How to vanquish sumo wrestlers

Several dark mornings a week—during the final months of my husband’s life—I woke up with a rather large sumo wrestler standing over me, pulling my stomach into a tight knot of anxiety.

Worry over the thought of widowhood. Concern about our financial situation and how I could afford to stay in the small rental solely on my salary. 


Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Peace was the guest of honor during the daylight hours as cancer was stealing my husband from me.

But there were those regular 3:00 AM awake moments when an uninvited thief showed up. Always in the dark. 

It’s challenging to care for a disabled child or an aging parent. To create a new life as a single mom. To rebuild after financial ruin. To live alone as a widow/er after being married to an astonishingly good man or woman.

Paul, the apostle who experienced beatings and imprisonment and shipwrecks, wrote something that seems a bit oxymoronic:

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. — 2 Corinthians 6:10 

How does that work? It makes no earthly sense for joy to be mixed in with the sorrow. Or that we should enrich the lives of others when we’ve lost so much.

And yet God invites us to lose and gain, to rejoice in our suffering, to possess the most important things while having nothing.

By nature, I’m not a worrier. I’m the most optimistic girl I know. But this flabby sumo wrestler kept showing up. Like clockwork.

As humans, our tendency is toward anxiety, toward allowing sumo wrestlers into our bedrooms at 3:00 AM.

Oswald Chambers called it unbelief:

Worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives … The greatest word of Jesus to his disciples is abandon.

Abandon means to surrender. And surrender sounds like admitting defeat, like I’m giving up.

But there is no giving up of my faith or my pursuit of God.

Abandon merely means letting go of my agenda, my timing, my way.

And with beautiful surrender comes peace, because we release the thing that causes anxiety.

We relinquish that child on drugs to the One who created him and loves him so much more than we ever could.

We hand over cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS to the One who wasn’t caught off guard by a devastating diagnosis.

We yield our worries about how we’re going to make ends meet to the One who has already made provision for our widowed or single-mom status. 

We cannot heal this body that won’t carry a child to full term. We can do absolutely nothing about the cutbacks at work. We can’t change the mind of the spouse who wants to leave.

But we can lean into God with this unbearable thing. And leave it there with Him. 

What if?

It’s impossible to live contentedly and worry-free with so much loss.

But what if God asks the impossible of us?

And what if the act of abandoning my wants, my hopes, my self is what washes away anxiety?

It does.

And this non-intuitive way of life—speaking gratitude in our sorrow, making many rich out of our scarcity, living contentedly after losing so much—ushers in peace and shows the sumo wrestlers to the door.

It makes what we have, enough.


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  1. Tonya Perry

    I really enjoyed reading this Marlys. Perhaps for me personally having hope over despair and having gratitude in the midst of it all.

  2. Allison McCormick

    Marlys, so beautifully stated and so hard to do in the midst of our circumstances.
    “Abandon merely means letting go of my agenda, my timing, my way.” This is a wonderful reminder that I’m not in control, never have been, and the best thing I can do is let the creator of the universe, my creator, direct my path. Thank you for reminding me to live abandoned!

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