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In this post, I want to share with you a paper written by a Bible-believing, Christian high school student. I’ve edited some portions for the sake of anonymity and/or formatting.

Holding On

Holding on exists in two natures. In the first nature, holding on is detrimental and should be profusely avoided. In the second nature, holding on is the thing that, at any costs, must be done.

For the first, I offer you poetry as an example. It, at least for me, often has the unkind ability to offer a handle to hold on to, though I mean “hold on” in the most should-be-avoided sense of the phrase. I write poetry, I delete poetry. The emotions are unnecessary and the poetry propagates them, and they are sure to be distasteful one day, like a promise broken and left to fester and crack. So, I write “in june” and end up placing it in “Trash.” Holding on when one knows it is in one’s best interest to let go is the first kind of holding on, and it is indeed a venomous character. It will slither around while you grab at it, its skin feeling nice, smooth, lovely. But, all the while, it has the cruelest ability to wrap too tightly around one’s neck. It is then that one realizes, consciously, that the poetry must go into the fire. And, sometimes, one realizes that the knowledge had been subconsciously there all the while. So, one doesn’t simply let go at this point, but rather flings away the object that had been held on to and runs. In more extreme circumstances, the really sad thing is that one might end up running right back and grabbing it all over again.

For the second kind of holding on, I find faith to be exemplary (if it is the right kind of faith, that is). There are times in one’s walk that holding on is the exact thing one does not know if one should even do. In fact, it often seems impossible. And, more than that, it often seems futile. The incredible difficulty in holding on, then, is clear because anyone who tries to do something impossible and futile is usually considered a fool, and rightly so. But, the key in this instance is in the word seems. Some will come to a time in their life when holding on is actually the right thing to do. In this case, we’re talking about faith, and so when it seems nearly impossible and futile to hold on, holding on is very much the right thing to do if one’s faith is truly structured around truth. I have come to times in my life where darkness appears to be prevailing. The demons must snicker as I sit against a wall, wanting to cry, trying to cry, maybe even pushing it out of myself like a pump that’s been cut off from the main line and dried up for three months. The prayers sometimes feel like how me and everything else feels: empty. A beaten Bible is worse than a Bible wet with tears yet better than nothing, like somehow hitting a bunch of paper or excreting salt and water from my eyes makes anything more or less real. During those times that some empty, pressing, slight exhaustion gathers at my chest, I normally wish to die. But, holding on is, in the end, the only way to go. Any other way leads to true death. There’s nowhere else to go anyhow, and no place I’d really rather be.

Speaking of the second nature of holding on, I’ll tell you that I’ve seen people let go. And it’s not pretty. [A girl I know]: left home, went off, slept around, got “stressed.” At least that’s what she said. And, I guess she’s right if stressed is just a synonym of suicidal.

There was a knock at the door. [A person] with the phone. Frightened breathing crackling through the device. “Can you talk to [this girl] for a bit? She’s in the hospital. We don’t really know what’s going on.” Well, what was going on was really just the aftermath. The aftermath of letting go. Of not holding on. I prayed with her, read from Lamentations. I tried.

It had been tylenol. Liver damage? Maybe. A few hours. They’ll see. Transferred to Children’s now. She’s scared. I want it to get worse. [The one who handed me the phone] wants her scared. Why? ‘Cause then maybe she’d grab back hold of what she had let go of. And that’d be worth far more than any amount of liver damage she might get.

I’d take healing before I take health. I’d want self-death before I’d accept self-indulgence. Sacrifice is far better than any amount of “safety.”

I remember well some of the things and people I’ve held onto. I also remember some of the things of which I’ve let go. And, after all these things, I think I’ve realized this truth: letting go is usually the only way to keep holding on. All that’s left to do, then, is to figure out which nature applies to what thing. Then make the choice.

In our lives, we hold on to a lot of stuff. And, quite frankly, we often hold onto a lot of crap we shouldn’t really be holding on to. I know I, for one, have done that and still do that. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

We need to let go of stuff. This is true, like the paper talked about, but there’s also another kind of “holding on.” We’ve got to hold on to our faith. And, I’ll add, it’s not so much holding on to our faith as it is holding on to God.

Even in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives, we must cling to Him.

He is our well in the desert, our drink when our throats are dry, our food when our souls hunger. The greatest and deepest pain cannot remove us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). Even when feeling so desperately alone and abandoned, He has not left us.

I have drunk the dregs of despair, and I have felt the great emptiness in my chest. I have felt what appeared to me as the absence of God as a saved follower of Him. 

I have suffered nothing close to what Christ suffered, yet I have felt like this:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Matthew 27:46

Notice how I said “felt.” God has never actually abandoned or “forsaken” me (Hebrews 13:5).

But how you feel can destroy your hope, your joy, your state of living. It is in those days of darkness we must cling to hope like nothing else. We must cling to God and what HIS Word promises. Because our feelings will kill us if we let them.

In the seasons of despair, emptiness, darkness, doubting, and pain, the longing for God may be a desperate intellectual longing and empty pain that can hardly be described as pain in the sense of emotions. It is an ache that is not an ache, a thing not there that one wants so badly to be present, yet it is not. I do not state this as an absolute truth I know for certain, I state it as what appears to be true based off of personal experience.

It is then a longing for God devoid of what one normally considers emotion, as the heart feels dead and longs to know the Living God. Again and again in the Old Testament, we see these words: “Then they will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 32:15, 33:29, and 37:13, for example). In Ezekiel 33:29, the LORD declares,

Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.

I do want to know that He is the LORD, yes, but I want more than that. I want more than merely knowing that He is Lord; I want to know Him. God declared to Israel in Hosea 2:14-20,

‘Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. ‘And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

emphasis added

All direct verse quotations are taken from the ESV

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