Trust to Surrender

The La Sal Mountains from the Peek-a-boo Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains from the Peek-a-boo Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Trying to submit or surrender to God is an oft-referenced topic of teaching these days.  It’s Biblical if very rarely put in those terms – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1), “Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), and “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) among others.

Rocks below Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
Rocks below Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The problem is that we tend to look at submission and surrender in a void rather than in relation to the rest of the Christian life.  And so we think of it as a daily, constant choice – a battle with our mind, our will, and our body to do what we think might please God.  We take very seriously 1 Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

Gardner River below Sheepeater Cliff, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Gardner River below Sheepeater Cliff, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The problem is that surrender and submission were never made to be the main focus of the Christian life.  Nor were they made to be purely an act of the will apart from Christ.  I don’t believe that God is impressed with all of our trying to do it in our own strength – if He was, then there would have been no need for Christ to die because we could have gotten it just as easily through the law (Galatians 2:21).

Paintbrush along the misty trail to McNeil Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
Paintbrush along the misty trail to McNeil Point, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

As we grow to know Christ more, we come to trust Him more.  We begin to know His ways, to see Him moving and working, and to, like the Samarians, believe because we have experienced God, not just heard about Him (John 4:42). As this happens, our trust grows.  And as our trust grows, surrender and submission become easier.

The Pacific Ocean from Cape Perpetua's Stone Shelter, Oregon
The Pacific Ocean from Cape Perpetua’s Stone Shelter, Oregon

Let me give an example.  Let’s say that you have a friend who knows a lot about sailing boats.  You’ve been out with him several times, and he’s demonstrated that he can control the craft well.  One day, when you’re out with him on the ocean, a storm blows up out of nowhere.  You could freak out, but you know that your friend is an excellent sailor.  So not only will you trust your friend to get you back to shore safely, but you’ll do exactly what he says because you trust that he knows what needs to happen – and that your help will assist your friend in his efforts to bring you to safety.

Peaks in the Greenwater Range from the Greenwater Valley Road, Death Valley National Park, California
Peaks in the Greenwater Range from the Greenwater Valley Road, Death Valley National Park, California

The same is true with God.  We might not know exactly how or why we’re doing what He is leading us to do, but trust makes submission so much easier.  “I don’t get this at all, but I know that He has my best in mind, that He’ll bring it all out right, and that He knows a lot better than I do, so I’ll follow His leading.”

Semi-official trailhead along the Great Allegheny Passage, Pennsylvania
Semi-official trailhead along the Great Allegheny Passage, Pennsylvania

Surrender to Christ is still a choice – even Jesus said, “My Father, if it can be done, take away what is before Me.  Even so, not what I want but what You want” (Matthew 26:39).  He chose to submit to God rather than do what He wanted.  So there is still a choice involved in submission.

Evening in the Crystal Forest, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Evening in the Crystal Forest, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

If you want to surrender to Christ in everything, a good place to start isn’t so much with surrender as much as with trust.  Yes, you should be making the daily choices to submit yourself to God – it’s a very useful habit to make.  But if you’re struggling with surrender, learn to trust Him.  Pray and see answers to prayer.  Obey what God says and see what happens (in more than one or two instances – consistent obedience will give you a much better idea of how He works).  Praise God for His faithfulness.  Remember what God has done.  All of this grows our faith and trust – and when you trust someone, it’s a whole lot easier to surrender to them, God included.

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