Letting Go of the Things We Can No Longer Hold


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
— Isaiah 43:18-19



We are well into the new year, and as time so cunningly passes by, so much has already unfolded. Winter break has come to a sweet close, work has resumed, new jobs and projects have begun, and resolutions have kicked into gear. January is a symbolic month representing fresh starts in the thick of winter, and while the new year never fails to inspire change, it can be difficult to let go of things that have happened in the previous year to move forward and see a more promising forecast for the future. The wisdom of Isaiah 43:18-19 spring to mind: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” These timely words from scripture invite us to say goodbye to what has happened so that we might welcome what he is presently doing in our lives. To release the impulse to hold on and instead allow ourselves the permission to let go of things we can no longer hold.

To fix our eyes upon the future is not to say that we leave the lessons and insights of the past behind. Rather, it allows us to lean into the growth engendered by those lessons as new opportunities spring forth. Sometimes, it seems easier to bottle up the "hard" things that make us feel weak and present only the stronger, more stabler sides of ourselves to the world. Instead, we should be more compassionate in allowing ourselves to process what needs to be released so that we can heal. And in doing so, we can make room for new experiences and chapters of life to start.

A life of faith is one of constant renewal. The Bible repeatedly reminds us of our restored nature and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This notion of newness is an active and pervading presence, a daily invitation for us to step into a reinvented self. It is something we should expect to see in ourselves and others. Jesus urges us to look at the “new thing” he is doing instead of ruminating on what was so that we do not miss what God is showing us in the “here and now”. Sometimes, we get so tied up in trying to understand what lies behind us that we forget to look forward with expectancy to what lies ahead. Letting go is a choice. And when we do, a beautiful breakthrough unfolds. It is as if we sprout wings, prepared to fly without the weight of our inner world, too heavy to carry, ready to embrace what awaits. In this state, we can begin to look ahead with firm footing and a sort of freedom, like the birds of the air, ready to go to new places where God freshly leads.

Whatever is holding us down from last year, may we permit ourselves to lay it down at the feet of Jesus. We can rest assured that by taking this risk, we won’t be losing anything we need to become who we are meant to be. With a new year at hand, the time is now for us to step into a clean slate, one that says hello to new beginnings that spur a renaissance within and throughout our ever-changing lives. What lies in front of us is more exhilarating than we can ask or imagine. May we let go, and be free. Amen.


Words: Alexis Ragan
Images: Hans Veth

Bird perched on a tree branch
A bird flying through the air with wings outstretched
Small bird perches on a branch
Bird perched on a branch

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
— Isaiah 43:18-19



We are well into the new year, and as time so cunningly passes by, so much has already unfolded. Winter break has come to a sweet close, work has resumed, new jobs and projects have begun, and resolutions have kicked into gear. January is a symbolic month representing fresh starts in the thick of winter, and while the new year never fails to inspire change, it can be difficult to let go of things that have happened in the previous year to move forward and see a more promising forecast for the future. The wisdom of Isaiah 43:18-19 spring to mind: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” These timely words from scripture invite us to say goodbye to what has happened so that we might welcome what he is presently doing in our lives. To release the impulse to hold on and instead allow ourselves the permission to let go of things we can no longer hold.

To fix our eyes upon the future is not to say that we leave the lessons and insights of the past behind. Rather, it allows us to lean into the growth engendered by those lessons as new opportunities spring forth. Sometimes, it seems easier to bottle up the "hard" things that make us feel weak and present only the stronger, more stabler sides of ourselves to the world. Instead, we should be more compassionate in allowing ourselves to process what needs to be released so that we can heal. And in doing so, we can make room for new experiences and chapters of life to start.

A life of faith is one of constant renewal. The Bible repeatedly reminds us of our restored nature and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This notion of newness is an active and pervading presence, a daily invitation for us to step into a reinvented self. It is something we should expect to see in ourselves and others. Jesus urges us to look at the “new thing” he is doing instead of ruminating on what was so that we do not miss what God is showing us in the “here and now”. Sometimes, we get so tied up in trying to understand what lies behind us that we forget to look forward with expectancy to what lies ahead. Letting go is a choice. And when we do, a beautiful breakthrough unfolds. It is as if we sprout wings, prepared to fly without the weight of our inner world, too heavy to carry, ready to embrace what awaits. In this state, we can begin to look ahead with firm footing and a sort of freedom, like the birds of the air, ready to go to new places where God freshly leads.

Whatever is holding us down from last year, may we permit ourselves to lay it down at the feet of Jesus. We can rest assured that by taking this risk, we won’t be losing anything we need to become who we are meant to be. With a new year at hand, the time is now for us to step into a clean slate, one that says hello to new beginnings that spur a renaissance within and throughout our ever-changing lives. What lies in front of us is more exhilarating than we can ask or imagine. May we let go, and be free. Amen.


Words: Alexis Ragan
Images: Hans Veth

A bird flying through the air with wings outstretched

Additional readings

Finding God in Mystery and Wonder

How mystery and wonder invites us to seek God in newer and deeper ways.

On Relinquishing Control, A Prayer for Anxiety

Reflective thoughts and study of Philippians 4:6-7 on how God is in control in the midst of anxiety.

Creativity as Devotional Practice

A reflection on how we can approach the creative process as a devotional practice.

Listening with Intention

Adapting our daily rhythms to hear where the Spirit is leading.


Additional readings

Finding God in Mystery and Wonder

How mystery and wonder invites us to seek God in newer and deeper ways.

On Relinquishing Control, A Prayer for Anxiety

Reflective thoughts and study of Philippians 4:6-7 on how God is in control in the midst of anxiety.

Creativity as Devotional Practice

A reflection on how we can approach the creative process as a devotional practice.

Listening with Intention

Adapting our daily rhythms to hear where the Spirit is leading.