How to Choose Joy While Letting Go

When my daughter was in high school she played on a volleyball team. Even though she was homeschooled, a local school welcomed her to be a part of their sports program. One of the coaches befriended Brianna when she was at a summer volleyball camp and invited her to play on the team. Although we were excited for this rare opportunity for her, it also came with some hesitancy for my husband and I. What would her teammates be like? What about peer pressure? Bad influences? Temptations? Cliques? Bullies? After much prayer we decided that this was a good fit and opportunity for her and she began her volleyball career that lasted through her college years.

We made it to every match the team played and, with each one, the reality that our little girl was growing up became more clear than ever. Although it was exciting to watch her play and cheer her on, seeing her interact with her teammates and take on the responsibilities of daily practices was eye opening. Watching her climb into a van with the team to go to away games was hard, as we had to learn to let her go and trust that God would protect her, take care of her, and enable her to be a strong witness and example.

To be honest, there were times that I would ride home from the games with a heavy heart. Not because she had done anything she shouldn’t have done, but because I was reminded that she was growing up and that I couldn’t be a part of all of her experiences anymore. I couldn’t be there to protect her or be a buffer when circumstances were difficult.

This was the beginning of all the letting go moments.

The fall season can be exciting when you have school-aged children, with all the new opportunities, new schedules, new schools, different grade levels, new notebooks and books. It can feel as if you have a fresh start when the school year begins. But, if we are being honest with ourselves, this new season can be bittersweet and come with some sadness as well. When our kids begin a new school year it can be another reminder that they are growing up and becoming more independent.

With each step forward they are taking a small step away from us and into what will eventually define their lives.

They’re becoming independent.

How can you have joy in this new season with the realities that are present? I believe that if you can learn to “choose joy” in the daily letting go, it will prepare you for the days when the letting go gets even bigger. At least, that is what I have been experiencing over the years as we have walked our children through high school and college graduations, new jobs, and their wedding days.

How To Choose Joy In Changing Seasons

1. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:8

Be honest with God and pour out your heart to him. Talk with him about this new season. Tell him that it is bittersweet. Tell him what makes you sad as you watch your children grow up. Tell him your fears and what makes you anxious about this season. Pour out your heart to him. He knows. He understands.

2. “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1

Take time to remember. Thank God for His faithfulness in the life of your children up until this moment. Ask him to remind you of all the ways he has provided for and protected your children. Remember the lessons learned in times they may have not made great choices and how he has used all for His good. Thank Him for the wisdom he has given you as a parent. Thank him for how he has equipped you to guide your children and how he has equipped your children for the opportunities that he has provided for  them. Thank him for the growth you have seen in your children and acknowledge that you know it is him that is working in their hearts.

3. “For I know the plans I have for you, (and your children!) declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Look forward in confidence. You can trust God with your children and their future. He has been faithful in the past, you can cling to his promises that he will be faithful and cling to the hope that is found in him alone.

Making the choice to go before the Lord in this way is the path to choosing biblical joy in these bittersweet seasons of change. It is in the process of pouring out our heart, remembering his faithfulness, and looking ahead in confidence, that we will find joy in the midst of difficult and emotionally draining days of letting go. This is a choice we will have to make one day at a time, maybe even minute by minute. God gently and lovingly challenges us to cling to the hope that is found in Him alone – and it is there that we will find biblical joy.

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Gina Smith is a writer, author of Everyday Prayers for Joy, and has been married for 32 years to Brian, a college professor and athletic trainer. For 25+ years she and her husband served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents, where Brian was a professor and dean of students. They reside right outside of Washington DC and are the parents of two grown children, one daughter-in-law and one son-in-law. Now an empty-nester, Gina has transitioned her ministry from full-time mom and part-time writer, to being a mom who is available to her adult children as much as they need her and writing as much as she can at her blog.


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