Surrender is easy…until it’s not!

I don’t know if anyone else does this but I actually started writing this post over a year ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. Sometimes I start writing something and it just feels too difficult to process so I end up leaving it. This one has been on my mind a lot lately so I figured that maybe it was time to finish it.

Being brought up in a Christian family I’ve spent my life aware of this concept of surrendering to God and happily singing songs like ‘All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give’. Surrender was never that difficult. I guess it’s not difficult to ‘surrender’ to what already feels like the best plan, to the things that you want for your life. Even when some things weren’t great there was always enough that was good to make it easy to trust that God would indeed work everything out for the best.

Surrender gets difficult when what you want and what God wants don’t seem to match or when things don’t work out the way you thought they would. When you pray for things that seem good but they just don’t turn out the way you thought they should. This is when surrendering to His will really becomes dying to self. And it’s hard. Really really hard.

I was thinking recently about how Jesus had to surrender to His Father’s will to go to the cross. It wasn’t what He wanted, He even asked God to take ‘this cup of suffering’ away from Him. At the thought of going through with God’s plan…

…he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:44

Even for the perfect man surrendering to God wasn’t easy.

I wrote this prayer almost 2 years ago now and it hasn’t always been easy to pray but it seems relevant to this post.

Lord, I want to follow you on the journey that you have mapped out for me. I want to travel light and leave behind all the baggage I have acquired that is not from you. I want to put aside all distractions and not be defined by them. Forgive me for allowing certain people and things to distract me more than they should. Please help me focus only on you and on the plan you have for me and the mission we are on together.

I don’t want to be slow to follow, reluctant to surrender, or unwilling to submit. I want to be humble and submit to You in every way.

I am ready to follow you Lord. Wherever you lead. I lay everything down at your feet that hinders me. I want to know you more God to understand your heart. To follow you wholeheartedly, not concerned about how others view me or in fear of man. Give me the strength and boldness Lord to run after you and your will, to speak your words and to pray in faith to see lives transformed.

I know that you have the power to work through me Lord. I thank you for the gifts that you have given me. Help me to have the boldness and the confidence in you to use them for your glory.

I love you Lord. Amen

There are still days that I find surrendering difficult but I take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t easy for Jesus either. (Not that I’m comparing the things I surrender to going to the cross.) I know God sees my heart. I know I can trust Him. I know there is always hope because He’s a good Father. I hope this encourages you too.

The Bottom Line

The last few days I’ve been pretty hormonal. I always struggle more with feelings of depression when I’m hormonal. On the whole I think I’m doing better with that but there are always some days that are harder than others. Sometimes when I’m really struggling all I can say is ‘Jesus I need You’ over and over. That’s the bottom line for me. When everything feels too much and I can’t cope on my own I know He’s there and somehow He’ll get me through it.

In February 2018 I was reading a devotional On the YouVersion app called ‘Jesus I Need You’ by Thistlebend Ministries and came across this prayer. I saved it on my phone and I’ve read it over and over since then. I even printed it out and stuck it in my prayer journal. It’s covered in highlights and circles, underlines and outlines, hearted and triple underlined – you get the picture. Anyway I thought I’d share it here in case it’s helpful for anyone else.

JESUS I NEED YOU

Jesus, I need you! You are my Lord, my God, my King. You are worthy of all of my worship. Help me, by your grace, to know you and love you so deeply and dearly that the things of this world fade away and grow strangely dim.

I want to worship you and you alone. I don’t want to be forged by the culture. I am in you; I want to be one with you. Bind my heart to yours, and place your truth deep within me. I not only want to know you and your Word, I want to have the desire to forsake sin and follow you and your Word. Enable me to worship you in spirit and in truth.

I need your power, your grace, and your love so that no matter what life brings my way, I can respond to each situation, each person, and each trial the way you would respond—all for your glory. I don’t want to respond merely outwardly, but rather from within, from the river of living water. I want to be so close to you, Jesus, that your Spirit flows forth from me in all I do and say. May I find all of my joy in you.

May I glorify you in all I say and do. (Psalm 42:1-2a; Galatians 2:20)

No matter where I am, what I am doing, what Scripture I am reading, or what song I am singing, I want my mind, my energies, and my heart focused on you and not on me and my circumstances. I want you and you alone.

