Putting the Joy Back into Surrendering
Written By Jeanette Choong, Singapore
Life is hard. We face broken relationships, disappointment, discouragement, ostracism, illnesses, and day-to-day things like the frustration of squeezing with the morning crowd, assignments and chores that won’t complete themselves, nights when we straddle between exhaustion and insomnia—the list is endless.
On good days, we manage—by God’s grace—to resolve a problem or two, but soon enough, we ﬁnd ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of new struggles and frustrations. And out of sheer exhaustion, we cry, “God, I give up. I surrender.”
“Let Go and Let God?”
We could stop here and dish out a convenient solution—“let go and let God,” but how often do we say this in the spirit of trusting God? Are we really willing to let God take control of even the most trivial things? How about the bigger, more impossible situations? Do we trust that the God we so desperately cry out to has never once lost control, and never will? Do such desperate situations lead us to praise God for who He is, or are we merely looking for a quick solution so we can get on with our lives? Who is God to you, that you would “let go and let Him (God)?”
More often than not, I catch myself “letting go” because I am too lazy to deal with my problems, and so our all-powerful God becomes the most ideal candidate for the job—to pick up my mess. I deceive myself into thinking these problems are now none of my business, but God’s, and I become passive and lazy. In doing so, I miss the opportunity to see how God is sanctifying me in the process.
True surrender, on the other hand, is not about passive avoidance. It is going through life being assured and reassured that the same God who made the heavens and the earth and who sustains all things, can be trusted with your life. It is about recognizing your helplessness and limits as you trek through the deepest valleys—and your need for God. It means being humble and teachable as God works through your struggles and reveals your sin and the hope of the gospel.
When You Still Don’t Feel Joyful
I’ve learned that even in the midst of surrender, things can still feel awful. Over the past year or two, I went through wave after wave of disappointment, hurt, and physical and emotional exhaustion. I cried so much that the feelings of depression made me sick. I seemingly lost all ability to smile, laugh, or enjoy the company of friends. At my very best, I asked friends to pray that I would ﬁnd joy in the everyday. I knew God was in control, and that He would walk with me every step of the way. And yet, I felt no “joy.”
On less eventful days, I found myself stuck in the mundanity of an office job—and once I left my job, the non-stop churning of essays for graduate school. Going home to a backlog of chores was the ultimate killjoy. Perhaps, the idea of joy in the everyday and the mundane isn’t about feeling extra chirpy about scrubbing the toilets and folding the clothes. Joy comes from knowing who God is and abiding with Him. And perhaps, the reason why it is often difficult to access joy, is because we have been looking in the wrong places.
God oﬀers us the joy of Jesus—the joy He has because He is constantly in a perfect loving relationship with the Father. As we keep His commands and remain in His love, we too will find this joy; a joy that is complete because it endures when trials threaten to shake us (John 15:11).
As we spend time with Jesus, learning more of His character and why He can be trusted, it strengthens us to face our daily struggles, knowing we have joy anchored in what Christ has done for us.
The Joy of Surrender
As we think about the gospel and God’s mercy towards us, it should lead us to realize we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5), and to surrender our lives to Him. Perhaps finding God’s joy in the midst of surrender begins with something as simple as this: We go to sleep every night assuming we will wake up the next day, but how often do we realize that our every breath is God-given? We gather, sing songs, and listen to God’s Word preached so faithfully week after week, but how often do we give thanks for the privilege of knowing Jesus? Does knowing Christ and the Father’s deep love for us “spark joy” in us and lead us to praise God?
At the end of the day, it is about who or what we surrender our lives to that makes all the difference—are we surrendering to the circumstances that are suffocating us, or surrendering our lives to a God whom we can be assured will lead us to a joy that is lasting, complete, and satisfying?
The same God who made all things and sustains all things (Colossians 1:16-17), can definitely be trusted. As I write this, my circumstances haven’t changed. What’s changed is that as I navigate these struggles, I know for certain I no longer have to go through an endless, futile search for joy in my circumstances, because I know exactly where I can find it—in Jesus.
As we trust Him, the joy that will take root in our hearts will be far greater than the fleeting feelings of happiness the world offers. We can persevere through our struggles, taking comfort in knowing that God is in control, not us. As we surrender our lives to God, He continues working in us through the Holy Spirit until His work in us in complete—for our joy and His glory.
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