What an uncomfortable word, huh? It certainly was for me when God laid it on my heart as my word/theme for 2016. My first thought was “uh-oh…” One definition of surrender is giving up; but I’m tenacious – when I want/believe in something I don’t give up easily at all – usually not until the fat lady has sung – and even then, like a hungry dog with a bone, sometimes I still hold on. Giving up, even when things look hopeless, simply isn’t in my nature.
But God has been showing me lately that surrender, the way He means it, goes much deeper than that – it’s not so much giving up as it is laying down. Laying down my agenda, laying down my hopes and dreams, laying down the way I think things should be, laying down my plans, desires, and what I want for myself – and being willing to exchange them for HIS agenda, HIS hopes and dreams for me, the way HE thinks things should be, HIS plans, desires, and what HE wants for me.
It’s taken me too many years to count to get to this point, but even now I can feel a small part of me wanting to be rebellious saying, “are you crazy? This (particular desire/hope/dream) is right – and you know it! DON’T GIVE UP!” But I have to give it up, or rather…lay it down. Holding on is very slowly, very insidiously pulling me away from God and where I know I should be heading spiritually.
This doesn’t mean my desire is a bad thing or unscriptural or unChristlike. It’s not. At all. It just means that somewhere along the line this desire became an idol – it slowly changed places with God so He no longer occupied the number one spot in my heart and on my priority list. And that’s just not acceptable to me. I compromised my faith in many ways for a long time in order to keep peace in my home, and when I got divorced I promised God and myself that I would never let anyone or anything come between us again – that He would always be my number one consideration and priority.
Laying anything down that we truly desire isn’t easy, and it’s not a one-time deal. It’s got to be a daily decision. I know I will be tempted over and over to pick it back up and keep holding on. But more than I want that thing, I want God’s best for me. I want Him to be first in everything I think, do, and say. Maybe one day He’ll decide that He wants that thing for me too. Or maybe He won’t. It’ll be easier some days than others to say, “if I never get that thing I’ll be perfectly happy because all that matters is that I’m in the center of His will for my life.” But realistically I’m human and I know there will be (many!) days that it will be as painful and difficult to endure not having it as it would be to literally nail my flesh to the cross.
In more than one place in the New Testament we (believers) are exhorted to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Knowing this I have to ask myself: how easy was it for Jesus to do what He did? I don’t know what was going on inside His head as He went through such a horrific ordeal, but from reading scripture I know that He sweat drops of blood just thinking about it. So if it was that difficult for Him, God in human form, to deny Himself, take up His cross, and do what the Father wanted Him to do, I know I can expect that it will be ever so much harder for me. And as Keith Green was so fond of saying, it’s not a comfy, cushioned, posturepedic cross that God expects me to carry. It’s going to be rough, hard, and heavy; splinters are going to dig into my shoulders, and like Jesus, I’m going to stumble and fall repeatedly under the weight of it. But also like Jesus, I don’t have to carry it alone. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who love me and will come alongside me to help shoulder the burden.
So surrendering can be a blessing – being on the receiving end of God’s love when others help us lug around our burdens, and being on the giving end, sharing God’s love by helping others carry theirs. But make no mistake, as Christ showed us when He laid down His life for us in such a traumatic way, surrendering can also be agonizingly painful – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
So there’s no question: conviction is deeply uncomfortable, repentance is humbling, and surrender hurts. But God’s tender mercy and forgiveness has bathed me in His peace, given me a fresh start, and applied a soothing, healing balm to a raw and gaping wound.
And so it’s a new day.
Weary of the struggle to hold on, I’ve laid my agenda, all my desires, plans, hopes, and dreams at the foot of the cross, and am exchanging them for His.