We’ve all heard it. When you’re experiencing problems in your life, as a Christian, you should just “give it to God”.
Lost your job? Give it to God!
Your wife left you? Turn it over to Jesus!
Struggling with how to deal with your diagnosis of cancer? Let go and let God!
Sounds good. The problem is, every Christian I know has struggled with this advice. It seems that a common experience is giving it to God only to find it sitting on our lap again a short time later. When we question this advice, we’re told it is our fault—we just don’t have enough faith. Coupled with the frustration of experiencing the stress over and over, many of us decide this whole “give it to Jesus” thing is nonsense, and we quit trying.
So, are we supposed to “give it to God”, or is this just pop theology?
A study of scripture shows that we are indeed invited to give our cares to the Lord, but we don’t normally do it the right way (Yes! There is a “right way”!).
Jesus said if anyone is carrying a heavy burden, they should come to Him. Specifically, He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 10:29a, NIV).
Notice, He didn’t say “give me your troubles and feel good”. He said we should do two things: 1) take His yoke upon us, and 2) learn from Him.
For those of us who were not brought up around beasts of burden, a yoke is a kind of harness, in those days usually made of wood. An animal taking on the master’s yoke was taking on the burden and tasks the master imposed on the animal. For us to take Jesus’ yoke on us is to accept that He is master and allow Him to “harness” us by accepting that our life is about doing His will. Jesus assured us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
In addition, Jesus said we are to learn from Him. Many of us don’t like this. Why should we have to learn in order to be different? If God wants us to be different, why can’t He just make us different? Why doesn’t He just change our life—or our heart?
I am not aware of a place in scripture where this question is raised and answered. However, it is clear from a reading of the New Testament that God is interested in both the process and the result of our journey. We are often told to listen, learn, practice, and obey. There appears to be a benefit to us from going through this process (remember that God is love, so everything He does with us is what is best for us). The long-term purpose of this process can be seen by reading Hebrews 12.
So, Jesus didn’t tell us to “give it to Him” as though we can simply hand off a problem and it (along with all the emotions we experience) will go away. Instead, He told us to accept His Lordship and make doing His will our priority, and while we do this, learn from His example and teaching–and presumably, apply this to our own lives as we change.
“Giving it to Jesus” is actually a trade—our problems for Jesus’ will.
But even when we obey Jesus’ words, we can still feel anxiety, fear, concern, etc. Disciples of Jesus are still human beings with the full range of emotions God has given humanity.
Sometimes, we not only feel the same feelings as someone who doesn’t follow the King, we actually feel them more intensely or more often. For example, I may feel guilt and a sense of defeat when I give in to judgmental thoughts about another, while my neighbor might stand in the street and spew obscenities against his neighbor without the slightest qualm. The difference is, I want to live as Jesus commands. My neighbor doesn’t care.
As Christians, we care about following the Lord. We know we won’t be perfect in this pursuit, but that doesn’t change the fact that we want to be. We want to be and do exactly what Jesus wants us to be and do. When we fail at this, it affects us emotionally. As long as it doesn’t overwhelm us, I am not convinced this is a bad thing.
So, can we just “turn it over to God?”
If by this we mean simply wish a problem and/or the emotions that accompany the problem away, the answer is “No”. But if this means we accept the Lordship of Jesus and make His priorities ours—making the concerns which cause us such anxiety take a back seat to fulfilling the mission He has given us—and learn how to live life more faithfully, the answer is “Absolutely!”
As we do this, we need to remember that this isn’t a mechanical response programmed into us by our creator. It is a loving response given to us by one who cares about us and happens to us. We need to remember that God is not as concerned about our moment-to-moment happiness as He is about our growth and lifelong joy.
Disciples of Jesus can and do turn their problems over to Jesus by accepting His priorities in our life and learning how to live life from Him.
Know Jesus, and Be Faithful!