This post is part of a series on “Surrender” which is the word God has led me to focus on for 2016. For an index of other posts on this subject, click here.
It’s one thing to surrender to God’s will in individual situations and to choose his will over my own. It’s another thing to surrender everything to God- to hold nothing back and to say that I will do anything he asks of me.
I know this is what I need to do though. Over the last few weeks I have been attempting to memorise some Bible verses relating to the theme of surrender, and it’s amazing how memorising verses not only fixes the words in your head but also ingrains the message on your heart.
Mark 8:34-37 says: “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he [Jesus] said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?””
A few things strike me from these verses:
First of all, this is Jesus calling people to follow him. This is not some kind of advanced Christianity for people who want to take it to extremes. This is just what it means to follow Jesus- so actually it’s what I’ve already signed up for.
Secondly, Jesus is completely honest about the fact that there is a cost. Following him means denying our own desires and choosing to go with his. It means taking up our cross- being willing to give up our whole lives for him and to die to ourselves. It means following him wherever he leads us. He never pretends that it will be easy.
The other side of it though, is that there are great rewards. Surrendering our lives for him is actually the way to find true life, to gain what really matters. He promises that it will be worth it.
When I think about times I have surrendered to God in the past, I see that this is true: there is a high cost but also a great reward. On one occasion, as I went to a Christian conference, I prayed and asked God to speak to me, saying that I would do whatever he asked me to do, no matter how difficult. I came to regret that prayer when I was challenged to write a letter to someone, confessing something from years before. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but I knew I had to. I had told God I would do anything- I had to follow through.
So I did, and it was one of the most painfully humbling experiences of my life. It did feel like a kind of death- death to my pride, death to someone’s good opinion of me. It was surrendering control of that situation, leaving it in someone else’s hands, and in God’s hands. It was terrifying. But in the end it led to a great reward- a message of forgiveness, and freedom from the guilt that had plagued me over this particular sin no matter how many times I confessed it to God.
When I first spoke out about the abuse in my childhood, it was another moment of surrender. I had no idea what the outcome would be- my only hope was in God’s faithfulness. It was like stepping off the edge of a cliff with a massive drop below and just hoping that someone was going to catch me. It was dying to self and surrendering control.
But again it was completely worth it. The letting go was necessary to move towards healing- and, terrifying as it was, it is one of the best decisions I ever made.
I have seen God’s faithfulness in surrender but I still struggle to do it completely. I still cling to control and struggle to trust, and I am learning, but I still have a long way to go.
Over the next eight weeks, I am going to be reading a book on this subject: Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God And My Soul by Jennie Allen. I plan to write a post each Monday (beginning 1st February) reflecting on the section of the book I have been reading- partly for accountability and because I work better with a deadline, and partly because writing helps me process things better, but also because I hope it will be helpful to other people too in considering God’s call to surrender. I hope you’ll join me.
“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour.”