“Just surrender to God.”
I’m calling this. This is one of those phrases that has the potential to be pure vague church lingo. It’s right up there along with, “just have faith,” and “be secure in God,” and “everything happens for a reason.”
It’s not that those phrases are meaningless. They have valid points in scripture, and when applied in the right way, they are powerful.
But I’ll own it – I’ve said things like this because I didn’t know what else to say to someone in a hard situation. Or to someone at a decision-making point in their lives. I oversimplify something that is actually quite challenging to carry out.
What does it really mean to surrender to God?
Surrender is Simple, But Not Straightforward
The Cambridge-English Dictionary describes it as “to stop trying to prevent or control” a situation. It even goes so far as to say, “to accept defeat” (cringe).
To me, surrendering to God means to stop fighting for my own agenda, and relinquish my control of the situation. Sometimes that does mean accepting defeat.
But what is easy to define is often hard to actually live out. Giving up trying to control isn’t something that comes naturally to me or, I would argue, to our society. Think of all the things we try to have control over – our health, our knowledge, our success, other people, our results.
Surrender means letting go of our attempts to control. See? The concept, I get. The reality is a little harder.
What Does the Bible Say About Surrender?
Here are verses that describe surrender well for me.
Mark 8:35 (NIV) says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
This exemplifies to me letting go of my attempts at control to make my life the way I want it, and entrusting it to God and his Word. It’s choosing to do the right thing, even if it’s not going to get me the results I want. It’s continuing to do the right thing, even when things are hard or the circumstances are against you.
Romans 12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Surrender involves allowing our minds to be transformed by God. To let go of the concepts we hold onto and entrust our minds and beliefs and hearts to him.
In my stubbornness, I cling to what I believe (and sometimes to what I feel). Even with things I believe to be good, but prove to not be biblical. I can grow hardhearted, not open to the possibility that God is changing my heart and mind to be more like him.
Proverbs 3:4-5 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
We tend to operate on what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. But, wait a minute – “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Outside of the Bible’s strong and certain promises and commands, there is still room for faith and surrender and trust in the Lord.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
God’s will doesn’t always make sense. But when I fight to take on his perspective, often I can see meaning to times that seem meaningless, and plans that don’t go my way.
Luke 22:42b (NIV) is Jesus prayer that ends with, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus had to surrender, too. God doesn’t ask us to do anything he didn’t do – even surrender.
Luke 14:31-33 (NIV) is an analogy given by Jesus about us and God. Will we choose to face off against an army with twice as many soldiers? Or will we send up the flag of surrender and ask for terms of peace?
God is the one with all the cards. We can choose to oppose him, or instead accept his terms (trusting that he is good and will act for our benefit). Even though it’s not easy, God’s terms work better in the long run.
The Biggest Secrets to Surrendering
1. It’s a journey, not a destination.
I often think I’ve “arrived” at surrender. Even recently, when a big, life-changing option that I had no control over came up in my life, I thought for sure I had surrendered. That either option would be great.
And then the answer came – “no” – and I was a crying, angry mess.
It’s possible to surrender as much as you can at one point. I really felt confident at that time that either option would be okay.
But it seems like this surrender, and any, is ongoing. I have to keep choosing it and fighting for it. It’s part of my “losing my life” for God, and renewing my mind.
2. Our control is an illusion.
We can cling to this notion that we are in control of an outcome. But – are we really? This is something I’ve wrestled with again and again. Can I really change an outcome? Can I really ensure the results I want? Especially if I do everything right?
Our God is the sovereign and omnipotent one. He is mighty, powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. See: Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 90:2, Isaiah 40:28-29, Revelation 4:8, and on and on.
Which claims can we make that compare to that?
3. God is so good we can’t even comprehend it.
God is sovereign, and has all the cards, and has the army with the twenty thousand. It’s clear why we would hand everything over to him. By why would we want to?
Oh yeah. Because he is so, so good.
Psalm 23:6, Psalm 116:2, Psalm 34:8, Jeremiah 29:11, and all of Romans 8, and more, confirm God’s goodness, and his goodness to us. And he loves us infinitely.
Remember, when surrender seems difficult, that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
4. All things through Christ.
Paul’s secret to contentment is “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)
Surrender and contentment seem to share the same contingency – they are choices we make regardless of whether or not the situation is what you want.
It’s that perfect peace described in Isaiah 26, above. And we find the strength to do it through Christ.
So what I’m learning in this season of surrender is to lean in to God as much as I can. Usually I want to break away, do my own thing, brood, hide, numb, escape.
Instead, take steps to move towards him. I’m doing this through being vulnerable with friends who can help, reading scriptures when I don’t want to, seeking truth instead of letting my feelings take over, and also going to church when I just want to stay home and cry.
It’s not easy – it feels like a battle with each and every choice. But God. He somehow provides relief with every step I take towards him.
All that said, though, I’m no expert.
How do you surrender to God?
What are your “secrets”? Also, what are your favorite verses?
Bible verses from BibleGateway.com.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
1 – My Own