How Surrendering Can Help You Weather the Storm
- Jan Harrison Author
- 2015 2 Apr
Several years ago, I participated on a missions trip to work with teenagers in the countryside of Mongolia. One of our goals was to build camaraderie, so we scheduled a day of friendly games and competition between the Americans and the Mongolians. The final challenge turned out to be a decisive game of tug-of-war.
As we gathered into teams, I could tell by the look in everyone’s eyes that they took the situation seriously. The other team was composed of fierce competitors who had little regard for the fact that my team was older and weaker! Winning was the goal. Period.
Team members strategically positioned themselves on each side of the long rope. The referee blew his whistle and the spectators began to chant, “Pull! Pull! Pull!” The collective strength of each team pulling in opposite directions created incredible tension on the rope. I tried to hang on during the intense battle of back and forth, but my hands started to feel raw and hot. Soon, my strength waned. I felt a throbbing pain in my arms, my knees started to buckle, and my feet began to slide. My teammates and I held out for as long as we could, but after a hard- fought struggle we were overpowered by the other team and yielded to their strength. We had to give up and surrender the tug-of-war.
God Is Pulling for You, Not Against You
When difficult storms blow into our lives, many of us engage in a spiritual tug-of-war with God. We view ourselves on one side of the rope seeking to take charge of our negative circumstances and control the outcome of what has happened. We want to “pull ourselves together” and pull life in the direction we think it should go. We imagine God as the unseen force on the other side of life’s rope, pulling us in a direction we don’t understand.
But here’s the spiritual game changer: There is no tug-of-war with God. He is on the same side of the rope as we are! “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).
God is for us. He is not playing a sinister power game with our lives. He will not yank or drag us over the line, nor rejoice when we feel crushed and defeated. Instead, he waits patiently and quietly for us to release our grip on the rope. He wants to pull for us as we struggle through life’s storms. Surrendering to God does not mean giving up. Spiritual surrender is giving over our lifeline to the One who is already the victor.
My friend Lynn and I have spent many hours sharing our struggles and fears. We have walked through deep valleys together and helped each other look at God’s Word for our bearings and direction. One day, when my heart was particularly burdened, she kindly reminded me of Colossians 3:15-16, which says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”
The key, Lynn reminded me, is in the word let. If I will freely give over my burdens and cares, Christ, who is my peace, will take up the situation for me. Yielding to Christ produces oneness with him and enables me to recognize that he is for me, not against me. This reality is a cause for thankfulness.
When we release our rope to God, he picks it up on our behalf. Our burdens are his and our cares are in his hands. He reveals what we need to know and guides us in the direction we need to go. I can release the outcome to him and trust him to do what is best and right for me. He knows what I need better than I know myself, and he knows what it will take to accomplish his good and perfect will in my life.
The choice to surrender is an intentional one. It’s the deliberate act of releasing our lives, hearts, and circumstances to God and asking him to take over all control. It’s tempting to want to use surrender as a bargaining chip when asking for God’s help. We suggest an outcome and then offer up a temporary version of agreeing to God’s purpose. How often have we thought, God, get me out of this situation and I will do (fill in the blank). But this isn’t surrender and it certainly isn’t a way to experience the freedom of leaning into God’s strength and love. It’s a halfhearted negotiation. Real surrender is allowing God to be God on his terms, not ours.
I recently read a book by Bob Goff titled Love Does. The author is a lawyer, and he tells a beautiful story of an exercise he asks all his clients to do when they are being interviewed for depositions. He instructs them to sit with their hands open, palms up underneath the table while testifying. He says with your hands open and palms up, it’s impossible to withhold or clutch anything that needs to be released.
I love that picture. Try it. I suggest you try it while praying. Take your prayer concerns, and with each one spoken turn your hands open, palms up. Surrender is about living with your hands and heart open and your palms and your eyes looking up!
The most powerful picture of surrender is found in Jesus, hanging on the cross. His nail-pierced hands are open as he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus did not give up when he died on the cross. He gave himself over to the will of the Father.
I’m discovering that living in surrender is a continual process. I’m learning to give my cares and concerns over to him. Letting go of my rope is not a one-time decision that settles things once and for all. Every single day, I have to consciously decide to give the outcomes, choices, and people in my life over to God.
What difficulties have become fierce competitors on the other end of your rope? What heartache or trial weighs so much that even the strength of your desire for a different outcome is no match for its might? If you allow the pull of temptation to enter that swirl of uncertainty, you will soon lose your footing.
What holds you back from letting God take your end of the rope?
Never Trust a Stranger
As children, we’re taught to never trust a stranger. Spiritually speaking, many people never learn to trust God because he is a stranger to them. There are a number of ways to be introduced to him, but these have little to do with actually developing a personal relationship with him.
Take a moment to think about a person in your life you genuinely trust. I’m sure this is someone who knows you well. And it’s someone you have invested significant time and care getting to know and building a relationship with.
This is how you and I also learn to trust God—we get to know him intimately.
God already knows you very well because he made you, but you have to take the time to get to know him and his character and his intentions. You have this opportunity through his remarkable Word. It’s a declaration of who he is and what he wants you to know about him first and his great love for you.
Do you remember the thrill of receiving a love letter? There is great delight in reading and rereading the words of someone who knows and loves you so much that he is willing to write it down and proclaim it.
The Bible is a love letter God has delivered to you. From start to finish, his words reveal why you can depend on and trust in him. Read it, cherish it, and hide it away in your heart. Learn it, live it, and let him prove himself to you. If you will do that, he will not be a stranger and your personal relationship will grow to be one of deep and abiding trust in him. Surrender will only happen if you trust the One you’re surrendering to.
A close friend once said to me, “I am learning that the way to experience peace during this storm is to surrender my expectations.” That was good advice for me. Maybe we all need to take a second look at our expectations and willingly lay them down before the Lord. In fact, it’s part of our deliberate act of surrender.
When our storm is forcing us to struggle and strain, we are tempted to hold on to what we are familiar with even when it creates misery or exhausts us. Faith is required to open your fist and let God take your expectations. But once he is included, literally anything can happen!
Today I want to encourage and prod you to start moving your feet towards Jesus. He is on the same side of your rope...and on the other side of the storm.
Excerpted from Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through by Jan Harrison (Harvest House Publishers, April 1, 2015).
Jan Harrison is an author, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired thousands of women for over 15 years. She experienced the promise of “life after the storm” when her son, James, died unexpectedly. Jan serves on the board of With Open Eyes, a ministry co-founded by James and his father to help accelerate the gospel in Africa. She and her husband, Frank, have three grown daughters and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information, visit: JanHarrison.com.