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Benevolent Detachment

Benevolent Detachment

Give Everyone and Everything to Me

I got home from work on a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago and went outside to just sit, be quiet, try to find God. Nothing big. No crisis. Not a seven-day fast. Just sitting quietly, attempting to dial back into his presence. It was astounding how many things presented themselves in a matter of about five minutes. Things I forgot to do at work. Emails I still needed to send. Emails I needed to now send to correct emails I shouldn’t have sent. The One Minute Pause is where I began. It created the space for me to then practice benevolent detachment — my only rescue.

You can’t sort all this stuff out.

And you sure can’t wait to find God and life and restoration until you’ve sorted your life out. There’s too much rushing at us; we haven’t the time to carefully and systematically think through every piece of information, misspoken word, confusing interaction, heartbreaking news. Subtly, maybe not so subtly, the burdens on the soul pile up.

I have a friend who is one of those beautiful people with the gift of seeing the spiritual world while they walk around in the physical world. One of his particular giftings is that he sees people’s “backpacks.” “Everyone has a backpack,” he says. He is referring to their burdens; he sees their burdens as backpacks they carry around with them. “Some people’s backpacks are bigger than others,” he says. “They’re filled with past regrets, present concerns, and fears about their future. But some are wonderfully small and light. Everyone has one.”

Worry is only one of a hundred things that burden our souls. Genuine concern is just as dangerous, maybe more so because it’s grounded in something noble — your concerns for your aging parents, a sick friend, a people group, a cause crying out for justice. A friend of mine runs a home rescuing trafficked girls. He wrote last week to say that the government facility is overcrowded, and they asked him if he could take eleven girls. The heartbreak was my friend had room for only five; he had to make the brutal call. Today a therapist colleague who does remarkable work with military men and women suffering PTSD lamented he can’t see enough people. “We’re losing too many to suicide,” he said. “It tears me up I can’t help more.”

Those kinds of things can fill a backpack and make it mighty heavy.

Jesus began teaching me about benevolent detachment almost two years ago. Every time I would turn to Him with a question, He would say, Give everyone and everything to Me. The invitation rang so true; I knew I needed to learn this. So I began to practice it as best I could. But then Jesus kept repeating the invitation. I’d be asking about something entirely unrelated to the people in my life — car repairs, scheduling a trip, my tax returns — and Jesus would reply, Give everyone and everything to Me. It was irritating. I finally realized that the reason He kept repeating it was because I wasn’t practicing it very well. I was carrying people. Worrying about things.

We are far more entangled with the world than we know. And the thing is, people and causes have a way of entangling themselves with you too.

Some of this has to do with the moment we live in and the obliteration of social boundaries.

Thanks to social media, everyone’s life is open and accessible through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — all of it. We’ve created an assumption that you can enter and observe, or engage, with anyone, anywhere, anytime. There are no boundaries. We’ve created an assumption that we’re entitled to enter anyone else’s private space at any time. It’s very harmful. Cell phones have been a major contributor to this loss of personal space. A friend who is a successful businessman explained to me how the rules of corporate loyalty have changed: “They expect you to be available anytime, day or night, because of this,” he said, holding up his phone. “They can text you, call you 24/7. You are now considered to be available anytime, all the time. Those are the new rules.”

I told myself as I drove off into the wilderness this morning that I would turn my phone off for a few days to enforce my disengagement. But I’ve checked my messages several times in the last hour. It’s so odd to be dialed into the technology of the world while I drive through rural countryside. This was the world of my grandmother, raised her entire life in rural America. Back in the day if you wanted to have a conversation with someone, if you wanted to enter their world, you literally had to enter their world. You got in your car and drove to their farm and sat on their porch and had a conversation. You also understood that there are appropriate hours for doing so. People were very aware that there were public moments and private moments, public spaces and private spaces.

All that is completely gone now.

People have this unspoken assumption they can enter your world anytime. It’s suffocating to the soul; there’s no breathing room. No wonder books like Boundaries and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck are selling millions. People are looking for some way to push this stuff back just a few feet. Gimme some space for heaven’s sake.


Benevolent detachment is your way out.


I know, I know — you’ve got all sorts of pushback going on inside even as you read this. “This sounds impossible; you don’t know my world.” “But what about loving? What about caring?” “How is it right to just let things go?”

Quite simply, because you’re not God.
You can’t save the world. You can’t even carry it.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? — Luke 12:25-26

Jesus is quite serious about turning everything over to Him, actually. So let’s repeat the invitation:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. — Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7

Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you. (The Message)

These aren’t suggestions. The Bible is not a book of suggestions.

You’ve got to release the world; you’ve got to release people, crises, trauma, intrigue, all of it. There has to be sometime in your day where you just let it all go. All the tragedy of the world, the heartbreak, the latest shooting, earthquake — the soul was never meant to endure this.

The soul was never meant to inhabit a world like this. It’s way too much. Your soul is finite. You cannot carry the sorrows of the world. Only God can do that. Only He is infinite.

Somewhere, sometime in your day, you’ve just got to release it. You’ve got to let it go.

We need to make this clear — the invitation of God is an unburdened life. Come, you who are heavy laden. Cast your cares upon Him. Live carefree before God. It’s practically a party invitation. One of the least understood disciplines of the spiritual life. And therefore a wonderful place of discovery for each of us, and a truly liberating opportunity to experience more of God in our everyday experience.

Benevolent detachment takes practice. The One Minute Pause is a good place to start. “I give everyone and everything to You, God. I give everyone and everything to You.” Often I find I need to follow that up with some specifics: “I give my children to You,” for I worry about them. “I give that meeting to You.” “I give this book to You.” As you do this, pay attention — your soul will tell you whether or not you’re releasing. If the moment after you pray you find yourself mulling over the very thing you just released, you haven’t released it. Go back and repeat the process until it feels that you have.

Bedtime is ideal; Stasi and I now do it every night. “Jesus, we give everyone and everything to You.” And then we usually have to name some things. “We give You our kids. We give You our aging mother. We give You what blew up at work today. We give You our ministry and mission in the world, which we care so much about — all those hurting people. We give You the Florida shooting. We can’t carry this, God. We release it all to You.”

As you practice release, what you’re doing is creating soul space; you are literally carving out the intellectual and emotional space for God to come in.

If you build it, He will come. He wants to fill you.

By the way, benevolent detachment is a gift to the people in your life. Far too often we saddle people with our expectations, hopes, and needs too. Most of the time subconsciously, but we do it nevertheless. With our need to be seen. To be celebrated. To be understood. You actually do people an enormous favor when you practice benevolent detachment, because they’d like to be disentangled from you too.

You get to break free, dear ones, “like a horse in open country” (Isaiah 63:13).

Excerpted with permission from Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge, copyright John Eldredge.

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Your Turn

Is your backpack heavy with regrets, anxiety, and worries? Let it go. Give it to Jesus. Practice benevolent detachment. Come share your thoughts with us about releasing concerns to the One who is in control on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily