All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all…
The lyrics of this beloved song make it sound so simple. If only we could just throw up our hands, say, “Yes, Lord, I surrender all to you,” and have instant transformation take place the way Cinderella was transformed when her fairy godmother waved her magic wand…
But it’s not really that easy, is it? I think it’s like any other thing worth having in life…it takes effort. It takes sacrifice. It takes a multiple-times-a-day choice to say, “Not my will be done, but yours, Lord.”
There was a time when my husband and I thought we had “surrendered.” We had given up our home, belongings, and great paying jobs that we loved in order to pursue what we felt God was calling us to do.
Surely that’s surrender. Right?
It’s a question we asked ourselves many times, but what we’ve come to realize, especially over this past year is that surrendering to the Lord involves far more than giving up plans, jobs, homes, or belongings. For some people, yes, those things are required, but it actually goes much deeper than that.
Surrender is about letting go of our own will.
And to be completely transparent with you...
My will wants to be comfortable and have a predictable income stream. My will wants to eat what I want with no consequences. My will wants to travel to scenic places that I want to see, certainly not to third world nations. My will wants to plan out and know as many details as possible about something before making a decision - all in an effort to control the outcome of a situation and ensure I do everything I can to make the best decision possible [insert laugh here].
While that last one may sound honorable and well-intended and may be great when deciding on a vehicle or home purchase or planning a vacation, it's not such a good trait when trying to walk according to God’s will.
Why? I think the Apostle Paul explained it well in his letter to the Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
– Romans 12: 1-2
As I’ve prayed for the Lord’s help to renew my mind, I’ve begun to understand that my tendencies to over-plan and my desire to control outcomes is actually rooted in fear… a fear of failure…and a fear of disappointing myself and others. And when it comes to walking with the Lord, this fear can actually be rooted in not fully trusting in the Lord and His plan for my life.
My mind wants to connect all the dots and see His plans for my life laid out before me. But more often than not, the Lord just doesn’t work that way. He reveals things to us one step at a time. It’s how He teaches us to rely on Him. Almost every time I’ve thought something was going to happen in a certain way, it just didn’t.
Surrender is about sacrifice. It’s about releasing all of our desires, plans, perceptions, expectations, and their outcome into God’s safe, loving, and exceedingly capable hands, knowing that His plans and purpose are for our good, and then trusting His ways for getting us there, even if that process is painful or unpleasant.
And many times, it will be painful and unpleasant.
I remember as a child, a period of time when I went through a sudden growth spurt, and it was physically painful. It seemed everything I did, even walking, just plain hurt! I was experiencing “growing pains,” just like many children do.
In our walk with the Lord, our spiritual and emotional selves will go through growing pains as well, but we have to trust in His process and know that it’s all for our good.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11
Although the process can sometimes be painful, we can rest assured that we are not alone. He is with us every step of the way as we learn to let him lead us in His ways.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
– Psalm 23:4
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flames will not set you ablaze.
– Isaiah 43:2
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
– Psalm 118:6
Isn’t that comforting to know? That even though our walk with the Lord may sometimes be painful, like when He asks us to lay down our pride, our desire to plan or control our lives, or our material possessions, He is with us every step of the way. And He truly is right there, willing and able to help us along each step, through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
- Romans 8:5-6
What a treasure! What a gift!
If you’re in a place of learning how to surrender to God, I want to encourage you. The more time you spend with the Father, the more you will know His heart, and the easier surrender will become. When we abide in Him, we become more like Him, and that is ultimately the goal….to be renewed in our minds so that we focus on the eternal, bear the fruit of His spirit, and shine His light for all the world to see.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
- John 15:1-7
Surrender is a process. I am still learning to surrender to the Lord’s will. You may be too. But the thing that should keep us going is knowing that, when we are fully yielded to the Lord, we get to play a role in His will being done on the earth. When we are fully surrendered, He can and will do great things through us...things that change lives, communities, and nations and lead others to the knowledge of how much God loves them. Our holy God, who is righteous and just, loved us all so much that He died a horrible, excruciating death to make a way for us to be redeemed and reconciled to Him; a way for justice to be served for our sins while also providing us a way to escape the penalty.
Salvation is a free gift, and each and every one of us gets to choose whether or not we will accept this gift. He doesn’t force it on us. So, we aren’t talking about surrendering to a dictator here. We’re talking about surrendering to the King of Glory, the one who knew us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs, the one who died for us, the one who intercedes for us, the one who created us! That should get us excited!
I think that once we (and I’m talking to myself here) really grasp who we are in Christ… our true identity… that surrendering to the will of God will become easier, less painful, and we will look at it more like the amazing opportunity it truly is… the opportunity to really know God and to commune with Him on a deeper, more personal level.
Or in the words of the Apostle Paul...
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21