What does it mean to surrender to God’s will?
Think deeply for a moment about the word “surrender”; it may help you to imagine using the word in the context of a military struggle. If someone surrenders in battle, what is the deceptively obvious but implied truth?
There was a fight first!
I don’t have any idea if the following is correct, but I’d guess over 95% of all military surrenders were offered and accepted or rejected after a battle was fought, not before. For hours, days, weeks, perhaps months, both sides of the affair did everything they could to destroy, disarm, and otherwise eliminate their opponents’ ability to wage war. Enormous resources were expended; vast natural, physical, and human capital was spent. But eventually one side is defeated, and rather than risk further loss they offer to stop fighting and agree to the terms of the victor. That is surrender.
That is not how I see the word “surrender” used in the context of Christian spiritual growth. When I read about “surrender” in many modern Christian texts or hear a sermon on the subject, what gets described sounds nothing of the kind!
What I hear are admonitions to stop whatever it is you’re doing, whether you think it’s right or wrong, and let God take over. In other words, you are supposed to agree to His terms without fighting. In fact, fighting God is often spoken of as a kind of heresy. So instead of fighting you are instructed to sit back and let God have control of everything in your life. Folks, that ain’t surrender, and I’m pretty sure that strategy will come back to bite you in the ass.
There’s another word that much more closely mirrors this popular Christian attitude of pseudo-surrender, a word often used to describe giving up without a fight: Forfeit.
I remember soccer games as a kid which were won and lost through forfeit. If one team couldn’t field enough players the game was awarded to the opposing team. Having been on both sides of that coin I can tell you that there is no loss more humiliating, and no victory more hollow, than a forfeit. And as I sit here reflecting on the spiritual struggles I’ve gone through I can recognize how humiliating and hollow it is to “forfeit” to God. Every issue I “forfeited” to Him always came back with a vengeance later.
How much more satisfying it is to battle it out with God! Think of Jacob wrestling with an angel of God, refusing to let go until he was blessed! I don’t want any more hollow victories over the sin in my life, my pride or the plans I have. I want to go toe-to-toe with the Big Guy and fight as hard as I can. I know that in the end I’ll lose, but that’s not the point…or rather, that is the point. Because after I’ve expended enormous emotional, physical, and spiritual resources, after I’ve spent myself completely fighting with God, I will have to surrender to Him.
And in that place of surrender I will know deep down inside that I didn’t hold anything back from God. I won’t have doubts or second thoughts or “what-ifs”. I will lose and I will surrender, and in that surrender I will have the confidence and peace of knowing that God’s plan truly is the best plan for me.