Let Go and let God?
Today I want to look at something I think many Christians struggle with. Loss.
Let's take a look at the Scripture from which today's journal entry originated:
Elisha Succeeds Elijah
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 And they said to him, "Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the Lord has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley." And he said, "You shall not send." 17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, "Send." They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him. 18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not go'?"
19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, "Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful." 20 He said, "Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it." So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, "Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it." 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.
23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria." -2 Kings 2:15-25 ESV
So, to understand this Scripture, we need to look at context. I encourage you to read the full chapter, and really all of 1 and 2 Kings to understand better. The context of Kings was that the majority of of the kings of Samaria and Judah were wicked and evil, but God raised up prophets to prophecy God's wrath on their wickedness unless they repent. Only 8 of all of these kings would wind up repenting. In 1 and 2 Kings, the 2 most prominent prophets we see are Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was sort of the mentor, while Elisha was sort of like Elijah's disciple, but they were both faithful to the LORD.
Elijah had faithfully preached for the kings of Judah and Samaria to repent confidently, and taught Elisha to do the same. But, in 2 Kings 2:1-14, the sons of the prophets prophesied to Elisha that Elijah would be taken to the LORD--and Elisha knew this...but insisted on staying with Elijah until the end. And this happened. We see what some may consider weird when Elisha tears off his garment in two--but what's important to understand here, is that this was a common way in that time period to express mourning, grief, or sorrow. This was painful for Elisha, perhaps like losing a brother or other family member..someone he deeply loved. This action may actually help us better understand his actions in the second half of this chapter.
In the second half of this chapter, we see that this responsibility that Elijah had fell squarely on the shoulders of Elisha, all the while having to wrestle and grieve with the loss of a brother whom he cherished. There is something of note here...When the sons of the prophets insisted on searching for Elijah...he blamed himself...he felt ashamed. Ashamed of what, I don't know. Perhaps not being able to fulfill those shoes...perhaps not knowing what to do next, but he blamed himself. Perhaps ashamed that he could have done more for Elijah before he passed. We can speculate all day long, but we do know that Elisha didn't have the promise God promises us in the New Testament in Romans 8:26-30:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)
We know that God is working things for good...but Elisha didn't know that. But as we go on in this passage, I can sense the frustration in Elisha as some boys verbally bully him. Though, despite his frustrations, God displays his justice towards the unrepentant na'ar (na'ar is translated children, but would refer to young adults, probably around King David's age when he fought Goliath, as he is described as na'ar as well) and his mercy and protection towards Elisha to bring about His purpose. In one sense, tragic, in another sense God was working for good to bring about the Savior that would come to cleanse us from our sin.
Like Elisha, we don't want to let people go. There will be times when God calls someone to be with Him in Heaven; there will be times when a friend or family member moves away; possibly even a son or daughter who goes away to college or gets married. I think parents, more than anyone, understand this notion of losing someone they love, and trusting God to bring them through life, even if they also must trust another person, or institution, to minister to a life they've poured into for so many years.
However, I would like to stress here, that in all these dealings, there was always a good note in the leaving...at no point in the story of Elijah and Elisha, nor in the practical application of today, is the let go mantra ascribed to a sinful division. Only in an encouragement to continue with the Lord even though they may not be in your presence.
When dealing with a severed relationship as a result of sin, our dealings are different and we do have a responsibility to attempt to go and be reconciled, and work things out with one another, living in peace with our brother, as per the instruction in Matthew 5. To say, let go and let God handle it in response to sin, is a neglect of our own responsibility to maintain unity within the church.