Why Letting Go Can Be a Struggle

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“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Aren’t there times when it feels as if the ‘brake pedal on your life’ is fully engaged? How often have you wondered what’s stopping you moving forward? No matter what you do, you can’t get to the next level in your career, your business doesn’t make a U-turn into the black, despite constantly dating you struggle to find the right partner, you wake up feeling no better this morning than you did yesterday. You’re “stuck in a moment” (thank you, Bono); and you wonder: ‘Isn’t life supposed to be better than this?’

God has good plans for our lives; plans to give us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). However, sometimes the very opposite seems true and it’s tempting to blame God or to question His goodness or demand/declare/claim a better future in a posture of confused entitled prayer that, in my view, isn’t very effective. After all, what loving parent rewards a child pulling an enormous tantrum, even when they’re on their knees?  

We’re reminded throughout the Bible that “God is good” and that His promises are always true. So, when we’re not making progress, I suggest that the issue is more likely us than Him. A better prayer would probably be: ‘Hey God. Please could you help me understand what’s happening here? What’s holding me back?’

Jonah learned the hard way after being stuck inside the fish for three days and nights that his predicament was due to his failure to obey a clear directive from God to travel to Ninevah and preach a life-saving message. His fear took him in the wrong direction jeopardizing the lives of everyone on board the ship and demonstrating he did not trust in God to protect him. It’s easy to judge Jonah yet how often do we hear God clearly, choose a different path and then wonder why life doesn’t go the way we’d hoped? In Micah 3, the Israelites are begging God for help, but Micah chastises them: “Do you really expect him [the Lord] to answer? After all the evil you have done,..”. Sometimes, we are stuck because we have made poor choices and need to let go of stubbornly living life on our terms, repent and turn back to God. 

Many choices that we make hold us back. The rich man in Matthew 19 refused to follow Jesus as he was first required to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. This doesn’t mean that you can’t follow Jesus and enjoy great wealth. However, if you place a higher priority on being rich than obeying Jesus, get ready to miss out on many blessings He offers. On the other hand, the disciples chose to forsake their regular lives and simply be in the presence of Jesus serving alongside, and learning from, Him throughout His ministry on earth. Although that road wasn’t easy at all, their choice to let go of anything that stood between them and being with Jesus led them to lead extraordinary, sacrificial, history-making lives.

So much of the time, we can’t grab hold of what God has for us because we need to let go of what we’re desperately holding onto. Take a moment and reflect. What might you need to let go of? Maybe unprocessed loss, disappointment and pain so consumes your heart that you’re simply unable to move forward until it’s resolved? In the huge Hollywood hit of this summer, we encounter Maverick still grieving for his friend Goose more than 20 years after throwing those dog tags into the Indian Ocean. Maverick’s grief still causes him to take crazy risks when he flies and explains why he’s never attained his true level of leadership and recognition. Yes, Maverick is a genius but so much of it is unrealized. His old friend Viper wisely tells him, “First one dies, you die too. But there will be others. You can count it. You gotta let him go.”

Is your issue one of unforgiveness? Nelson Mandela left his undeserved prison after almost 30 years, saying: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” If he hadn’t let go, he would have lived a far less abundant life once free.

Perhaps you need to admit that your attachment to a position, title or lucrative compensation package is holding you back from stepping out into a new career path or opportunity to follow your God-given passions? As a founder, are you struggling to let go of your incredible creation and enjoy the new adventures God is calling you into? Are you unable to admit you made a mistake, (apologize?) let go and move on? Is a beloved hobby preventing you spending enough time in church or fellowship with others? The list is endless. 

The process of letting go is not easy. Often, and this takes courage to admit, we have defined our identity around aspects of our life that are the hardest to release. We probably all know someone who is defined by their job title, corporate or leadership position and seems lost when they are suddenly without it. How many more of us, if we’re truly honest, allow some aspect of our life’s journey to become a crutch or excuse for remaining comfortably right where we are rather than stepping into more challenging God-ordained activities? Using an example from my own life: when I was finally miraculously healed of PTSD and depression in 2021, there were no more ‘reasons’ for not getting my self-care into better order and moving out into entrepreneurship and ministry rather than hiding behind the comfort of a ‘safe’ corporate executive position. I’m still shaking off the past, but the point is, I’m moving forward every day. I’ve witnessed so many anointed and gifted women choosing to park pursuit of their life’s true calling in order to avoid first removing a mask of self-pity or the lie that ‘I couldn’t serve others/try something new/be bold until…’. It’s tragic to watch. If the past 2-3 years have shown us anything, it’s that life is short and precious, and we don’t have much time to make an impact for eternity on this earth. So, what are YOU waiting for?

One final thought: tough things (like letting go) are always better done in community. A recent sermon on grieving talked about mourning being the very time when we need each other the most. Biblical mourning is not about locking ourselves away with Ben & Jerry. Instead, we’re to intentionally spend time in community crying, holding each other, reminiscing, laughing, working on moving on. “God blesses those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Comfort is hard to find alone at the bottom of a wine bottle or scrolling mindlessly through Netflix. Trust me, I know! 

That’s one of many awesome aspects of this 4word community: we do so much of life together. In the years I’ve been connected to some of the kindest, wisest, most generous and loving women in my life through 4word, I’ve been honored to share moments with dear friends who have: lost husbands, children, grandchildren; walked through job loss, business and financial failure; beaten serious illnesses; conquered shame, pain, grief and loss like champions, and grown in faith and understanding of God’s goodness regardless of what life has brought them. If you could use a family like this to help you find courage to let go, reach out. We’re here and so looking forward to connecting with you!

Emma is the Founder and Principal of Swallowtail Group and a global business executive known for her entrepreneurship, strong empathetic leadership style, courage and skill in taking on messy challenges. Emma has a proven track record in complex organizational transformations and a natural talent for pulling together high value creation teams. Additionally, Emma’s passion for organizational design, psychology, and development led her to pioneer mentoring and leadership development initiatives for fellow executives and senior managers throughout her career. Emma has a growing reputation as a solid and passionate advocate on mental health issues that impact the workforce, especially at executive leadership levels.

Emma is very active in the community, both nationally and locally. Recently, Emma was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, serving as a thought leader on industry matters. Emma serves actively on the Board of 4word, a national, faith-based non-profit that supports women in the marketplace in growing with confidence to meet their full potential. Previously Emma served as the President of the Board of Trustees of an influential non-profit in Northern Virginia for six years and worked for several years as an ambassador for two global non-profits providing micro-financing for women in developing nations and addressing human trafficking issues.

Outside of work, Emma is a devoted wife and mom to two young children and an active member of Holy Trinity Church, McLean. Her hobbies include a passion for travel, learning about great food and wine, music (she is a classically trained soprano), movies, and reading.

Be part of a global mission to impact 10 million women to integrate their faith at home and at work. 4word is a global organization with expansive networks connecting women every day. Join us and be part of the journey. To learn more about Journey 4word, click here!