Ever been told to “Let it go?” We heard the song for one whole summer after practically every little girl in America had seen the Walt Disney movie; Frozen. How fitting, since the movie was about letting go of the power of evil, so goodness can reign victorious; just as it does with the children who belong to The Kingdom of God!
You might have been told to “Let it go,” after the loss of an argument, material good, or bad friendship lingered when it should have been out tossed into a yard sale box. Whatever the reason, hearing the words: “Let it go,” may have come off as offensive, insulting, or admittedly truthful. It can be hard to let things go, when you feel you have a right to them, were cheated out of something, or lost out on a promised gift which wasn’t delivered. Whatever it is, it isn’t worth giving up your freedom and peace of mind to hold on to it.
In just this past week, I’ve been told about several situations in which Christian people are subjecting themselves to emotional abuse, manipulation, and control. These good people have found themselves dangling from the end of a string in order to receive something they aren’t quite yet willing to let go. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, felt like a yo-yo to someone else’s whims? But isn’t the choice to not be played, exactly how we prove our trust in God? There’s so much freedom in letting go!
The devil is a crafty puppeteer. He knows just what to do to get other people to do his dirty work for him. When we figure out how it’s done, we gain perspective and can be on guard against it. Then we will realize the play on emotions is not coming from God. In fact, we have the power and authority in Christ to get rid of them. It then becomes much easier to establish boundaries, and keep them in place where they belong.
Some of the emotions the devil likes to use to keep us hanging by a string, are: guilt, fear (or its lesser cousin; anxiety) and anger. All of these emotions combined together pack a big punch to the gut, resulting in depression. No wonder we feel so bad! Depression is a place where no one wants to be, so people tend to hang onto anything they can to avoid it. However, letting go tends to be what we need the most. When your well-being is hanging by a string, someone else is in control, and it’s not you. No one willingly allows a person to play with his or her heart, but it discreetly happens among Christians every day. So how exactly, does the devil use emotions to get people to control Christians?
Guilt: The devil loves to use guilt on compassionate and empathetic Christians. He likes to make us feel bad about situations, and feel sorry for people. He often uses sickness, financial situations, and the lie of “family is blood.” This means he may work at getting a family member or friend to make you feel pity for someone who is cruel to you, by insinuating you should remain tied to that person because he or she is chronically ill. It’s harder to walk away from someone who is ill, because we feel we are being “unChristianlike.”
It’s also difficult to walk away from someone who attempts to reel you in by using their financial situation as an excuse. Why? Because we are taught, as Christians, to bless those dwelling in poverty, and to care for the poor. We are also taught to watch over our family. However, this does not mean that those who are in financial straights have a license to abuse you. Nor does it mean that you are indebted to be in contact with an abuser just because he or she is a “blood relative.” This is why God has also given us knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and boundaries.
In no way does God expect you to stay in an unhealthy relationship where the love of Jesus is not practiced, just because you’re born into that family. In fact, Jesus made it clear that anyone who is willing to hang back with the family members who don’t love and serve him, is not someone fit to be his disciple. “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’ ” (Luke 9:61-62 New International Version). Jesus is not talking about your family members who are serving him alongside you. They are already willing to go with Jesus too! He is talking about pretenders, wolves, fake “Christians,” idol-worshippers, and those who choose the way of the world over God’s commandments. Yes, pray for the unsaved and the backslidden, but don’t lose out on the opportunity to serve Jesus, by going back to those who refuse to obey him. Our first priority is Jesus Christ. We should follow him first and foremost; always moving forward, not back.
Jesus told his own disciples, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matt. 10:14). It’s the same for us. If anyone will not welcome our love for Jesus or listen to us share the truth of the gospel; we are to go on our way. God is not only giving us the freedom to leave, He commands us to go. Jesus even says, “‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me'” (Luke 10:16). That’s serious! People who reject our message about Jesus are rejecting both Jesus and GOD! They will have to answer to God for playing with our emotions, lying and slandering, and gossiping about and making fun of us. I’m glad I’m not in their shoes! As we walk away, they definitely need our prayers!
Fear: The devil loves to cause anxiety within the hearts of believers. He does this by getting abusive people to convince their victims that they actually need the abusers to survive. What? This doesn’t make sense! Oh but it does. It happens all the time, and is especially the case with narcissists (extremely self-centered people who need your attention to thrive). Christians are not immune to being deceived by these types of behaviors. It’s why we need to be constantly in prayer, and in our bibles; so we will recognize the red flags. These kinds of emotionally abusive people may dangle expensive gifts like vacations and cars, or large sums of money in front of your face. These gifts always come with “conditions,” or strings. The goal is to make you dependent on the abuser now, and going into the future; so you’ll go back for mistreatment again and again. How does this cruel emotional abuse occur? It happens in the form of anxiety provoking statements and power play (you get to be the yo-yo).
For example, you may be threatened to be taken out of the family will if you have a disagreement with a parent who doesn’t understand unconditional love. You may be told your children’s college trust fund will be taken away, even if the children were previously told they were being given a gift. A parent or grandparent may suddenly stop making payments for braces, a school loan, or a car which was supposedly purchased for you. A manipulator in charge of a yo-yo is well-practiced with all the tricks which go along with throwing a yo-yo. Manipulators study you, so they know what you need and which buttons to push to get a desired action from you. They also know how to twist the situation with lies, and to feign innocence by pretending everything was just a “joke” or “misunderstanding.” But emotional abuse is no joke. It’s sneaky and subtle and sinful. Don’t be fooled into thinking an emotional abuser won’t do the exact same thing to your children or manipulate your children in order to try and get back at you. If you let yourself be played, you’ll end up being an anxious, tangled knotted mess of a yo-yo … unless you choose to cut the string and escape!
