The Tranquility and Trouble of Surrender

by Rob Tims

I hate the impact the stomach bug has on my 3 year-old daughter.

I hate that it makes her vomit.

I hate that it saps her energy.

I hate that it steals her appetite.

I hate that she doesn’t like to be touched or bothered when she’s sick.

Most of all, I hate that I am powerless to do anything to end it. What little I think I can do is superficial at best. She and I are forced to surrender to the power of the virus until it’s run its course and her body has done its work to heal her.

Yes … being in a place of surrender is a troubling thing for a person who loves being the mastermind of everything. Who loves power and predictability. To have to give that up is a troubling thing.

Ironically, the same thing that troubles me is the thing that gives me tranquility.

To truly live at peace with God and with others, I must embrace surrender.

Consider Luke 19:23-26.

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. 25 What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.”

Surrender saves. Not achievement or acquisition, but surrender. We must lose to gain. We must surrender to have. The path to having is giving away.

Surrendering what?

Well, everything. But Jesus gives two things in this passage.

First, we must surrender our self-indulgence. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?” (v. 25). This is particularly tough on a person who likes nice things and likes to enjoy nice things. (I also like not-nice things and am prone to indulge in those … I’m an equal-opportunity indulger). The satisfaction and gratification that comes from indulgence is temporary and damaging, sometimes irreparably so. We must surrender our lust for self-indulgence if we are to experience the indulgent life Jesus promises us.

Second, we must surrender our self-esteem. It is not easy being a committed Christian these days. Perhaps never in my lifetime has it been as tempting to “lay low” about one’s faith. As R. C. Sproul writes, “We all like to have affirmation. We are all sensitive to how other people respond to us. Nobody wants to be ridiculed or scorned. Yet every Christian experiences these things if he lets his faith be known. Every Christian at one point or another becomes a fool in the sight of the world.” To live the life Jesus promises, we must surrender our self-esteem … our desire to be liked and affirmed.

So there is both trouble and tranquility with surrender. But If we build our identity on anything in this world—things or what people think of us—we’ll only have trouble for eternity.

Let’s choose surrender, so that when we surrender our last breath on this world, we can have abundant life with God forever in the next.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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