Happy New Year! Throw Up and Theology is entering its third year, and we are very grateful for our faithful readers and supporters. We look forward to some wonderful things this year.
The New Year is a time when many resolve to become better people mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s also a great time to self-reflect. It’s beneficial to reflect on where you’ve been, what you’ve been through and where you’re going in life. As I reflect on last year, I realize that many of the challenges I faced was because I refused to surrender myself to God’s will for my life. If you’re a regular reader, you know my husband passed away in 2013, and I’m raising our children alone. It was very hard for me to accept his death because I couldn’t understand why God saw fit for us to carry on without him – me without a husband and my children without a father.
My inability to surrender to God’s permissive will caused me a great deal of emotional and spiritual turmoil. I spent many days and nights emotionally and spiritually wrestling and struggling with his death and trying to understand why God allowed such a great tragedy into our lives. You could probably compare this emotional and spiritual wrestling to when Jacob wrestled with the angel all night long in Genesis 32. The angel had to strike Jacob on the hip in order to gain leverage over him.
After many months of struggling to understand, I realized I had to let it go. I had to surrender my will and desire to understand in order to come to a place of acceptance and peace. I realized I forfeited my peace because of this inability to surrender. In my case, surrendering meant letting go of my will, dreams and plans for my life and surrendering it to God’s vision and plan for me and my family. Surrendering meant trusting God despite the tragedy and pain of my circumstances. I had to let go and trust that God’s will is still what’s best for me. His plans are better than mine even if they don’t include my beloved husband.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV).
And I know that I’m not the only person who struggles with surrendering their will. People don’t want to let go of relationships, jobs, homes, material things and the list can go on and on for the will of God. However, as believers, God requires us to lay down our will for that of our Heavenly Father.
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:25 (NRSV).
Even Jesus, the Son of God, struggled with surrendering his will to the Father. He struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46 with God’s plan for his life. He would soon suffer a terrible death on the cross, and he prayed that this fate would pass him. Matthew 26:39 says, “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’” Jesus came to a place of surrender and gave his life as a ransom for many as the Bible says. If Jesus was able to come to a place of surrender in the face of death on a cross, we can too no matter what our circumstance.
Here are a few ways we can surrender ourselves into a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Surrendering means putting an end to the emotional and mental struggling.
If you’re like me, your mind can go “a mile a minute.” The thoughts, questions and scenarios can be constant and sometimes overwhelming. However, we have to understand that we can control our thoughts. We have the power to quiet our minds. Some do this through meditation or practicing “presence” or living in the moment. The Bible supports our ability to choose our thoughts in Philippians 4:8 when we’re admonished to think on certain things. So that means you can control what you think about. If you’re having trouble controlling your thoughts, tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, and he will help to quiet your mind.
Surrendering means stopping the negotiations with God.
Oftentimes, we forfeit our peace because we are in a constant state of negotiations with God. We pray, beg and plead to God for a specific outcome. Psychologists even acknowledge negotiating as a stage in the grieving process. Persons who are faced with death attempt to negotiate for a different outcome. Negotiating is basically the inability to relinquish your perceived control and accept whatever outcome God permits. However, once you stop negotiating and say “Come what may,” you’ll be well on your way to peace. You have to trust that you are in God’s hands. Jesus said on the cross, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). We never leave the hands of God. Paul says it this way, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Knowing this, when faced with tragedy, we can say like the songwriter, “It is well with my soul” and have peace.
Surrendering means taking your hands off the situation.
We understand putting one’s hands up in the air as an act of surrender. It’s a position of helplessness. Your hands are literally off of the situation. In order to surrender your will to God’s will, you have to take your hands of whatever circumstance you’re trying to manipulate, and allow God to work it out the way he sees fit. When you take your hands off of things, you can rest and have peace because you know God is working things out according to his purpose and plan, and it is always for your good.
Surrendering means accepting whatever God allows.
In seminary and even in some Bible studies, we talk about “God’s permissive will.” It means that there are some things God allows into our lives. Sometimes it’s hard for us to accept the things God allows, especially if they are death, disease, lack and persecution. The story of Job is the perfect example of God’s permissive will. God allowed the devil to tempt Job with the death of his children and loss of his material things. Job couldn’t understand why God allowed such a great tragedy into his life.
We may not face tragedy to the extent of Job, but there are times when we wonder why God allows us to go through trials and tribulations. However, if you come to a place of accepting what God permits and accepting of what is and not what was or what will be, you can come to place of incomprehensible peace.
Here’s a clip from one of my favorite movies, The Best Man Holiday, and it’s very powerful. Lance’s wife is dying of cancer, and he says it’s not fair. Her response is how we all should respond to life’s circumstances. Watch here.
Jesus warns us that we will be faced with many afflictions. However, we can be encouraged because Jesus overcame the world (John 16:33). As believers, we know that even when faced with tragedy, it all works together for our good (Romans 8:28). It’s contrary to the world, but victory in the Kingdom of God begins with surrender. So, stop resisting. Stop negotiating. Stop manipulating, and wave your white flag at God. Watch how quickly God brings you to place of peace.
This is the song that was played before I preached my first sermon. Before the service, I sat in my car and seriously contemplated running away like Jonah from my calling. However, God brought me to a place of accepting his will for my life. The lyrics says, “Your word is true, and it will last. You will guide the future as you have the past. So I’ll cry ‘til you tell me “Let it go. Let it be.” Oh Lord, your will is what’s best for me.” I hope it encourages you for the New Year!
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