How Surrender Brings Freedom
In this season of Lent, this week’s focus is on surrender. This blog is about three things we need to surrender.
The first thing we need to surrender is our past.
We are people of the past. As Christians, our faith is rooted in a historical event. The Incarnation, the coming of Jesus, the son of God to this world. When we come into God’s family, by faith we join a legacy; it is a positive thing about the past. But for a lot of people, the past has a negative connotation. It’s something that they want to leave behind. It’s not something to celebrate. It’s something they don’t even want to remember.
Letting go of the past involves surrender. I’ve seen it said that “forgiveness is letting go of any hope of a different past.” The symptoms of an unsurrendered past are guilt and regret and a fear of being found out. It’s the experience of worrying about the skeletons in the closet. When you haven’t surrendered your past and received God’s forgiveness you worry about being found out. You can hold back on sharing who you are with others because you’re afraid of people finding out about your past, but coming to faith in Christ means replacing your past with a new reality, a new present, a new identity.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
I want to encourage you, if you feel stuck in the past if you feel guilt and regret and shame about your past, to surrender your past to God.
When we surrender our past we replace shame with His forgiveness and acceptance.
The next thing we need to surrender is our present.
Besides being a people of the past, a people with a history, we are also a people of the present, of the here-and-now. We have been made for “such a time as this”, we are here on this earth, at this time in history, for a reason.
Sometimes we can get off to a good start with God and faith in Christ but sometimes the middle gets messy. The messy middle is where disillusionment and disappointment can set in. It’s where the life that we wanted doesn’t work out, where we suffer unexpected loss or betrayal. Maybe the man or woman of your dreams leaves us or reject us. Maybe we struggle with physical or mental health, a chronic pain of some sort. Or the company that we invested 25-30 years in, lets you go unfairly.
The messy middle is where our dreams can die. It’s where the joy and peace that we felt we were promised or deserve as a child of God seems to be in short supply or has run off somewhere, and we start to think that if God really was a loving father I wouldn’t be going through this.
We feel derailed, sidelined, thrown aside, abandoned and forgotten.
This point of grief and pain, it also requires surrender. Sometimes we have to surrender our plans and our hopes; and trust. Trust that God’s ways and God’s plan are better and are truly for our good. It’s extremely hard to do that when we’re in pain. When we experience these broken dreams and waylaid plans it makes it hard to focus on the present. When we’re in pain, we try to make sense of how we got to where we ended up; we can start second-guessing and looking back on our past. or we can start looking towards the future with worry and anxiety, with uncertainty about the future. We lose confidence about how things are going to end up.
So when we surrender in the present we become more present in the Here and Now. This is important because without this it impairs our ability to live the life that we want to live. It’s natural to want to make sense of suffering, we want to know WHY? But we can get stuck there, and it impairs our ability to see things clearly and make wise decisions. When we experience this grief and brokenness, we can surrender our feelings and allow God to also provide peace and healing.
The apostle Paul understood that his circumstances and suffering had a purpose:
“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”
2 Tim. 1:12
Surrender may not mean giving up, it means not giving in to despair. Sometimes letting go means letting people in. It means replacing compartmentalization and isolation with connection with others. It means surrendering your thoughts and plans and expectations and letting others speak into your life. And letting the truth of scripture lead you a different way.
At first, this surrender may be through gritted teeth. It may feel more like sacrifice, duty or an act of obedience, but God gives us grace and His strength in our weakness.
The third area that we need to surrender is the future.
Some people I know like to plan, and there can be wisdom in planning, but sometimes the planning and knowing how things are going to turn out, or controlling things, circumstances and other people, can become your crutch or your Idol. You really can’t control your circumstances or others very long, so that’s a recipe for frustration and stress.
When we surrender our future to God, we replace anxiety worry and uncertainty with hope. As a people of the future, with a future, we join with God’s unfolding plan. We are a part of God blessing and healing the world. We serve in the ministry of reconciliation, of being the presence and light of Christ to the world. We have faith in the person in Jesus and we have hope in the future because our future our eternal future is secure. It rests in an eternal God. He is sovereign over our past, present, and future.
Last week, Ben Sadler gave a call to worship by reciting Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd…” It struck me that even though we are sheep, even though we’re being led by a good shepherd, the process of surrender and being led is still an active process. It takes hard work to face your past and surrender your past. It takes intention and it takes protecting your time and energy in order to surrender your present. Hope and surrender are an active endeavor. It also involves our will. Often our view of surrender is of raising our hands or waving a white flag, but there are two places in Psalm 23 that show that surrender is a purposeful an act of courage, not just passive.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”
Surrender in the valley of the shadow of death is an act of rebellion and defiance in face of the forces of evil and death. It’s subversive, it goes against the natural order of the world, just as Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection were.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Despite the challenges, despite the grief, the loss, through the sorrow and the pain we can make a declaration that surely goodness and mercy will follow us because we have a savior. We have a savior who willfully went to the Garden of Gethsemane, suffered, agonized and wrestled with the decision of whether or not to follow God’s will for him to the cross. We have a savior who loved us and endured the torture of crucifixion and death for our sake.
I hope this Lent season will help you draw near to this savior, to Jesus. That it will reveal the places where you need to surrender to him and that he will replace any shame with grace and forgiveness. That God will replace any fear, disappointment or grief with peace and his presence and sufficient grace. And that He will replace any anxiety, worry or uncertainty you may have about your future, about your life, with confidence and hope.
Written by Sovann Pen