows that these verities are forever trustworthy even when I feel nothing. That You are there… That You love me…That You alone know what is best for me… Perhaps all along, You have been waiting for me to give up self-effort. At last, I want You in my life even more than I want ________.
"So now, by an act of my will, I relinquish this to You. I will accept Your will, whatever that may be. Thank You for counting this act of my will as a decision of the real person even when my emotions protest. I ask You to hold me true to this decision. To You, Lord God, who alone are worthy of worship, I bend the knee with thanksgiving that this too will work together for my good. I relinquish this to You. Amen." -Catherine Marshall, the Prayer of Relinquishment
That gut-wrenching situation we experienced? After a decade and what I believe to be divine intervention, it suddenly stopped. But even if it had not, I would still be grateful for what I learned along the way, and for how much better I became equipped to empathize with others.
“My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.” 1 Peter 5:12b
Whatever headache or heartbreak you are carrying right now, friend, surrender it to the only One strong enough to carry it.
Thankfully, that’s not you.
With so much love,
Coming Next Week: “The Big Bunkroom Reveal: How Using What You Have Can Repurpose Your Life”
Maggie Wallem Rowe is a dramatist, speaker, and author who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The author of two books, Maggie has learned that she can't but God can, and it's time to let Him.