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What Does it Mean to Surrender?

  • Cliff Young Contributing Writer
  • Published Jan 19, 2015
What Does it Mean to Surrender?

"It is better to risk starving to death than surrender."
~Jim Carrey

We live in a world where we are groomed to “never give up,” “fight until the death” and “to the victor goes the spoils.” We have been taught to hold our ground, not let others push you around and to be all you can be. We have reaped the benefits of the privatization of businesses, capitalism and allowing the human mind and spirit to be unleashed.

This mindset has made our country great and given us all a foundation in which to prosper, but even so, what more can we do in order to reach our own maximum potential?

In the investment world, you often have to go against what everyone else is saying to be successful. In athletics, you have to work out longer, try alternative approaches and do what others aren’t in order to achieve your goal. And In life, I have discovered surrendering instead of fighting (yourself) can frequently provide the most reward.

Before you “give up” on this article, let me share with you what surrendering isn’t.

Surrendering isn’t giving up, but rather giving in.

Surrendering isn’t admitting failure, but rather discovering more and better ways to succeed.

Surrendering isn’t being helpless, but rather gaining strength through humility.

Surrendering isn’t showing weakness, but rather exemplifies personal fortitude.

Surrendering isn’t about not caring about the results, but rather opening up more possibilities.

How often have you asked another believer how they were doing and their answer was, “just seeking God’s will for my life” or “waiting for God to show me his will”?

I’ve spoken those same words in the past, and that’s all good and fine as long as you’re being forthright with yourself. However in my case I probably really should have said, “I’m just waiting for God’s will to coincide with mine.”

Analogous to Luke 6:41 (Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?), oftentimes we can’t see the will of God for our life because of our own log-sized will in our face.

I’ve recently signed up on an online “relational networking” site and find it interesting how human nature, or more precisely, our own nature, shows up in profiles.

At the outset, there is an opportunity to determine “what you’re looking for” in a prospective mate so the computer can have some basis on whom to match you up with. I am amazed at some of the specificity some people have…must be between 6’-0” and 6’-2,” be of Norwegian descent, have brown hair and brown eyes, be 28-30 years old, work in the ministry , make over $250,000 a year, love exotic pets, and live with 10 miles.

I definitely have my personal “must haves” - like the person must love Jesus and not be a smoker. But why limit your possibilities, or more specifically, God’s prospects, by thinking you know exactly what’s best for yourself?

For a number of years now, I have (reluctantly) tried to step aside from the plans I seem to have laid in stone for myself in order for God to show me what he wants. I have tried not to question and fight every incident I don’t understand, believing there may be a bigger purpose behind it.

Each day as I have strained to surrender myself, a clearer path has developed and more doors seemed to have opened, all with less “help” from me.

All too often we may be closing our eyes, thoughts and mind to other perspectives, differing opinions and ultimately where God may be leading us because we believe we know better.

What if the person I would best be suited for were a couple of inches shorter or taller than I had preferred, or was a year or two older or younger than I had specified? The more constraints we put on our life, the more we limit God. The more parameters we place on our future, the less we surrender to his will.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Have we given up believing and think he’s forgotten us? Is it not happening “fast enough” for our time frame? Do we only need him when it all goes wrong? Or do we believe “I totally got this”? How is that working for you?

Pastor A. W. Tozer once said, “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us. ”

Does that sound like anyone you know?

After years of frustration with my own plans, I am starting to get out of the way of myself and places I don’t necessarily have to be in order to succeed. I am finally moving closer to surrendering all.

I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command
But these castles I've constructed by the strength of my own hand
Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand

In the middle of the battle I believe I've finally found
I'll never know the thrill of victory till I'm willing to lay down
All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
So I'm laying down my arms and running helplessly to yours

I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
Though the price to follow costs me everything
I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires that all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

(–"I Surrender All," Clay Crosse)

Surrendering is confessing you can’t do it all by yourself (nor want to anymore).

Surrendering is acknowledging the need for our Creator.

Surrendering is allowing God to take control of your life.

Surrendering is freedom.

All too often our failure to surrender is for fear of what others may think of us when in reality everyone is struggling in some way or another.

“You cannot fulfill God's purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.”
~Rick Warren

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the bi-weekly column, "He Said-She Said," in's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to Find him on facebook and twitter.

Publication date: January 20, 2015