‘Surrender, I hate you!!’ These are the exact words I wrote in my journal recently. Surrender is a prickly character, the kind you try to avoid making eye contact with whenever they are within visual range. Avoidance is usually my tactic of choice, albeit futile! We’ve had repeated run-ins lately and despite my opening line – which I still feel at some level – surrender has been an epic teacher and mentor.
I have noticed that surrender often precedes the greatest miracles in my life. Yet, for some reason, I always struggle to do it. My humanity would rather fight a battle, conquer a foe, feel like I did all in my power to see victory. But what even is ‘my power’?! It’s absurd to have such confidence in my own power, when I have access to the power of God! Why is it that we feel more comfortable to fight, to do, to train, to manipulate when all of that is limited to our own ability? Why do we erroneously believe that we know what’s best for us?
Surrender is a hard thing for me. It’s hard because I no longer have influence in the outcome. I have to lay myself down, bend my knee, surrender any ability I had to dictate a desired outcome. When you surrender, you have no control. You put your whole life in the hands of whatever or whomever you surrender too. Perhaps surrender issues are really trust issues exposed? It’s horribly vulnerable, because you give up any power you had. You give up influencing outcomes. You give up your desires, hopes, dreams and ambitions. You give up the plans you had and the future you envisioned. It is a submitting of your will to another’s. I don’t think there is anything more counter cultural to this world that we live in. A world that chants and cheers for us to go for all that we want, to fight and manipulate and use whatever means necessary to get what we want. We deserve whatever we want. If we dream it we can achieve it. If anyone gets in our way, just go right through them. Right??
Surrender feels like you may just die – and in some ways you do. In some ways you are meant too. While we live by our own will and only accept the good in life, we are severely limited in what God can do in us and through us. A surface faith, receives a surface reward. Surrender only happens in the depths.
Surrender teaches us that we are not the guardian of the galaxy! Surrender takes enormous courage. More than fighting on. I’ve raged against surrender. I’m not the first too and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last. Jesus himself felt the call to surrender his personal desire and comfort. When your life as you’ve experienced it to that point demands surrender to ‘level up’, it’s so hard because you can’t see or know that it will lead to a better outcome, or what God will do with it. Jesus didn’t want to be crucified mercilessly. He could’ve gone his own way, He could’ve fought on with God yet He decides ‘not my will, but yours be done.’ Such a moment of pure surrender.
Jacob has a moment of surrender when faced with releasing Benjamin to go to Egypt with no real assurance that he will get his treasured son back – and he’s already lost Joseph. This is the last resemblance of his beloved Rachel. He fights strongly against it at first (relatable!), but then reveals his finally surrendered heart when he says, ‘As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego find themselves about to be thrown into a furnace for their unwillingness to bow to another god. You know it’s true surrender when you don’t actually know if God will save you or not. You only know it’s what you are called to do and what faith is demanding in that moment, but there is no guarantee that God will intervene and if it will be to your advantage. It feels a bit like lying down in the middle of a fight! Their words of surrender: ‘whether he saves us or not’. You surrender to the fire.
Recently, I’ve been called to surrender life as I know it, or expected it to be. I’ve laid myself on the metaphorical altar more times in the last month than I probably have in the rest of my life put together! Ambition. Goals. Expectations. Self-perception. Hopes. Dreams. Resources. Peer approval. Surrender… Surrender… Surrender…
What do I have left you may ask? Nothing! And yet everything. The things I thought were important to who I am and to my future are nothing. Cars, bank account balances, prestige, status, jobs, portfolios of responsibility, how others perceive me… all are actually irrelevant. I have God and it turns out that’s all I ever needed. Surrender brings an after wash of such sweet clarity.
Surrender can sound weak – cowardly even. Yet I can promise you that surrender cannot happen without courage, without trust and without belief that the One you surrender too has only your best interests and your best future in mind. Every time I have surrendered deeply, I have seen God change me. It usually doesn’t feel good in the moment. I can never see if there’s a reward or benefit and true surrender surrenders without promise. Otherwise it would just be a trade agreement!
If you are feeling challenged by God to surrender something, it can only be for your own good. Surrender is a re-ordering, a re-prioritising, a re-focus, a re-boot. It’s challenging because it means giving something up, or at least handing it over. We don’t like to give things up or hand them over! Our need for security and order can often hinder our ability to surrender. All we can see is the thing being surrendered. My encouragement is to lift your eyes and fix them on the God to whom you surrender. He is well able. He will meet you in the fire and like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, He will set you free in there. My advice? Go with it – and try not to kick and scream as much as I do!