The word “surrender” terrifies me. I’ve grown up in the church and have been following Christ for many years, but I still struggle to believe truth about what it looks like to surrender to God and the plans that He has for us.
When someone around me would use the concept of surrender, it usually meant that God was asking them to give up something that they treasured. Often times, it was something that they treasured more than God and it had gotten to a point where they could no longer hold onto it. So it was something that was surrendered, and God took it away. From the outside looking in, it seemed to be a painful process and one that required more sacrifice than I was ever willing to do. Whether it was giving up their lives to move to a new city (or church plant), breaking up with that boyfriend or girlfriend, or letting go of friendships. It always seemed like the people around me trusted God way more than me, because I could never see myself giving up the things that the Christians around me were giving up. But as I analyzed these situations, I came to realize that the lack of surrender in my own life reflected a picture of God that was way too small.
I was reminded of this over Spring Break this year when I got to interact with Chad and Sarah Deibl in Pine Ridge. They had recently moved to Pine Ridge from Ohio in order to join the missionary team of people who have also given up their lives to further the Kingdom amongst the Lakota people. As our team was building the foundation for their home, you could see the different prayers and verses that Sarah had written on beams of their future home. Words like, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1) and others filled the wood of the foundation. As she tearfully explained what a joy it was to be able to serve God and to be used by Him in Pine Ridge, it stirred something in my heart. Chad and Sarah had absolutely surrendered their whole lives to Jesus Christ. They didn’t hold anything back. They didn’t desire to maintain control of certain parts of their life while offering God the other parts. Instead they had given up everything in order to be a servant of the King. Believe me when I say that Pine Ridge would not be an easy place to live, and there are few people who would move there willingly. It is impoverished, broken, and filled with drug abuse, alcohol addictions, and broken families. Overall it seems to be run by darkness. But Chad and Sarah aren’t there out of guilt or obligation, they are there because they view their lives in the correct light and know that Jesus is a King that is worthy to be served. Their lives are surrendered, and they are filled with joy, not sadness, because of it.
For Chad and Sarah, surrendering every aspect of their lives to their heavenly Father meant giving up the life that they knew. But “surrender” doesn’t always mean “sacrifice.” God doesn’t ask us to surrender our lives so that He can take them away. He asks us to love and trust Him enough that we are willing to give Him control over our entire lives, not just the parts that we are willing to give up. It can be easy to believe the lie that we know better than God and that we can maintain control of our lives and be okay. I know all too well that this isn’t true. God is infinitely more understanding, filled with more wisdom, and more loving than we are able to comprehend. However, when we are in awe of our Father, and view Him as the loving and good God that He is, it becomes much more natural to find joy in living a life that is surrendered to Him. There is a unique relief in trusting God with our lives, knowing that He loves us and ultimately wants to work things out for our good, even if we can’t always see that.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:25). How easy is it for you to work to “gain the world”? I know it’s really easy for me! The concept of losing our lives for the sake of the gospel can sound so intimidating, but when we start to understand what it truly means to lose our lives, we begin to see what it means to gain it! But what does this actually mean? I think this can look different for everyone. The first step is ensuring our deep understanding of the gospel. The more that we seek Jesus through reading the Bible, prayer, community, coming to church, etc. the closer we become to Jesus and the more our understanding of the gospel grows, which leads to a deepening of our faith. When we have a faith that is active and growing, we can see God use the Holy Spirit to convict us of the things in our lives that need to be surrendered to Him. Maybe it’s the job or sport that takes up so much of your time and is keeping you from community, or its the boyfriend, girlfriend, or friendship that has grown to be unhealthy and has become an idol. Maybe it’s your plans for the future and it looks like adjusting your college or career plans so you can live in a place where you will have healthy community (insert subtle plug for a Salt Network church). Whatever it is, I would encourage you all to be prayerful about the things in your life that you’re holding onto with a white knuckle grip and God is asking you to surrender them to Him.
Ultimately, I want for you all to understand that we serve a God that gave up absolutely everything for us. He gave up His Son, who He loves the most, to die a brutal death so that we could LIVE. He did this out of His mighty grace and love for us. Everything that we have, including the very air that we breathe, is a gift that is undeserved. All given to us by our Heavenly Father. It’s only appropriate for us to offer that back to Him in joyful surrender.
If you have any questions on this, or are trying to process through what this could look like in your own life, let us know! We would love to talk to you about this! As always, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.