Giving Up

Over the last year or two, my hands seem to be developing a spontaneous “clench,” frequently “curling shut” without conscious orders on my part. It may be a side effect of too much keyboarding; it may be general tension–or it may be a physical manifestation of my tendency to “tighten my grip” on life, to hang on to what I have, particularly my (theoretical) control of life and destiny. I’m the type who clings even to worries and fears as though they were friends, or at least some insurance against dreaded events’ actually happening. Turn your back on a threat, and it’s liable to pounce on you.

Hebrew scholars tell us that the phrase translated “Be still” in Psalm 46:10a literally means “let go” or “surrender”–an inherently terrifying idea. You’ve probably seen some version of the film scene where someone is clinging to the third-story ledge on a burning building, and firefighters on the ground pull out a rescue net and shout, “Jump, we’ll catch you!” In such a spot, most people are at least briefly paralyzed. Somehow, the risk of the plunge seems almost more threatening than the certain alternative of burning alive.

When trapped in a less imminently fatal position, victims have been known to hang on to the ledge, or the rock in the swift current, for hours before letting go so the rescuers can catch them. Often nothing short of utter exhaustion will release a person’s grip on a handhold which, however precarious, still offers some obvious security. It’s the same in everyday life. How often have you heard of someone who kept insisting he’d “take a vacation when I get caught up,” and wound up taking a rest in the hospital after his heart or emotional stability decided not to tolerate the pressure one more second? The craving to find security by seizing full control of life is a major factor not only in health problems but in sin; we don’t trust God to do what’s best for us, so we decide to do it ourselves. And like Eve who first fell for the “you can be like God” line, we find out the hard way that the job description is more than we can cope with.

If the stress of chasing control has drained you to the point where you feel like giving up, that may not be all bad. Only when we give up–when we admit that this is more than we can handle–can we let the Rescuer catch us. Yes, the plunge is terrifying. But it’s the only way to get from our precarious grip on “control” to truly secure ground.

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  1. Delora Buoy

     /  June 11, 2011

    Please Google “Dystonia Medical Research Foundation.”
    I’m certainly not a doc but it sounds like a focal dystonia (movement disorder) to me – i.e., writer’s cramp or something similar. A neurologist should be able to pinpoint a diagnosis for you. (A PCP may just give you a pass.) There are treatments for this. Don’t accept a descriptive “diagnosis” which is no diagnosis at all. I doubt it is a psychological manifestation.

    I hope this helps. Thanks for reading.
    Delora Buoy
    TCP member

    • Thanks, Delora. For other interested parties, the DMRF’s Web address is The section on “relaxation and stress management” is particularly interesting; it seems virtually every physical problem is aggravated by stress. Watch for a post here someday on “‘Worried Sick’: No Mere Metaphor.”



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