The art of surrender is a crucial, lifelong practice. For me, the journey started a few years back when my life hit rock bottom. There was nothing I could do to fix what was happening yet I kept working hard to get things to go my way. While anxiously sharing with a friend that I was at the end of my rope and that I didn’t know what to do next, he said, “Shantal, hold your life with your hand wide open. Give it to God to do with it as he pleases.” My strong-willed heart sunk. Why did his advice leave me paralyzed at my core? Surrendering is not second nature.
At that point I had a tight grip on every aspect of my life and until then, I was the dictator. Every now and then I would allow God to kind-of sort-of call the shots, because I didn’t realize the meaning of true surrender or the fruit that could come from it. I did everything for myself.
After that conversation with my friend, I started the process of learning to surrender because I knew something needed to change. That was all I had left; I had to wave my white flag loud and proud if I was going to make it. I had resolved to surrender every little aspect of my life to Christ, from my weekend plans to my broken heart. It wasn’t easy.
I constantly found myself on my knees, in tears, asking God to change my circumstance, to heal my broken heart. I remember saying, “I don’t know what to do– I’ve tried everything. Can’t you just make everything go away? Set me free from the pain! Or would you make a “Left Behind” movie and take us all home?” In those moments I would hear, “Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. Hold your life with hands wide open and watch what I will do.”
My prayers started to change. I searched to know more and learned some really valuable, life-altering lessons about surrender and the freedom that comes with it. I’ve asked a few friends to speak into this post because their example of abiding in Christ has truly inspired me and has given me insight and wisdom that launched my journey to surrender.
Jeff White, who is our Moreno Valley Campus Pastor, shared with me, “My daughter Amber was invited to go on a mission trip as a freshman. With both hands, wide open, we had to release our kids back to God.”
Practical surrender requires us to let go.
Whatever you are holding with a clenched fist, surrender it into God’s capable hands. You can’t do it on your own. In fact, depending on the season you find yourself in, you may not be able to do it, period. There are some things that only God can do, but you need to give him the reigns. Take your hand and open it wide. Prepare your heart to give so you can receive. My good friend and coffee enthusiast, Corey Atchley, put it this way when I asked him about surrender, *starts singing*, “Jesus take the wheel!”
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22 (ESV)
You can’t get to your destination if you’re a hoarder.
Justin Pardee our Communications Director says…“Surrender is the only way to get from where you are to where you want to be.”
Try making it down your block with three big suitcases full of stuff. That’s what lack of surrender is like. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed out on because of trying to take control and fixating on the past; areas in which God needed me to heal. I’d walk around hanging onto things; things that I was not supposed to bring to where God was taking me. These things slowed me down, way the heck down.
I love what the Message version says in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!”
My friend and talented vocalist Bernard Dafney said it best, “It’s all or nothing, there is no such thing as partial surrender.”
You will miss out on what God wants to do if you don’t lay it down.
The beautifully raw song, “Touch the Sky” by Hillsong United has this one line that is so simple, yet so deep. It says, “I found my life when I laid it down”. When you surrender all the pieces of your life to God, you are creating capacity for him to move. The more you release by faith, the more you see his hand and his plan play out.
Soul Care extraordinaire, Megan Renck, put it this way, “God is faithful and he shows himself to be faithful over and over again. But his greatest acts of faithfulness come when I surrender and am obedient to him and what he’s doing in my life. If I choose to not surrender and keep control, then I lose out on God’s favor and blessing and the opportunities that my life could have. So I have learned that it is always better to surrender than to hold on to control.”
True healing and surrender are exclusive. Surrendering fear and anxiety leads to peace, surrendering your children leads to favor, surrendering what other people think of you leads to joy, surrendering your temptations leads to blessings, but more importantly, surrender leads to freedom.
No matter what season in life you find yourself, my hope is that you would really hone in on the art of surrendering. This practice has led me to feel freedom in areas of life I had always felt ensnared. It’s allowed for me to freely give of myself to God and others.
Through practice and abiding, God promises to teach us to live freely.
Matthew 11:28-30 in the Message version puts it best, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
In the midst of the trenches and uncertainties of life I found this prayer from Brennan Manning’s, “Ruthless Trust” to be essential. Pray it over your life if you’re struggling with surrendering something to the Lord:
“Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you today, without reservation and with humble confidence, for you are my loving father. Set me free from self-consciousness, from anxiety about tomorrow, and from the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others, that I may find joy and delight simply and solely in pleasing you. May my inner freedom be a compelling sign of your presence, your peace, your power, and your love. Let your plan for my life and the lives of your children gracefully unfold one day at a time. I love you with all my heart, and I place all my confidence in you, for you are my Abba.”
Learning the rhythm of life with Jesus takes time. It’s a process, not a night-to-day work, and it takes community. There are many people taking the narrow road who are working on this practice, hence why I thought to ask friends what God taught them about surrender. What’s beautiful about that is most people gave me similar insight: It’s a process, it’s necessary, it’s worth it and it leads to freedom.
Reflect on this…
- Surrender requires us to let go. What are you holding onto?
- What is it about that thing you’re holding onto that is difficult to surrender?
- Imagine if you were to surrender that to the Lord. What freedom might he invite you into? What would be your prayer to him in surrendering it?