He who has found his life will lose it,
and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
Surrender is the path to the abundant life, and therefore it is something that we struggle with. Surrender simply means to give up control of and to place our destiny in the hands of another. However, as long as we maintain any control over any aspect of our lives, we lose the opportunity for real freedom, the freedom that brings both joy and peace.
The very first time that we surrender our “lives” to the Lord and accept His plan of salvation, we take the first step. All of us can remember the freedom and joy that meant: feeling clean, forgiven, and for the first time, our future looked bright. But God is not satisfied (thank you, Jesus) to leave us there. He tells us that He wants to bring us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
As we move from glory to glory, His Holy Spirit will slowly begin showing us different areas of our lives that need to be refined. Ultimately, He will ask us to surrender that thing (or person) in our lives to His loving hands—HIS plan for our lives or “Thy will be done.” It normally begins with a trial or feelings that overwhelm us: we simply can’t do it or face it anymore. It is then that either we try to make just “one more plan” or we recognize that we are again in a place of surrender.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).
The Lord has brought me through surrendering so many things and people in my life that a person would think that there could be no more left to give over to our Savior. But I believe now (at the ripe age of 50 years) that our lists are each endless, and that you and I will never get to the bottom of the barrel.
For instance, after I reached my forties, with the birth of my last child, I found I had a weight problem. Diets that had always worked in the past no longer touched the “baby fat” that remained after her birth. To complicate matters, my family has a history of thyroid problems. Most of my siblings are on lifelong medication and yet, they still battle weight, sleepiness, cold hands, and feet, all of which were signs that were screaming at me after my last birth, but it was the body in my mirror that got my attention.
God was not about to let me carry the burden, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). So, instead, He graciously began to “pile the burdens” until they were too much for me to carry. One day I cried out to the Lord and simply gave my weight issues to Him. From that moment on (to this very day) I never weighed myself or watched what I ate again, nor did I seek medical help for my thyroid symptoms as my siblings had been pushing me to do.
Of course, if the Lord had led me on this path to seek help, I would have obeyed. It is not wrong to seek help from doctors as King Asa did: “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12). However, God just wants us to go to HIM first and then He will lead us on the path to health, whether it be through doctors or some other way. My own beliefs are that it depends on your particular journey and where you are in regard to your faith.
What’s interesting is, our toughest challenge is NOT the initial surrender, but the following three to four months when we are so tempted to do “something.” If it is your weight that you have surrendered, you will keep thinking that you should “at least” cut back on what you are eating, or drink more water, or add more fruits or vegetables to your menu. Maybe exercise should be important to faithfully do. But if you simply resist each temptation, very soon the Holy Spirit will take over. And during the wait, spend more and more time with the Lord and each time you think of it, keep surrendering it to Him. And do yourself a favor, resist the temptation to help God out—I’ve been there and done that, and it doesn’t work.
The result of surrendering my weight was to never have to diet again. God keeps me at the weight I should be and He doesn’t stop there. My children, especially my daughters, are thrilled that He also keeps me in the current clothing trend to show His glory, not my willpower. The glory of it all in my life is that I can use the time I would normally use thinking and concentrating on dieting (what I should eat, counting calories or carbohydrates, weighing myself, vigorously exercising etc. etc.), to seeking more of the Lord and being free to spend more time thinking of Him! Here is my favorite verse I recited in my head and heart that I clung to:
“. . . do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:25, 33).
Then, just last year, when I was given our finances and all the debt to go with it in the divorce (as I’ve mentioned in many previous chapters), immediately I was overwhelmed, so I simply passed my burden onto my Beloved Husband. However, as He began to dig me out and give me the wisdom and knowledge that I lacked, I found myself beginning to reason and plan—only to feel just as overwhelmed and fearful as before. Once again, and again and again, I had to surrender and acknowledge that: “apart from Him I can do nothing” (John 1:3)! The result was that peace and joy again followed each time I surrendered this area of my life, and my only job remained to resist planning or thinking about it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
The truth is—thinking and reasoning will ultimately lead to worry and fear, which takes time and energy away from intimacy with the Lord. He has told me time and again that He does not need a wife or a helper—He is complete. What He longs for is a bride who is not stressed and consumed with problems.
