When life does not go our way, we can practice surrendering to the One who controls everything and find peace.
Ever been completely exhausted from trying to control or fix a difficult situation? We often drive ourselves crazy by trying to take matters into our own hands. As Christ followers, we know that the logical answer in these moments is surrender. But what keeps us from surrendering? Why do we get in our own way when it comes to letting go of things we know we cannot change?
From our brain’s perspective, avoiding surrender and staying stuck in a perpetual cycle of “fixing” makes perfect sense. The brain does not like unanswered questions. It is always looking for a solution because solid answers equal safety (the subconscious brain’s highest priority). Admitting that we cannot control the outcome and we don’t know how things will turn out requires the brain to lean on something outside itself for survival, and that’s frightening, especially if we’ve always leaned on straight paths and solid answers for comfort.
And yet, life often leaves us with unanswered questions and unresolved outcomes.
We can give one hundred percent at a job and it still may not be enough. We can extensively prepare for an important event and plans may still go awry. We can love and care for others and still be misunderstood, even hated. We can raise our kids to follow Christ and they can still walk away from the faith.
Ultimately we must face the fact that we are called to give our best, but that God has ultimate authority over the outcome. Sometimes, for reasons that we may never know about, A plus B does not equal C. And wow, is that hard pill for a perfectionist, workaholic, and control freak to swallow (anyone else?).
On a logical level, we can know that God is in control and we are not. Yet, how many of us tire ourselves out each day searching for answers and fighting for control over things that we physically can not change? Not only is this a waste of physical energy it’s an exhausting, heartbreaking way to live that can easily build resentment and bitterness toward God.
What does it look like to honestly surrender to God when we’re scared and overwhelmed by what could happen? How can we “let go and let God” when we’ve been hurt and disappointed (and are desperate to avoid future pain)?
What Does Surrender Look Like for a Christian?
Here’s the good news for those of us eager to “do something” about a frustrating situation: surrender is an active posture.
We often avoid surrender because it feels like we’re giving up. We can be tempted to believe that surrender equals hopelessness and inactivity, yet nothing can be farther from the truth!
Surrender is an opportunity for dependence. It’s an opportunity to actively dwell in the reality of our own inadequacy. Surrender is recognizing that He is the omnipotent God, in charge of the universe, who somehow works all things for good (and we are flawed, limited, sinful beings unable to save ourselves).
We practice surrender by actively putting ourselves in a posture of:
- releasing ongoing fear and worry;
- receiving peace and comfort from God as we walk through the unknown;
- trusting in the good that He’s planned ahead;
- waiting expectantly for wisdom on the next steps (instead of hurrying ahead); and
- staying obedient to His instructions on how to manage our part of the situation.
Psalm 1:1-3 has one of my favorite examples of a surrendered posture:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
The tree recognizes both its need and its limits. The tree sees that it needs water to live and that cannot produce its own water, so it plants itself close to the source. Although it cannot control how much water it will receive or when the water will come, it stays close to the stream of water in order to thrive in every season.
Like the tree and its need for water, we cannot make the answers come or try to solve unsolvable situations. But we can place ourselves next to the source of life and trust Him to provide for all our needs in all situations.
What Keeps Us from Stepping Into Surrender?
It all sounds so simple, right? Just move yourself closer to the “stream” and you’ve got it made. Yes, on paper, surrender is that straightforward, but often our humanness complicates this decision.
Here are three big things that get in the way of surrender:
- Lack of knowledge: we insist that we have the correct solution to the problem.
- Impatience: we want things to be fixed now, not later.
- Pain-free: we want the frustration and suffering to end.
In addition, surrender can be difficult because many of us have trust issues with God. We may have distanced ourselves from Him because of shame, pain, confusion, or disappointment.
What Is God Calling You to Surrender Today?
Surrender is an important spiritual discipline and an integral part of our relationship with Christ. How might God be inviting you into more peace and freedom by encouraging you to surrender what feels scary, unknown, or out of your control?
Surrender is the key to entering into new levels of intimacy with God as we cling to Him for help in this dark world. Surrender is not a nicety for a growing Christian’s faith; it’s a necessity for heartfelt change and lasting peace. I share much more about surrender (and my own journey in letting God and letting God) in Episode 186 and 187 of the Christian Mindset Coach Podcast.
Today, even though it can feel excruciatingly hard, spend time honestly asking God what surrender may look like right now for you, and how you may be getting in the way of that holy release. Let His promises of love, faithfulness, and hope give you the courage to step into surrender and find more calm.
Alicia Michelle is a speaker, author, certified NeuroCoach and host of the award-winning Christian Mindset Coach Podcast which can be heard on KHCB’s Uplifted Radio Stream or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Through her coaching, courses and Bible studies, she loves equipping Christian women with practical brain-and-biblically-based tools to overcome anxiety, perfectionism and self-sabotage so that they can cultivate godly confidence and find lasting peace. Get her free training on how to transform your life by transforming your thoughts at VibrantChristianLiving.com/mindset.