What do you think of when you think of surrendering your will to God? What images run through your mind? I was talking about this in the comments of another post so I thought it would be good to put some focus on this subject here.
What I see now as my somewhat religious images of surrendering my will used to run along the lines of me in a painful struggle, wrestling with God, or some Medieval monk prostrate on the floor crying out, “Okay, God, I give up! I give my all to You!”
But this attitude of surrender seems to be quite subjective. For some it can be real life changing or even life threatening decisions, others not so much.
Like what one of my ministry students calls our “first world problems.” It goes something like, “Lord, I will give up watching American Idol and spend time with my church family” or “I will fast from Starbucks for a whole month!” or “I will be nice to this person I can’t stand…” Hardly acts of martyrdom here.
But most sincere Christians do come to junctions in their life where hard choices are needed to be made in their honest desire to do God’s will.
I have found that the difficulty in my surrendering was more about my perspective than the actual act, often making it harder than it needed to be.
So, here are a couple of things I have found that frame my thinking and help me surrender my will to God.
Surrender starts with focusing on what we gain, not on what we’re giving up
Of course, we see the greatest surrender of all, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood and asking His Father if this cup could pass from Him.
But I want to suggest to you that Jesus surrendered His will in quite a different way than we usually do. He didn’t look at what He was giving up, He looked at what He was gaining. The writer of Hebrews makes this distinction.
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb.12:2)
Notice that it says that Jesus “despised” the shame. Another way of putting it is that He disregarded the shame. For the cross was very shameful, used for the lowest of criminals by the Romans. Not to mention, a just Man taking on all our sin!
So we see here that Jesus’ way of surrender was disregarding the pain and cost of the surrender and staying focused on the outcome…which was the joy set before Him! This should be instructive to us.
Surrender requires faith and trust in God’s intentions
And seeing the joy brings up another critical aspect of surrendering our will. And that is, we will gladly give everything to God when we know it’s in our best interests. In fact, we usually do so in every hard decision we make.
So, here’s the real challenge of surrender. We have trouble doing so because, the reality is, we still don’t fully believe that God has our best interests in mind. We think protecting our current comfort level is better. Because if we did really trust Him, we would gladly jump out of our boat and run on the water, disregarding the fear, embracing this new level of faith and freedom. That’s the joy waiting. And it’s actually the way God made us to live His life.
As Mr. Beaver said about Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia“, “Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Surrendering our will is like intimacy in relationships, it requires faith and trust in the one we are relating to.
You see, the major difference between you and me and the Man Jesus is that He fully trusted God and we fully don’t. We say we do, we sing about it, but we struggle with it.
We still have issues with the goodness of God.
Doing God’s will is what you and I would gladly do if we knew everything that God knew about the situation. But we don’t know what we don’t know, so this is where faith has to come in. It’s by faith that we surrender before we ever experience the reality of what we believe.
But if we can see it as a trust issue, then we can get to the heart of the matter. We can deal honestly with these things and focus on the outcome and gladly surrender with a “heart of full assurance” (Col.2:2; Heb.10:22), even anticipating the joy of it!