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How to Know if You Turned a Problem Over to God

Step 3 asks us to make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Ok, so if you’ve done the act of turning a problem over in your thoughts and prayer, how do you know you’ve genuinely turned it over? Is there some feeling or checkbox that tells you’ve turned your difficulties over to God?

It feels easier said than done, and many newcomers are confused about when they know they’ve turned over their will to their higher power.

We Take Action for Step 3

Step 3 is about deciding to turn our will and problems over to God. Ultimately, we must follow the decision up with action.

You can understand step 3 similarly. If three birds are on a branch, and one of them decides to fly away, how many birds are left? Three. That’s because one bird only decided to fly off. It hasn’t taken action to lift its wings and go.

The requisite action is straightforward.

  • Seeking advice from others with similar experiences
  • Praying to our higher power for direction
  • Taking it easy and not forcing any outcome
  • Not getting married to any particular result that we want (staying out of the results business)
  • Applying the other steps as needed
  • Keeping in mind that we are agents of God’s universe, not seeking our selfish desires

A large part of knowing we turned over our will demands a different perspective than usual. It’s a perspective that asks us to remove our selfish desires and see how we fit in God’s plan, being of service to others. For me, this outlook is a drastic shift from the viewpoint that propelled my actions before and is sometimes tricky to apply, even though the Big Book describes it simply.

We Remember that We’re Not in the Results Business

You’ve probably heard it said in a meeting, “I’m not in the results business.” This phrase is another description of step 3 and turning our problems over to God.

Giving it to God means we don’t try to force an outcome we want. We do our part, and God handles the results. Trying to arrange for the results we want doesn’t show that we trust our higher power’s will. It shows we’re still relying on our own will.

That dream job may not be in his plan for now.

For instance, when we don’t get that job we want after the interview, do we accept that it may not have been the right path for us? Do we blame ourselves for not working “hard enough” despite suiting up, showing up on time, and putting forward the best version of ourselves? I know that for me, it’s hard not to wallow in self-pity after a job rejection. But over time, I’ve found that rejection doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about me. It means I can’t always know his plans, and all I can do is my part, letting him handle the outcome.

When I didn’t get that dream job I interviewed for, another one came along I wasn’t expecting from word of mouth. I can’t possibly know if even the dream job at the dream company would be all that great for me. It could be a fantasy I’ve built up in my mind.

God’s plan takes a lot longer than I want. If I let God be the guide, a better plan appears. I usually can’t know it’s better until I look back over the months or years, as well.

We Consider the Advice from Others

“Hearing” God’s voice isn’t something Alcoholics are known for. We rationalize our decisions with reasons we should do them, but most of the time, we haven’t thought them through or allowed God to share insight on them.

Alcoholics often get God’s voice mixed up with their own. Let us leave direct communication to the prophets!

God speaks through other people. That’s why it’s essential to seek help from others with our decisions. When we’re faced with a complex problem or decision, turning it means that we run the situation by other people we trust and hear their feedback. It’s wise to find people who have experienced the same problem. They speak as someone who’s been there.

The experience of others informs our decisions.

Turning a problem over to God doesn’t mean we completely ignore our insights and judgments. We have brains to use, after all. But sharing our insights with other people, getting it out of our heads and into the daylight, is a way to make sure we hear feedback from all angles.

Our judgments improve with the color of experience from those who’ve been there and done that. God shares his opinion through other people.

We Sleep on Big Decisions and Allow Intuition Time to Appear

The Big Book suggests that we “relax and take it easy; we don’t struggle” when we’re looking for an intuitive thought or decision. This suggestion is another way of saying we sleep on it or put it aside until inspiration comes.

We have a habit of rushing impulsively into decisions when we don’t need to. Most things can wait. We should allow time for a decision to come to us. We pray that we need help and let the time pass for an answer to come.

Turning it over to God means that we give him the time and space to guide us. Rushing into matters doesn’t provide enough time.

It is perhaps difficult to put aside a problem when it’s the most pressing thing on our minds. It feels anxiety-provoking if we don’t solve the problem right now. But often, if we wait, we’ll find an intuitive thought that appears in our mind which we cannot describe the source of, and this thought can lead us in the right action. It does work to relax and take it easy.

Keeping in mind a perspective of contributing to life and staying out of selfish desires, as agents of God’s universe

In general, 12 Step programs give us general guidelines we can live by, and these can help us know when we’re turning over a problem. Some of the policies are:

  • Avoid harming other people
  • Confess your shortcomings to other people and God
  • Contribute to life rather than take from it
  • Don’t think of yourself all of the time
  • Don’t drink

While the guidelines don’t appear to solve problems directly, they inform how to approach a problem. Does forcing a resolution put other people at risk? Do other people and God know what I’m honestly feeling and doing? Does my solution contribute to the flow of life rather than contribute only to my self-preservation?

Again, these guideposts are a matter of keeping a new perspective on life rooted in finding meaningful solutions to our problems rather than making matters worse. We have to think of ourselves as valuable agents of God’s plan in the world and not selfish children trying to get our ways. This outlook on life is challenging for us but leads to better outcomes over the long term.


Before, we had few good methods of solving complex issues in our lives and escaped through the bottle rather than overcoming them. The AA program gives us tools to live life without running away from problems, and turning them over to God is a powerful one of those tools.

We have ways that confirm we have indeed handed over an issue to God, and it doesn’t have to be a mystery if we’ve done it. Knowing is a matter of maintaining a sober perspective and taking some actions that back up our decision to turn it over.

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