Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why 'Giving it to God' May Not be Working for You

Have you ever had a problem that was really wrecking your life, or maybe even just a small problem that was causing you grief, and you felt a need to “fix” it? I’m sure most of us have. I know I have.

Now, have you ever been told to “give it to God”? I would guess that many of the people reading this have, or they already knew to do this from their youth (in which case you owe your parents a debt of gratitude). If you have never been told this, consider this “Lesson One: Give it to God”. (But that’s only the beginning.)

For those who knew to do this, did you notice how, after giving it to Him, that particular problem never, ever, EVER resurfaced again to come back and haunt you?
 Me neither. In fact, in my own little world of experience, it's those very problems I have given to the Lord that come back to me, sometimes with the most vengeance, requiring more self-discipline to even want to give it back to God again. Why is that?

I'm going to have to tell on myself a little bit, but for the sake of the few who can relate and really want to know why “giving it to God” isn't working how you expected, I'm willing.

I like to eat. And I don't just mean that I enjoy eating meals. I like to EAT. I eat for sustenance. I eat for fun. I eat when I'm stressed. I eat when I am depressed. I eat to celebrate. I eat when I'm bored. I eat things that taste delicious. I eat things that taste curious. And don’t you dare think that a little thing like “being reasonably full” is enough to keep me from dessert or a second helping!  I think you get the idea. 

So, let's say that I have decided that eating too much is a problem for me. It’s fairly obvious, right? So, here I go: “Lord, I am an overeater and I use food for something above and beyond (or below and beneath) what you have created it for. I have a food problem and I am giving to you. I want to honor you with my body, and with the things I put into it. I want to treat your gift of sustenance with respect, and not abuse it. Please, Lord, heal me of this eating problem.

Problem solved, right? Sure, for about two days. Then, after dinner one night, one of the kids drops a glass bowl on the tile floor. He's barefoot, and the barefoot baby is toddling into that same area just as glass is scattering across the floor at 100 miles per hour. Stress. Not cool. Now I'm anxious and angry. Throwing an adult hissy fit about the broken glass everywhere as I clean, I manage to get it all swept up...with a toddler in one hand, a broom in the other, and a scared five-year-old frozen in his tracks, too afraid to move a muscle.

Now I'm stressed out and guess what I do. As soon as the kids are in bed and I can finally relax, I go straight for the pantry to get some “comfort food” to calm my nerves. I'm not hungry because we just ate dinner, but I need something “to help me relax”. Is any of this sounding familiar to anyone? You could replace “eating” with “having a smoke”, or “having a drink”, or “avoiding my family for the rest of the night because seeing or hearing them will toss me over the edge”, or any other number of things that we call “coping mechanisms”.

Looking back at this scenario, is eating too much really my problem? In that prayer I said two days ago, did I “give my problems to the Lord”?
 No! All I gave God was a coping device, and that coping device was only superficially treating a symptom, and He knew it, and that's where the glorious part comes in. God doesn’t want to just remove my coping device, and He doesn’t want to just heal a superficial symptom. Coping devices aren’t all bad (unless we abuse them) and symptoms aren’t bad either. In fact, those symptoms can be really helpful signals to us sometimes.
No, He wants to heal my *problem*. He wants me to get to the root of the issue and address it, deal with it, work through it, and then give Him my trust that He will help me through the core issue.

God knows our needs before we tell Him. The Bible says so. He knows what my real problem is, even if I don't. And He knows in my heart that I really want to “give it to the Lord”, even if I don't know what I'm supposed to be giving Him. So what does He do? He gives me the opportunity to discover what my real problem is. As I place myself in His presence and go to Him with my struggles, asking Him why I fail in dealing with them and why I go back to munching on snacks for comfort (or whatever it is that I do to cope), He speaks to me in my reflection of the event.

I over-reacted. I lost my temper and self-control. I self-soothed with food (or whatever). Eating was not my problem; it was my crutch. Why did I need that crutch? I needed it because I was injured/wounded somewhere. Where? OR maybe I just like “comfort” too much and it has made me lazy…too lazy to actually deal with problems. Do I have a disordered attachment to always wanting to be comfortable? Do I have suppressed anger about something? What might it be and where might it have come from? Do I need to work on being less lazy and less attached to (addicted to?) comfort?

Maybe it's an anger issue from a stressed childhood. Maybe it's insecurity from being rejected at a crucial developmental milestone. Maybe it's past abuse of one form or another. Maybe it's something hidden deep down that you need help seeing (professional help, I mean). Or maybe it really is just a disordered attachment to wanting constant comfort. Whatever it is, THAT is what you should be taking to the Lord.
 If all you give to Him are your coping mechanisms, or even just the symptoms, you will never see an end to those problems. Sure, you may deal with them in healthier ways and work at avoiding your specific crutch. But my bet is that you will see similar and related issues pop up again and again, and you will find other crutches to lean on as those same symptoms resurface time and again. And if you spend any decent amount of time really reflecting on your past and present, you will start to see trends.
But once you start seeing trends, it gets easier to identify the root of the problem. And once you have identified the root of the problem, you are NOW ready to “give it to the Lord” and allow Him to help you work through it.  (Notice I said, "help you work through it", and not "fix it for you".  God expects us to participate and use our free will in this.  He forces nothing on us, even if it's for our good.)

By walking us through all these questions and helping us reflect on our reactions, how we felt in certain situations, how we feel now, etc...God helps us get to the root of the problem. He shows us what to give to Him. And if we don’t figure it out at that time, He doesn’t give up on us. In fact, he allows us to continue to suffer the symptoms of the problem, which lead us to find other crutches, which *should* be a big red flag waving at us that we have still have not gotten to the root of it, and *should* encourage us to continue searching for that issue which we need to bring to our Lord. And to top it all off, God doesn’t mind if we use HIM as our crutch instead of those cookies. And if we do use Him instead of the snacks (or whatever else), He is all the more willing to gently lead us to a real solution by pointing us to the real root of the issues. That’s really magnificent, isn’t it?

In my next article, I’m going to tell you all about a retreat I recently returned from that has been life-changing for me. One of the reasons it was so powerful for me was exactly what I just talked about. Christ showed me how to find the root of my problems and He has begun freeing me from the havoc that they were causing in my spiritual life.

If “giving it to God” has not been working the way you expected, take some time to reflect on why that might be, and whether you are really bringing the root of the issue to Him.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici,

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