What, of the many things, I love about the Lord is that He has graciously and lovingly given too many burdens—all at the same time over the past year, just so that I would give all of it to Him and enjoy a full year that feels just like a dream-come-true honeymoon. Many, who really don’t know or understand or can unfathomable the love He has for us, reason that when something awful happens, or too many things happen at once, that somehow God is punishing them or is not there for them—especially when things start to overwhelm them, and they can see no way out. But that is so far from the truth! The truth is that He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to struggle or carry even one tiny thing that will weigh us down with burdens or cares. He knows that until it is simply too difficult to carry, we won’t lay it down at His feet.
As I was preparing and pondering this chapter, I realized I had become so overwhelmed with so many areas of my life that I had no idea I was still trying to hold together and to make happen by myself. Please understand that in every area of my life, I have sought God for help, but the moment my restored marriage collapsed with the announcement that my husband was filing for divorce, I realized that I had (for years) tried to fulfill what I had always wanted in my life. I had always wanted to simply be a good wife, a stay-at-home mother who homeschooled her children, and to simply be a keeper of our home. The honest truth is that I was so happy and content to be at home, that when I didn’t leave the house for over a week, I was actually the happiest.
Then one day my life changed in an instant. I had no choice, really, other than to seek the Lord wholly and to surrender my future for His. In an instant, I was traveling, which I was terrified to do as I don’t like meeting new people or strange surroundings. In an instant, I was the breadwinner and provider of my very large family, and instantly, I became a pastor and administrator of a megachurch and worldwide television ministry. But by looking up, into the face of my Beloved, I was able to “do it all” and to do it easily, only because I surrendered it totally to Him. Instead of my having to try, it was His strength, His wisdom, powered by His love that accomplished it all.
It’s now nine months later since it all happened, and I have been asked to face another area of my life that I hold dear: homeschooling—what to do about my youngest children’s education. Due to all my traveling, which is not an option (if I remain in my husband’s former and my current position with the church), coupled with the opportunities that have opened up for my older children so that they can’t help me at home any longer, my younger children are often working on their schooling alone. This does have its benefits, but without following up and at least some guidance, I can see that they are not getting the education that they deserve. It became clear just weeks ago that I had to surrender this area of my life to Him, but not before the enemy began screaming in my ear, “what people would think if I put my children in public school!” Then he reminded me about “the shame I just went through when everyone found out about the divorce. Surely this proved that public school is where my children are headed” the enemy persisted.
The truth is, God isn’t saying anything of the sort. He simply wants to free me up and has asked me to surrender another area of my life—reminding me of how hard I had tried to be a perfect wife only to see my marriage end. The same people who, like Job’s friends, thought or told me that I must have failed to follow A Wise Woman principles would certainly have a hay-day when they found out that my children started going to public school.
However, there it was, that still, small voice who reminded me of how He had brought me through that very difficult and devastating period of my recent divorce and how much JOY I had, sheer joy I never dreamt would be possible. He reminded me that this joy came as I moved toward my fear rather than pulling back, and that my reputation was again in His hands.
Looking back to when I first began to travel, I wanted so much to pull back and to hide; but instead, I moved toward my fear, and that’s when the chains that had me bound began to fall off. They didn’t fall off all at once, but as I surrendered rather than trying to overcome, one-by-one, they fell off. The Bible says that we are overcomers, but it is not because we have the ability in ourselves to overcome. Instead, it is the Lord who makes us overcomers as we put our trust in Him.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Finances, too, have come to overwhelm me and to cause me to fear. But as I have moved toward the fear, and chosen to GIVE when He provided the opportunity, the Lord has faithfully begun to take over, and I know that I will be out of debt supernaturally soon.
Today I am at a place in my life (finally) that I am convinced (because of the proof of His love in my life) that everything He calls me to do, everything He calls me to go through ultimately will lead to freedom and blessings! All I need to do is to wait for Him to show Himself.
Yet, let me be perfectly transparent. A day does not go by that I don’t think that I need to make some kind of a plan to give my children a better education now or wonder how I can help budget, calculate, or chart how to get out of the financial mess that I am in. But praise the Lord, I am resisting so that I am leaving room for God to show His glory. I just need to be still (in mind, body and spirit) and to know that He is God.
Dear reader, no matter what area of your life you are now struggling with, instead of holding on, surrender it to the Lord. Don’t use your strength or any other natural abilities to handle it or fix it (and for heaven’s sake, don’t seek outside help). Instead, realize how true this passage is and meditate on it.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit . . . Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15: 1–5).
Surrender whatever it is that has overwhelmed you to the Lord today, this very minute, so that He can give you more of an abundant life than you ever dreamed existed.