If you don’t put a stop to it, these same issues and more will continue to be dangled up and down in front of you, with no relief in sight; fully contingent on the mood swings of the abuser. The car payments may start up again if you make time for long phone calls and visits with the manipulator, or if you invite the manipulator on the vacation you wanted to take with only your immediate family. The yo-yo will be drawn back up, when you behave (give the abuser his or her own way) but in an instant will be thrown back down, when you disagree with the abuser (by establishing your own independence). Why succumb to this game you’re destined to lose, when God promises to provide for us, care for and unconditionally love us; all while meeting our every need! NO strings attached! If he cares for the sparrow, just think of how much more He is watching over us! “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31). Do you want to be left to the whims of a toxic person dangling false gifts which disappear in an instant, or do you want to hold fast to God’s promises, which are always true, and last for eternity?
Another abusive tactic used by toxic people, is to instill fear of abandonment, and attempt to isolate his or her victim, so others won’t find out the truth. An abusive personality will do this by lying to your loved ones and acquaintances, so they won’t even want to talk to you. The abuser will try to convince you that everyone hates you, and that it’s all your fault for being “unforgiving,” just because you’ve placed some biblical boundaries in order to put a stop to the abuse. It may actually be true that some of your family and friends drop you from their lives, and stop talking to you. But ask yourself if you really need unhealthy people in your life who naively believe and accept the words of another person, without even giving you a chance to tell your side of the story.
Perhaps God is actually protecting you from a bad situation and stressful, unnecessary drama. God does use bad situations for our good. When we receive Christ, we are adopted as children of God; we never again have to worry about being alone or left behind! In the Bible, God promises He will never leave us: “No, I will not abandon you as orphans–I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18 New Living Translation). God sees you when you’ve fallen to the ground after being pushed out of the nest. He is your rescuer!
Anger: We’ve all been righteously angry about a friend or family member who mistreated us. By placing boundaries, sometimes it gets worked out, and other times it can’t be mended. But either way, if we hold onto the anger, it’s unforgiveness. It’s difficult to let go of a situation when we feel we deserve an apology for a wrong done to us. It’s even more difficult, if you were the one attempting to communicate in a godly way, as your friend chose to participate in gossip. Sometimes people tell others they have no idea why you’ve put up boundaries, but in reality, they do. Subtle comments, and false “concern” about someone else’s business is still gossip. Gossip creates anger and destroys relationships. “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28 NIV). If the Bible says it; it’s true. We may have to accept that some friendships may have ended for the best, and let go. We can trust God has protected us in that situation, and that He will repair and restore anything that is yet beneficial. We can ask Jesus to take away our anger and heal our hearts.
The Bible says not to even hang around with these types of toxic people: “I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Cor. 5:11 NLT). Even though we are not to engage or be friends with these types of toxic people, we still need to pray for them. We need to forgive these people in the name of Jesus, even if we don’t “feel” like it. We then give God permission to work on our hearts and free us from the hurt, pain, and rejection. Why should we forgive? Because it heals our hearts, releases other hearts to The Holy Spirit, and because God said so: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14 NIV).
Sometimes we have righteous anger because of material goods. Someone may have kept something which rightfully belongs to us; refusing to return it when we request to have it back. Maybe our item was carelessly ruined. Maybe it was even stolen. Perhaps money has been borrowed and not returned. But anger will eat us up inside, and it grabs a hold of us, by keeping us tied to the person who wronged us. We still have to forgive, and let it go. No amount of money is worth our peace and sanity.
Besides, who needs material goods, valuables, and money on earth, when God has promised us an eternal treasure beyond our wildest imagination; waiting for us up in a Heaven? We are heirs and heiresses of The Holy King! “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:14-17 NIV).
Notice how the guilt, fear, and anger all cross over and work together? Yet, even though the devil works hard to keep us enslaved, the silver lining is that we are free in Christ Jesus! We can let go of all the strings, and let God take over! When we do this, we are taking a step of faith. Cutting the strings that bind us, is a way of placing biblical boundaries in our lives. It is a way of letting God know that we trust in only Him, and God promises that He will never, ever let us down! We are FREE!
But will it hurt? Yes; but not forever. Compare the cutting of the yo-yo string to having surgery. Ouch! The surgeon has to make a cut to get in and fix what’s wrong. Then afterwards, he patches you all up, and slowly, over time, you heal. You get stronger. You feel better. You even start to feel… GOOD!
Jesus, The Great Physician, frees us from believing we are “missing out” when it comes to gifts with strings attached, and relationships with abusive, toxic, narcissistic people. God helps us to find forgiveness and put healthy boundaries in place, so we can move on. When we let go, and let God; we release the pain. Hope arrives, leaving room for The Holy Spirit to do a good work in us. It gives God the opportunity to replace the losses with blessings, restore our hearts and minds to health, and to redeem our lives from the pit!
Prayer: Dear God, please release me from the strings which keep me from freedom in Christ. I renounce guilt, fear and anxiety, and anger in Jesus’ name. Please forgive me for not fully trusting You. Remove my depression. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, and give me wisdom and discernment to see the truth. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
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