Surrendering everything to God is scary. When God led me to the word “surrender” for this year it wasn’t a word that I wanted because I was scared about what it would involve. This section of the book explores the fear that is often stirred by the idea of surrender, and the high cost involved in surrendering completely to God.
We all have a plan of how we would like our lives to turn out. It might involve marriage, children, a career or success in a particular area. But what if God’s plan for us involves illness, singleness, infertility, financial hardship or other suffering? As Jennie Allen puts it, “We would all say his character is loving and good, but do we really trust that he won’t get crazy and dish out the same life he gave Job?”
This is definitely one of the barriers to surrender that I struggle with the most, but as I have been reading and reflecting this week I have found three ways to deal with it:
- Focussing not on the seen but on the unseen: remembering that God’s ways are higher than ours, he has a plan to work all things together for good no matter how it may appear on the surface and this life is only temporary. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them all and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
- Remembering that God has a purpose in our suffering and can use it for good. Jennie Allen writes, “You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really, you don’t know the difference.” Certainly as I look back over my life it has been the times of suffering that have drawn me closer to God. I would never have chosen for these things to happen, and there were times that were horribly difficult and painful, but, looking back, God has undoubtedly brought a lot of good from them. That has to give me hope for hard times I will face in the future.
- Recognising that suffering is a part of life, whether we choose to surrender or not. “God builds our lives whether we give him permission or not. It is the fight for control that has us all tied up, while it’s really an illusion anyway. We control because we are afraid of what may happen if we let go. Do we really think we are better captains of our lives than a God who sees everything and deeply loves us?” Refusing to surrender to God does not excuse us from suffering. All it does is make the suffering harder to deal with.
As well as facing our fears, we also have to consider the high cost of surrendering to God. Jesus said, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
I have to be honest- I looked that up in several different translations in the hope that maybe it doesn’t really mean what it seems to say here… I discovered that it does.
God wants us to give up everything else and put him first. Actually it’s what he requires if we are to be his followers. He wants us to seek his glory over our own comfort, to lay aside our plans and desires and embrace his, to take up our cross and to follow him.
That is a hard calling.
It reassures me that Jesus found it hard too. In the Garden of Gethsemane he is described as “anguished and distressed” (Matthew 26:37) and it says he “bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (v39) He struggled with giving up his own desires, but in the end he submitted to his Father’s will.
And the result was great, and the suffering was worth it. “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” (Isaiah 53:11)
When God is asking me to do something hard, one of the ways that I often know it is him is that the only thing greater than the fear of doing it is the fear of not doing it, and disobeying him or missing out on what he wants me to do.
That is how I feel about the idea of surrender. I am scared at the thought of giving up everything for God, but I am more scared of the thought that I could waste my life- that I could have a nice, happy, comfortable life but miss out on all that he has for me.
At the end of the day, I would like to think my life had counted for something, that I had done something of lasting value, that I had done something worthwhile for God… and that is only possible through surrender.