Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight- Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
One definition for surrender would be:
The act of giving something up completely or letting go of control of an outcome.
Some synonyms for surrender include: submission, relinquish, capitulation, yield and forfeit.
For the record: surrender is not on the list of my favorite words.
Surrendering ourselves, our desires, our behaviors, our dreams, our loved ones or the outcome of situations to God is one of the hardest things God asks us to do as Christians (James 4:1-7, Luke 11:28).
There is typically some confusion around the differences between making a commitment and surrendering. Both are agreements we make with God but they are entirely different in their nature. When we make a commitment to something we naturally assume we will have some control over the process. We also assume we will able to take personal pride in a positive outcome. In surrender we relinquish complete control of the process to God and He gets all the glory for a good outcome (Psalm 32:8-10). Commitments always have an exit strategy if the process becomes too painful or the personal difficulties become too much to bear.
Surrendering our sin or someone we love to God means we concede we have reached the end of our ability to fix, manage or deal with the problem on our own. In surrender we get real and acknowledge we cannot change anything or anyone in our own power— no matter how desperately we might want to. We recognize the hard (and painful) truth we simply cannot make anyone do anything. We need God to do whatever needs to be done in us or our loved one or it’s just not happening.
Because we are all gifted with freewill—and sinful to the core (Joshua 24:15, 1st Peter 4:3, Ephesians 2:1, 1st John 1:9-10, Psalm 32:5, Psalm 51:5) surrender is always painful and hard— regardless of how long we have known and walked with the Lord. Additionally, because, we are by nature a bunch of control freaks surrender is rarely a one and done. Typically, we have to take the habit, person, situation or sin to God over and over again until the battle is won.
Surrender looks different in different situations.
For some it might mean letting God work in the life of a loved one without running in and sermonizing, making excuses for their behavior or enabling a sinful lifestyle. For others surrender means choosing to do something God’s way even when God’s way literally makes no sense (Judges 7, Joshua 6, Matthew 6:25-34, Acts 9:1-17). For others it means finally being willing to let go of a life controlling habit or sinful coping mechanism even when we don’t know how we will survive without the comfort it provides.
Surrender is always about trust and trust is universally hard for humans. This makes the choice to surrender our wants, needs, habits and loved ones to God painful and tough. Really tough (Hebrews 12:4, 1st Corinthians 10:13). All that being said, surrender comes with benefits and blessings we literally cannot get any other way. Some of those benefits include:
Surrender forms deep connection with God-
It is totally possible for a person to attend church, read the Bible regularly and live the life of a Christian without ever really connecting with God on an intimate level. People do it all the time. Surrender forces us to acknowledge there are simply some things we cannot do without God’s help. This naturally makes us more dependent on God, but it does more than just that, in surrender we come face-to-face with how weak and frail we really are (2ndCorinthians 12:9). This knowledge drives us to pray about everything and prayer is the ONLY way to build authentic connection and real intimacy with God (Genesis 5:24, James 2:23). The joy, peace and wellbeing we derive from intimacy with God is alone worth the pain of surrender.
When we surrender we are given a super natural source of wisdom-
Surrender means we give up and hand control over to God. This act forces us to seek God for wisdom and understanding into our problems instead of leaning on our own limited understanding to problem solve (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we ask God for wisdom rather than simply asking Him to bless whatever plans and ideas we worked out on our own He blesses us with the inside scoop on how to deal with people appropriately and problem solve seemingly unsolvable problems (Matthew 7:7-8, James 1:5). The wisdom we gain in surrender gives us power to live every part of our lives victoriously.
We (eventually) get the joy that comes with victory over our flesh-
Giving up control is profoundly unpleasant. Nobody likes giving up or giving in and essentially admitting failure. Nonetheless, it is the only way to overcome certain sins, bad habits and life-controlling behaviors. There are simply some things we can never do on our own. That said, the joy we experience when it finally dawns on us that we no longer feel any desire or compulsion to indulge in the garbage that was ruining our lives is totally worth the cost to our pride.
In surrender we gain real freedom. Surrender frees us from the need to do whatever needs to be done ourselves and it frees us from our fleshly desires, our control freak tendencies and our pride. When we are free of those things we are free indeed.