How do you react when things go wrong? Your e-mail or Twitter gets hacked and people send you unkind messages… You’re stuck in traffic and late for an important meeting… Your child misbehaves in public or your adult child makes a choice that troubles you… You realize that the message you taught wasn’t your best…
In situations like these we may worry about what people think about us. Or maybe we get angry at ourselves or someone else. Or we can abandon outcomes to God. What’s done is done. I can’t control how people react to this and so I chose not to worry about it but to trust God.
This is a discipline of submission to the sovereign Lord that I have found so helpful.
Abandon Outcomes to God
In Renovation of the Heart Dallas Willard teaches abandoning outcomes to God as a primary lesson for our formation in Christ and our soul care. Indeed it’s been enormously helpful to us and to many of the pastors and leaders/caregivers we work with. What exactly does it mean? When Dallas Willard encourages us to abandon outcomes to God what is he saying?
Dallas says, “The secret to peace, as great apprentices of Jesus have long known, is being abandoned to God.” (p. 135) He elaborates:
If grace and wisdom prevail in the life of the one who only surrenders to God’s will, he or she will move on to abandonment. Then the individual is fully surrendered. There is no longer any part of himself or herself that holds back from God’s will…
We therefore no longer fret over “the bad things that happen to good people,” though we may undergo much hardship and suffering. While [God] does not cause these things to happen, we now accept them as within his plan for good to those who love him and are living in his purposes (Romans 8:28). Irredeemable harm does not befall those who willingly live in the hand of God. (p. 150-151)
Abandonment and Power
When we learn to abandon outcomes to God Dallas explains that we not only experience contentment but also the opportunity for “intelligent, energetic participation in accomplishing God’s will in our world. We are no longer spectators, but are caught up in a vivid and eternal drama in which we play an essential part. We embrace our imposed circumstances, no matter how tragic they seem, and act for the good in a power beyond ourselves.” (p. 151-152)
In other words, perhaps much to our surprise, when we learn to stop trying to make things happen and instead abandon outcomes to God we are greatly empowered by God! We discover God’s grace anew, that he is acting with us generously and powerfully and we can join with his action. “The strongest human will,” Dallas explains, “is always the one that is surrendered to God’s will and acts with it.” (p. 152)
In Jesus’ Easy Yoke
Dallas says that it’s in the easy yoke of Jesus that we learn to abandon outcomes to God (Matthew 11:28-30). We “accept that we do not have in ourselves — in our own ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’ — the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever ‘this’ is” (p. 209). So we “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). We take on Jesus’ meekness and lowliness of heart — the humility that is the framework for all virtues — and what wonderful rest of soul we experience! What great freedom from anxiety!
I share what I learned from Dallas Willard in the book I published on January 1st, 2016: Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke.