If there’s one thing I think God has been whispering to my weary, to-do-list-filled soul, that’s it. It’s a word that as I confessed to one of the elders of the church as a word that I’m not sure I’ve truly known how to do.
I like to be in control because I like knowing what’s next. I like knowing what to expect, so I begin to figure out ways to tackle it head on. I like it and yet many times, these situations stress me out. It’s these weird conundrum of not wanting to be stressed out by these things, yet feeling comforted by being in control so much so that I fool myself into thinking that I have to tackle these things alone. If I don’t do it, this will never get done. Can any of you also relate to those sentiments?
Even as an educator, it’s a struggle. When some students’ essays weren’t being turned in on time and the deadline of high school applications were approaching faster than any of us originally expected, I edited their essays and sent them out. The original timeline would require that they submit their edited drafts themselves and yet there I was, a day before the deadline, correcting sentences in the draft of the essay and writing recommendations they forgot to ask for.
Despite comments from people in my life telling me that I should not do that, the same theme of, “if I don’t do this, it will never get done” rung true and I relented, typing away as an attempt to get these things done before the 5pm deadline.
Don’t get me started on how this showed up in other areas and situations of my life.
When I first came to Christ, surrendering was easy because I mistakenly assumed it was a one time thing. That at that moment, as I felt the weight of my sin become more real and yet simultaneously sense that weight lifting off my shoulders onto Christ’s as He welcome me home, I no longer had to surrender because all of the surrendering was done. I mean, I surrendered my life to Him – right?
Yet, I believe what I’ve been learning in various situations in my life is that I still need to surrender. When new struggles arise, a new invitation to submit this to the Lord, ignites – an invitation that I sometimes didn’t realize was there. Surrendering our will, our desires, our conflicts and challenges to God is a daily act. It’s an act of daily humility and submission rather than a moment at the altar of grace. It’s a daily act and I am learning every day that surrendering means letting it go.
Why is that so hard for us? Why does it seem that acknowledging that we aren’t as in control as we’d like to be, entrusting these things to God and letting it go seem so challenging? Wouldn’t it be freer to simply release the problems, conflicts, desires, and plans into the hands of the Creator of all things rather than obsessively try to fix it ourselves or hold onto the resentment?
Society tells us to grab life by the bullhorns and that things won’t happen unless we make it happen. Yet God whispers to us in a gentle yet resounding voice, reminding us that we need to submit our plans to Him and trust Him.
Society encourages us to go after what we want, not stopping until we get it. God reminds us that He is Lord and that sometimes what we want isn’t what we need or what we need right now.
Society tells us we’re in control of our destiny, but reality tells us that we aren’t. We can’t control people, circumstances, or even sometimes our own behavior. I can’t begin to tell you how many times in my life I’ve blurted things out of anger, only to later realize it was uncalled for.
Now, I don’t believe that the surrendering that we’re called to do is to do so with a reward in mind. We should not aspire to surrender to receive something in return from God. We should surrender, even with the unknown looming over our heads like a dark, storm cloud that seems to follow us in our travels, still trusting that with whatever we’ve laid in His hands, He will use for His glory and for our good. He will use what was meant to destroy us and turn it into something positive in His timing. Even then, the latter shouldn’t be our motive for surrendering.
So how do we surrender without expecting and instead, simply trusting?
The suggestion I have comes from God’s word and says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
I know you’ve heard this verse before and some of you might be frowning your face because as many times as we’ve heard this verse, it’s easy to do in a moment, but hard to commit to that daily. Some of you might also be wondering “how?” What steps can I take to ensure that I am being still before God?
While there are several blog posts that discuss this, I think that if you struggle with control like myself, coming up with a list of to-do’s might send us back into a works-mindset that convinces us that if we complete step 1-3, we will succeed at being still before God. Perhaps that’s just me, but if I am being transparent, after realizing this pattern of control that’s been flaring up, I’ve wanted to try to handle this all myself. Yet I realize that I cannot. The same way I cannot control other people and their actions, this act of learning how to not seek to control so much is something that can truly only be fulfilled by God. Sure, I have some willpower to try to take steps to work on this, but even in creating these steps to work on this I am still controlling. See the cyclical issue here?
Instead, I’m learning that even in the daily act of submitting to God and His will, it requires a work that only He can do in us. That even in acknowledging that you have a problem with control or a challenge that has seemingly fallen and that you struggle with submission to God, it’s a step in the right direction. However the work in truly abolishing that habit, that challenge, that struggle is a God-thing. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Meaning, He is the one that both saved us and gives us the strength, tools, and ability to continue on the straight and narrow path. All we can do is honestly and humbly turn our hearts and eyes to Him, daily, allowing Him to do the work necessary in us in the timing that He sees fit.
I am not dismissing that as Christians there is work involved (yay for to-do list people like me). However that work isn’t going through a to-do list of things that we think make us a good Christian or religiously reading through the 10 commandments, attempting to use our own will power to try to achieve them. If we were able to do these things by our own willpower, God would never have had to send Jesus as an atonement for our sins and the Holy Spirit, who is our advocate. It’s clear in this sacrificial act of love that we cannot follow these commandments by our strength and we can see this throughout the bible. The work we’re called to do is a work that only the Holy Spirit can do us. Our work is to humbly life our eyes to Him, considering Him, seeking Him, following Him, and submitting to Him daily yet even in these acts, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit in us that makes these things possible.
The invitation is not to look at our walk with Christ a religion, full of to-do’s and don’ts that we must accomplish in order to reach the hierarchy of Christian-hood. It’s a relationship with Christ, a desire to know Him, seek Him, be lead by Him, and trust that the work He’s doing in us is a work that He will fulfill and finish. It’s a relationship with Christ that encourages us to submit and surrender to His will – not because of a religious standard or because God is standing over us with His finger wagging, demanding that we do these things or He’ll stop loving us, but because of our reverence and love for God, who gives us the strength and ability to love and submit to Him.
So the same invitation that is being extended to me right now, I want to encourage you to do the same. That if you’re like me – someone who feels more comforted by being in control, knowing what’s next, and how to handle it – there might be an invitation for you to also rest in God, submitting daily to His will and His way. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be something that you can do once. Surrendering to God requires a daily act of submission and reverence – relinquishing even tiny things to Him daily rather than trying to figure out everything on your own.
Surrender, friend. Surrender, daily.