In today’s self-reliant, never-give-in world we are taught that surrender is something to avoid at all costs. Stick up for your rights. Don’t go down without a fight. Winston Churchill’s words ring valiantly in our ears: “Never, never, never give up” and “We shall never surrender.”
Paradoxically, though, sometimes the bravest thing we can do is to give ourselves up: it takes courage to surrender.
It’s simply not true that surrender is the easy way out. Often, it can be extremely difficult. For example, it’s easier to stand up for what we want or lash out at those opposing us rather than surrender our rights for a greater truth or to benefit someone else.
The Serenity Prayer says, “God grant me the courage to change the things I can.” (Reinhold Niebuhr) But what can you change? You can change your thoughts and your choices. You can not change other people, circumstances, or outcomes. For example:
- Your financial situation is shaky and you’re scared: Rather than succumb to fear, you choose to surrender the situation to God, since you are already doing everything you know how to do to address the situation.
- Your husband is drinking again: You feel the pull of anger and control, but bravely focus on encouragement and perseverance, while also setting clear boundaries for his behavior.
- You screwed up at work: No one knows how the project got off course, but you know it was due to a mistake you made. It would be easy to say nothing, but you know that’s not the right thing to do, so you walk in to talk to your boss.
- The pastor asks if anyone is ready to trust and accept God: Your heart is pounding. You want to take that step, but you’re scared to move. Somehow, you muster the courage to stand.
In situations such as those, surrender is not passive or cowardly; it takes strength and courage. It is not giving up or giving in, but making the choice to do what is right, even when that choice is hard. Courage is not a lack of fear; it is taking action even though we may be scared. It is doing what is right rather than succumbing to fear, avoiding the situation, or self-medicating with alcohol, shopping, or overwork. Surrender is having the courage to change what we can, while also understanding and accepting that God is ultimately in control of the outcome.
For years, I thought courage and strength were defined by being in control. That is what we are supposed to do, right? Take charge, figure out the answer, manage the situation, fix what’s broken. I finally realized true strength often takes the form of surrender. For me, it’s hard to give up control, accept things as they are, and trust the outcome to God. With finances and my family, I have to surrender some things over and over again, because it’s not my nature to let things go.
We don’t have to create this type of courage on our own. God can grant us strength when we have the faith to ask for his help. Faith is, by definition, choosing to believe in something that cannot be proven by our senses. That means venturing into unknown territory. Sometimes, the bravest things we can do are to step out in faith, change what we can, and give the outcome to God.
Is there an area in your life you would like to have the courage to surrender?