No matter if I succeed or fail, win or lose, am rich or poor, am included or excluded, am known or forgotten, may I be content knowing that you are mine and I am yours.

May my chief aim be to love you and be loved by you, to please you and serve you. Help me to see my sin, mourn it, and forsake it, by your grace. Help me hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Lord Jesus, grant me your grace, your mercy, and your lovingkindness to enable me to see you, know you, love you, and be one with you. Thank you that your Word tells me if we ask anything in your name and according to your will that you will do it. Amen. (John 14:13-14)

Abba’s Child

Earlier this year I started reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning.  I finally managed to finish it on holiday last week.  Don’t assume that the length of time I spent reading it means that it wasn’t good – it really was.  There have been so many other things going on this year that I’ve had a lot less time to read than I normally would and I ended up putting it down for weeks at a time without touching it.  Anyway, I digress.

This was one of those books you can really get your teeth into.  I have parts underlined on almost every page.  There is loads of food for thought and it’s not just jelly and ice cream food it’s a whopping great steak that you really have to chew over.  It’s well worth the chewing though ’cause it’s so refreshing and satisfying.

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What I’ll do is give you some of the little nuggets that I took out of each chapter.  I reckon you could read it and get something different though.  It has so much to say.

Come out of hiding
The first chapter talks about our view of ourselves and our assumptions about how God views us.  It talks about our tendency to hide our true selves from others and from God (there’s that mask again!) and even to begin to accept our portrayed self as reality.  God desires that we come out of hiding and realise that we are safe with him.

Christians who remain in hiding continue to live the lie… We cling to our bad feelings and beat ourselves with the past when what we should do is let go… But when we dare to live as forgiven men and women, we join the wounded healers and draw closer to Jesus. (p29)

The Imposter
In this chapter Manning talks about the image that we portray in order to be accepted and approved of by others.  This false self has a ‘perfect’ image and is driven to perform rather than to live by grace.  The imposter is a liar.

This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him.  And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.  (Quoting Thomas Merton, p37)

The Beloved
In contrast to the imposter, the beloved, is our true self.  Our real and only true identity as one loved by God, ‘not (loved because of our) works, so that no one can boast’ (Eph 2:9).  The beloved lives in the present presence of God and only in grasping this identity is able to touch others.

When I allow God to liberate me from unhealthy dependence on people, I listen more attentively, love more unselfishly, am more compassionate and playful.  I take myself less seriously, become aware that the breath of the Father is on my face and that my countenance is bright with laughter in the midst of an adventure I thoroughly enjoy. (p58)

Just that one quote inspires me.  I want to be that person.  To be completely free to be the person God made me to be and to rest assured that even in my imperfection Abba loves me and will use me to show His love to others – not in a way that burdens but out of the overflow of His heart for me.

Abba’s Child
Have you ever noticed how annoying predictive text can be?  Every time I want to type ‘Abba’s’ it wants to correct it to ‘ABBA’s’ or ‘Anna’s’ 😝.  It’s driving me nuts!!

Anyway back to the book.  This chapter focuses on God’s indiscriminate love for His kids and Jesus example of growing intimacy with the Father and compassion for humanity.  It develops the idea of how we live out the gospel and build His kingdom as a result of living out our true identity.  There are several parts of this chapter that I’d love to quote but this one about the unknown struggles that even those we disagree with or even disapprove of is a little gem.

The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries. (p69)

Just chew over that for a minute.  I feel like we would all be less judgmental if we could only let that concept take root in our hearts.

The Pharisee and the Child

Jesus did not die at the hands of muggers, rapists or thugs.  He fell into the well-scrubbed hands of deeply religious people, society’s most respected members. (p80)

Not too surprisingly, the chapter about the Pharisee focuses on our tendency towards hypocrisy.  None of us wants to think of ourselves as a Pharisee but if we are brutally honest about it I doubt anyone can say that they have never been judgemental or refused to show mercy.  We feel justified when we look at someone else’s actions and decide based on our own experiences and backgrounds or legalism that they are at fault.  Yet Jesus (the only man who was truly perfect) brought a message of mercy and grace.

