How to Let Go of Your Need to be Okay by Emily Wierenga

by | Oct 10, 2013 | Uncategorized

Emily is one of my dearest, most kindred blogging friends. She is bold and generous; lives out her life with deep conviction to Jesus Christ and love of family. I’m so honored to share her wise and winsome voice here with you. I hope you’ll welcome her in the comments and check out her blog for more inspired writing and books.


I was reading the memoir, A Stolen Life. I kept putting it down and then picking it up and saying how hard it was to read, and my husband asked, “Why do you then? Why do you read such sad stories?”

I didn’t know the answer until I was standing on the moonlit floor of the bathroom, sleepless again, and I saw myself as a little girl standing and watching people, just watching–this little homeschooled girl in her second-hand clothes and bowl-cut hair, watching the world–trying to understand how it keeps going. Keeps spinning. Trying to discover the secret to its endurance and faith.

Sad stories get me, because the character of the story had the tenacity and strength to endure the past, and the motivation to write about it. And I want to know the secret. I want to know how to endure.

I was in our old red mini-van and it was hot. I was trying to get the air flowing. Everything was fixed, the vents were open, the temperature was set, and still there was no air. Finally I realized I hadn’t pushed the power button. Suddenly, air released into the van and we could all breathe again and I prayed right then and there, Lord, let me find Your power button. To release Your Holy Spirit in me. Let me breathe.

And I don’t know if it’s the stories of the Syrian refugees traveling miles carrying bundles, having nothing and somehow surviving, but I’m learning to let go of my need to be okay.

Because part of overcoming is being able to sit in the pain. And to not only sit in it–but to embrace it.

In his memoir, All is Grace, Brennan Manning recalls words that Brother Dominique Voillaume said to him: “You are on the threshold of receiving the greatest grace of your life. You are discovering what it means to be poor in spirit. Brother Brennan, it’s okay not to be okay.”

I’m a fixer. A controller. I need to take care of something and fast or else it will bother me, and when I can’t, I don’t let go. I just let it bother me.

When I’m lying on my pillow at night and I can’t sleep, I get so fixated on insomnia that I forget to rest. Because even though I’m not sleeping, I can still rest. I can choose to accept my sleepless state rather than fighting it.

Rainer Maria Rilke says this:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves like
locked rooms and like books that are written in
a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers,
which cannot be given you because you would not be able
to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.

We will go through trials. Christians should expect to go through more, in fact, than the rest of the world because we believe in One who was killed for his teachings. Who was called a heretic and drunkard. A blasphemer, and we will go through pain. But perhaps it’s not all about getting to the other side. Perhaps it’s about the journey, the sitting in the pain and knowing God is there with us. Jesus could have called down angels to release him from the cross. He could have proven he was God another way. He didn’t have to die.

Yet his Father called him to it, and so he obeyed. He prayed bloodied tears and then he endured the crucifixion. He didn’t fight it. He knew one day he would rise. And he knew God was doing something big in the pain.

God is with me in the darkness. He is with me in my sleeplessness. He is with the Syrian refugees as they walk. He is with the writers of sad stories in the midst of their stories, before they are ever written.

I don’t need to be okay.

Because God is here. In the unanswered questions. In the empty. In the pain.



Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we let go of numbing, powerlessness and scarcity this week to cultivate a heart of resilience, gratitude, and joy. This is day 10 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.


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  1. Amy Hunt

    Em, the ways you’ve been heavy on my heart . . . And then there was this. Yes! Just come. Amen.

  2. ro elliott

    So sweet to see dear emily hear…aren’t we all on the same journey…learning to rest in His love…the deeper we truly know how loved we are…the more we can rest…in those sleepless night…the unanswered prayers and the pain of this world…OH yes…Immanuel…the God who never leaves or forsakes. this is a wonderful combination…two gifted writers…lovers of Jesus…together here…blessings to you both sweet ladies.

  3. Elizabeth Stewart

    Oh, Em, this hit me deeply tonight. Just spent a couple of hours working in a ministry called Pure Heart. Tonight’s topic was dealing with mother wounds. As I prayed with grown men, sobbing like the little five year old boy they were when they saw their daddy beat their mama senseless, I assured them that God doesn’t waste our wounds. And oh, I do believe it.

    • michelle lucio

      “…God doesn’t waste our wounds.”

      Words I needed to hear myself. Wow. Thank you.

  4. DeanneMoore

    Sitting with pain is so hard. I used to be a “runner.” Pain kept up with each step. In fact, it will out last our stamina and soon we run down. I have learned this lesson to sit in the pain with the Savior. We resolved so much when I wasn’t running…

  5. Emily Wierenga

    Thank you for hosting me today sweet friend. Love you.

    • shelly

      It’s my honor and privilege to have you here Emily. You are such a dear friend to me and a gift on my writing journey. So glad God saw fit to have our paths cross. Can’t wait to see you in two weeks!

  6. HisFireFly

    yes, it is okay
    I’ve spent so much time worrying about not being okay and worrying about worrying, silly cycle
    He says “just be” and I Am with you, always
    thank you Emily
    and Shelly, I finally got here through the link on Emily’s blog, Seems to be the only way that works

  7. Laura Boggess

    so beautiful and vulnerable and true, emily. love that quote from Rilke. i think of that old Buddhist saying: accept, embrace, let go. accepting i’m not ok allows me to have permission to live in love in this skin. good words, friend.

  8. Jessica Mueller

    “Because part of overcoming is being able to sit in the pain. And to not only sit in it–but to embrace it.”

    I’ve had 3 natural births and whenever people ask me “How?” I tell them it gets easier, more manageable when you quit fighting the pain and give in. That’s so much harder to translate to the rest of my life even though it’s still true.

    • Jillie

      So true, Jessica, and what a wonderful way to illustrate this truth. I fought the pain all through labour for my first. Second time around, I stopped fighting the pain and gave in to the process. Much easier! Maybe, because of your words here, I’ll remember better when tempted to fight against the pain of my memories. Thank you.

  9. mercynotes

    Uhh..this rings true. I’ve been thinking about this very thing a lot lately. Thanks for your words :).

  10. Kris Dahl

    Wow. So blessed to read this today. So blessed, dear friend. You have spoken to my heart….all of it, is just what I needed to hear. Thank you. Thank you Thank you.

  11. Debbie Keady

    Hi Emily! I enjoyed your thoughtfulness in this post. I also follow you on twitter. I discovered you because I am a consultant with ViBella jewelry in Iowa and saw you linked with one of their posts!!!! Hugs and Love to you!

  12. jillie

    Oh Emily…This was beautifully expressed, as always. Girl! You have such a way of writing…uniquely your very own. I always feel this fragility when I read you, and yet you are a woman of great strength and wisdom. You bring tears to my eyes. You are helping so many, myself included, to process this journey of life. I’m so grateful you are here. Bless you.

  13. Missindeedy

    Emily, these words hit my sleepless heart in exactly the raw places and soothe them. I find myself sleepless many nights. Acceptance and rest – two words that I need to be more comfortable with practicing. Thank you for sharing these words here.

  14. Alyssa Santos

    Em, I recently listened to a message by Buechner and he talked about the full emptying of Jesus as he hung on the cross and the pain of it all, the dangling over hopelessness and having nothing at all but turning to God, to the hope of his love. I know a little, only a little of this “not being okay” and during the long months, of extreme pain, I learned the goodness of not being okay. Wonderfully written, here, my friend. And Shelly is on of my favorites, so it’s great to see you in her place.

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