By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
I was mindlessly thumbing through a pile of books that had come across my desk recently. I get a lot of books because of what I do at my job, and truthfully many don’t catch my interest. They all start to look the same and sound the same after a while.
But against my typical judgment, I guess because of the catchy title and the book cover art, I decided to take another look at this one book in particular. And my eyes stopped on a chapter about “joyful surrender”.
Man, here we go again, I thought, half cynically. What is joyful about surrender, I ask you?
But instead of laying the book down in disgust, I reconsidered and tentatively read through portions of the chapter. At first, I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking that this author had no idea what it meant to go through hard times, what it meant to experience hope deferred, what it felt like to have a veil of confusion and apathy that lingers. I didn’t want cutesy. And though I kind of thought I would be met with shallow platitudes from this book, I really hoped that I would get a nugget of wisdom straight from the throne room of God.
Perhaps that sounds silly, but God does often speak to me through the words of other Christians; I guess that’s because I am a writer, too.
You see, my question lately has been, OK, how exactly do you surrender to the Lord? Above it even being a ‘joyful’ experience, how do you do it at all?
It seems that at every critical juncture in my journey with God lately, this has been the key desire of the Lord for me and also the one challenge that I can’t seem to master.
When I say surrender, I don’t mean the initial surrender you do when you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I mean the kind of surrender that the Lord asks of you when you are in some huge, ongoing, seemingly unsolvable trial, and giving Him control looks extremely scary because you temporarily forget who He is. It’s the kind of surrender where you have to let go of everything you know and place your total trust and hope in a good God who says He has good plans for you, when you aren’t sure you completely believe that.
I know the Bible tells me to cast all my cares on the Lord because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and He will sustain me when I do (Psalm 55:22). He tells all those who are heavy-laden to give God those burdens and He will provide rest (Matt. 11:28). But there seems to be more to this surrender stuff than just giving over burdens. I think it has more to do with giving over your heart. And it is harder than it sounds.
The number of times I prayed this year, ‘Lord, I don’t know the first thing about surrender. I can’t do this’ must have been almost daily – pretty much still is, to be honest. That’s how desperate I have become to relinquish the reigns. Yet, at the same time, I know I am still gripping them for dear life.
And many would say, ‘Oh, acknowledging your lack is the first step to surrender.’ I suppose that should make me feel better. But I have been acknowledging this human condition for a very long time. I would very much like to get to step two, if you please – if someone could explain what that looks like and give me the grace to do it.
Do these people even know what they are talking about? Maybe some people have a really easy time jumping into the deep end with God without any qualms, but having felt like I have been flailing around on a particular issue in my life, the deep end has looked treacherous. I have to admit that I spend a whole lot more time analyzing that deep water than thinking about how sweet the plunge will be. Sounds good in theory, but how does it work in reality?
So many times I have cried out, “God, where are you? Are you just going to leave me here to figure this all out by myself? Are you going to wait for me to fail before You come and help? Because it sure feels like it right now. I just don’t get it – I can trust You to send me halfway around the world and see You work Your sustaining strength in me in foreign countries, I can trust You to empower me to pray for others and see their lives changed, yet when it comes to this one issue in life, I don’t have a morsel of faith – in You or in myself. I keep feeling like You fail me and I fail You. I need answers.”
I know God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; I know God never leaves me nor forsakes me; I know that He has good plans for me – well, at least I know all this intellectually right now.
And, yes, I grasp those breaks in the clouds when God’s truth gets to my heart like it should on these matters; it just doesn’t seem to live there for long. Doubt, fear, and confusion creep in and steal the hope and understanding.
In the heat of my current trial, it’s really difficult. It’s way different believing then. It’s easy when everything is going right, when God responds the way you expect Him to, when you can almost visibly watch Him hold your hand through some difficulty.
It’s something else entirely when He seems to be hiding and silent. It’s different when you see God easily answer the heart cry in the lives of your friends, but He doesn’t seem to budge when it comes to that same heart cry in your life. And then you come to the realization that it’s probably because of you, but you don’t know how to fix it. Or perhaps He has already spoken but you are having trouble recognizing what it was He said. You strain to hear Him repeat what He said.
There are days when I can just sense, “Come on, Laura, you can do it. Just let go. Lay it down. It's going to be OK. ” And for a couple of minutes, I bask in what it would be like to be free from my burdened perspective. But for some reason, I still can’t let go of it all. I look down the road and start questioning. I can’t see how if I did A, God would bring B. I had done A in the past, and B never came. Why would it be different this time? And could I be sure that this stirring in me is God or just my way of figuring out how to fix things? What does free look like?
So many questions, so much time spent at God’s feet trying to discover what’s going on. At least I know that’s OK with God. After all, Mary is the one Jesus points to, not Martha. And she is sitting at His feet. Of course, in Mary’s case, she is listening and she is patient. Hmm…definitely need to work on that. Perhaps I am more Martha than I would like to admit. Yes, she was worried about many things, according to Jesus, whereas Mary had found the better way, calmly sitting in a state of peace and recognizing that her Savior was in control. It's that "be still and know that I am God" attitude that I really need to exhibit right now.
On that note, God, just help me out here. I need You, Father. I need You, Holy Spirit. I need You to breathe revelation into my life. I need you to sustain me with Your everlasting words of hope. I truly am desperate for every word from Your lips, and I am guessing that’s the point. You want me near to You. You want me to listen to You. Help me with that, would You please? Make me willing to unpeel my fingers from my own life. I know you don’t take away my free will, but I do want to do Yours, whatever that looks like. In Jesus Christ's name, Amen.
"So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33, Amplified). "
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How to Give Your Life to Christ:
1. Admit you are a sinner and need forgiveness.
2. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the Cross and
rose from the grave.
3. Through prayer, confess that Jesus Christ is the only
way to God and commit to live for Him for the rest of your
What to Pray:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe
that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave
to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now
I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please
forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In
Jesus' name. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, please send
us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our CBN Prayer
Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk
with you and send you some resources to help you begin your
walk with the Lord.
Laura J. Bagby produces the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles.
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