Editor’s Note: Franciscan Sister of the Allegany Sr. Cathy Cahill, OSF, reflects on letting go of difficult decisions and situations and placing them into God’s hands.
A number of years ago I was faced with a very important DECISION. I had the freedom to choose between two equally good opportunities that I will call X and Y. Saying yes to X would have made huge changes in my life and there was some peer pressure to choose this one, though I was leaning toward Y. I weighed all the pros and cons, consulted with people I trusted to be honest with me, and prayed for guidance. There were many sleepless nights as I agonized over the DECISION.
Finally, my spiritual director said, “Listen, you have done all the discernment foot work. From now until the time you have to give an answer [five days from then], every time it comes into your mind simply pray, ‘Into you hands, Lord, I commend this decision.’ Then get on with whatever is in front of you to do.” It seemed simple enough, so I tried it.
Any time the thought of the DECISION came to mind I prayed, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend this decision.” I slept like a contented baby that night and the night that followed. As I went about my work and the DECISION popped up, I simply repeated, “Into your hands…” When the telephone call came asking for my decision I answered clearly with Y and never looked back!
I knew the prayer from Psalm 31 and Jesus’ words as he was dying and certainly hoped that would be my dying prayer, “Into your hands…”. The insight my spiritual director shared that night was that if we are going to pray that prayer at the end of life it will be because we have been praying it all through our lives, making a habit of letting go of all sorts of things.
From that experience, I began to use the prayer if I was worried about a relative, friend, co-worker. When I hear of illness or troubles and feel helpless, the words come to my lips, “Into…” Of course, sometimes I wait way too long before I remember to pray those powerful words, hanging on thinking I can fix things. Progress, not perfection!
In my retreat work with people in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions (experts in letting go, by the way), I have shared my experience and suggested they try it with people/situations/concerns.
A dear friend, Annie, used it when having difficulty with her daughter and again when she had to undergo very delicate and painful eye surgery. Every now and then she will call me from West Virginia and say, “I’m still praying that prayer you told me about.” Recently I ran into Lucy and asked about a mutual friend of ours. “She’s not doing so great, but I keep praying that prayer and letting her go.”
Lent is a good time to remind myself to let go of what I need to let go of and put all the people, situations, and concerns of my life where they belong – in the hands of our good God!
Practice: Right now! What would you put at the end of this sentence: “Into you hands, Lord, I commend _____________.”
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user zefe – labeled for reuse