For this session, you’ll need….
- a large suitcase
- a variety of items—at least one per person. Include a Bible, as well as several of the following:
- work-related items, such as a stapler or even a laptop computer
- family-related items, such as a photo album
- items representing personal interests, such as a football, book, backpack, musical instrument or baking pan. The heavier the item, the better—but make sure it fits in your suitcase.
Find an area where you can spread out all your items (and your group members, once this activity starts). Put out all your items before your group arrives.
Laying Down Your Day (20 minutes)
Have group members get into subgroups of three or four.
Take a few minutes to talk about your “Lay It Down Today” assignments this “week” (see Lay Down What’s Done / Lay Down Your Hurt/Bitterness/Addictions/Idols). Which did you find most useful or interesting? Which ones were more difficult or hard to connect with? In each case, why? Talk about it, and we’ll come back together in about five minutes.
After five minutes, bring everyone back together. Take them to the area where you’ve placed all the items from your supply list.
The items here are meant to represent different interests and priorities each of you have—God, work, family, hobbies. So let’s take turns here. Grab an item that represents an interest or priority of yours, and place it inside the suitcase.
Let everyone take a turn loading items into the suitcase. If you have more than one item per person, let everyone have another turn. Load your suitcase up, but be sure you can close it. Once your suitcase is fully packed, say something like, Let’s see how easy it is to carry all this stuff from our lives around.
Take about 10 seconds to pick up and hold your suitcase, and then pass it on to the next person to hold. Let everyone have a turn—and don’t let your suitcase hit the floor until everyone’s had a turn. Afterward, sit back down and discuss these questions:
- We’ve spent a lot of time this week looking at our need to “lay down our baggage.” Even though we loaded it with mostly good things, how is our suitcase like the baggage you’re carrying in your life right now?
- How relieved were you to hand your baggage to someone else? What does that tell you about the need to let go—and the importance of helping others to let go?
- What does it also tell you about the dangers of putting all our baggage on others?
We all have our “stuff.” Some of it—like the items in our suitcase—isn’t all bad, but has taken too much priority in our lives. But as we’ve read this week, we still carry around a lot of baggage from our past, and while we may have moved on from it we’ve never really let go of it. We still carry it around, and it still holds us back from fully becoming who we were meant to be in Christ. So let’s dig deeper into this.
Laying Down the Word (25 minutes)
Have someone read the following excerpt from “Lay Down What’s Done.” Then, discuss the question that follows.
Our experiences, to a large degree, have made us who we are. But we are more than our experiences, let alone our negative ones. There’s a life in Christ waiting for us that goes beyond what we would limit ourselves to. “Laying down what’s done” doesn’t mean we forget the things in our past. And it certainly doesn’t mean we stop feeling anything when they come to mind, although hopefully we learn to move on more quickly. It does mean that we no longer allow ourselves to own those things, and that we no longer allow them to own us.
- In what ways do you still find yourself defined by the negative experiences in your past? What positive things have nonetheless come out of those experiences?
Ask for another volunteer to read the following excerpt from “Lay Down Your Bitterness.” Then, discuss the questions that follow.
When we refuse to forgive, we keep others in bondage. Jesus says it: ‘Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 18:18). Forgiveness, or the lack thereof, has that kind of power. By believing that we need—deserve—to be repaid for the wrongs done to us, we become, in a very real sense, spiritual slave owners. We accuse others of evil—then, instead of freeing them from it, leave them trapped in it. Are those the kind of people we want to be?…
In short: You don’t get to hold onto your hurt. You don’t get to allow it to fester into bitterness. You don’t get to hold it over their heads. Let me handle it. You, lay it down.
- How does our unforgiveness reveal a lack of trust in God?
- How does giving your hurts and bitterness over to God release both you and those who’ve wronged you from the bondage of unforgiveness? Share a personal example, if you can.
Have a volunteer read the following excerpt from “Lay Down Your Addictions,” and then have another volunteer read Hebrews 2:14–15, 18. Discuss the questions that follow.
[A]ll of our addictions—all of our sin, really—is a response to the gnawing sense we have, deep down, that God doesn’t really want what best for us. That God’s will comes at his whim, and at our expense. That we, the created ones, somehow don’t owe everything we have to the Creator in the first place.
- Whether it’s unforgiveness, caving into an addiction, or any other baggage we carry—what power do you think sin gives you, at the time you’re indulging it? Share as much as you’re comfortable.
- How does (or should) the fact that Jesus has “been there” help free us from those sins—and to release others as well?
Laying Down Your Life (15 minutes)
- What idols did you identify in your life as you read “Lay Down Your Idols”? (Review now, if necessary. It’s right below this post.) How do they connect with the baggage you’ve identified this week? In other words, how do your past hurts and your current idols feed one another?
Have a volunteer read John 5:2–15, then discuss:
- What are some reasons that we choose not to get well? How would (or did) Jesus respond to those excuses?
- Where are you not allowing Jesus to heal you right now—or where do you wish he would but instead you just feel stuck? In what ways might you still be resisting his healing?
Close by praying for your group—or, if you’re familiar enough with one another, pair off. Spend some time praying about your answers to question 11 (and 9 as well, if you have time). Ask God to overwhelm your lack of trust with his love, and to give you a heart that’s willing to lay down your baggage, so you’re willing to receive whatever God wants to give you in return.