In contrast the child in this chapter ‘delights in the relentless tenderness of God.’  The child falls down over and over but then picks herself up, dusts herself down and tries again; knowing that her Abba still loves her and delights in her efforts to keep running towards Him.  The child is aware of her own failings and reaches out to help others who have fallen along the way.  Jesus is pretty clear that it is this child-like relationship with our Abba that he desires in us.

‘Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.’  Matt 18:3 TPT

Unless we reclaim our child we will have no inner sense of self and gradually the imposter becomes who we really think we are. (p94)

Present Risenness

An awareness of the resurrected Christ banishes meaninglessness … helps us to see our lives as all of one piece, and reveals a design never perceived before. (p99)

This chapter spoke to me about the reality of Jesus presence in our lives as He walks with us through the valleys and on the mountain tops.  He is living and active in our day to day and we need to be aware of Him.  Our hope and our ability to stand during difficult times and our ability to endure sadness and suffering are all connected to our consciousness of Christ’s present risenness in our lives and it is this that shapes us and transforms us into His image.

Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be.  And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples.  We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined.  In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are. (p105)

The Recovery of Passion
I love the title of this chapter.  I feel like passion is so important and life giving and too many of us lose it or have it knocked out of us for one reason or another.  The story of the man who found treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field and get it is an illustration of the treasure that Jesus is and how desperately we should run after Him and His Kingdom.

The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved.  If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.  This is the goal and purpose of our lives.  John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing. (p123)

The pursuit of an intimate relationship with our Saviour and Lover which throws aside self-consciousness and is all about our present response to Him is what our lives should be consumed with.

Fortitude and Fantasy
As you know I’ve been inclined to people pleasing in the past – trying to keep the peace and make everyone happy; to do what was expected of me.  Manning encourages us to ‘accept our core identity as Abba’s child’ and to be true to who we are whatever others think.  He also talks about the balance between being and doing and not raising the importance of one over the other as we can see what someone truly believes by the way they behave.

When we stand on our own two feet and claim responsibility for our unique self, we are growing in personal autonomy, fortitude, and freedom from the bondage of human approval. (p137)

The Rabbi’s Heartbeat
In the final chapter the greatness and unconditional nature of God’s love is unfolded.  Allowing our minds to be engaged and our hearts affected by this great love, confessing our sins and humbling ourselves and allowing Abba to love us where we are brings freedom.  Aligning ourselves with His heart and living out love and compassion and forgiveness for others is what should drive us.

Wise men and women have long held that happiness lies in being yourself without inhibitions.  Let the Great Rabbi hold you silently against His heart.  In learning who He is, you will find out who you are:  Abba’s child in Christ our Lord. (p166)

I hope this encourages you, maybe to read the book but if not at least to drop the mask and pursue Abba knowing that He loves you just as you are.

‘But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!’  Rom 5:8 TPT

 

It is well with my soul

I have no idea where to start here really. It’s been another emotional week. I guess what I want to say is that through everything there is one thing that is sure and certain. My Jesus loves me and will never leave me. The last few months have been so turbulent in some ways and there have been days when literally all I could do was whisper ‘Help me Jesus’ over and over. I guess if you don’t have faith you’ll have a psychological reason why that helps. For me it’s very real. I feel His presence as real and close as any human in those moments and I know He’s carrying me.

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I was at a funeral yesterday of a lovely, godly woman who I’ve known for many years and they played a song (twice) that always gets me emotional – ‘It is well with my soul’. I don’t know if you know the story of Horatio Spafford who wrote the lyrics of this hymn? He lived in the 1800s and was a prominent American lawyer (according to Wikipedia). It seems that literally everything started to go wrong in his life. He lost most of his investment portfolio in the Great Fire of Chicago and two years later his 4 year old son died from scarlet fever. On 22 November 1873 (exactly 100 years before I was born) his four daughters lost their lives while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre. It was following all this that Horatio wrote these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

I don’t know about you but knowing his story those words get me every time.  I’m sure there must be a few people out there have stories that are similar to Horatio Spafford’s but I guess for most of us whatever we’re going through it’s not going to be anything like losing almost everything we have including five children (it reminds me of Job in the Bible).  I can’t begin to imagine how horrific that must be and sometimes I think I’ve been going through a tough time!  And to still be able to write ‘It is well with my soul’ – I can only imagine he must have been really leaning on and clinging to Jesus in that horrendous season.

My go to when I’m struggling is to get my guitar out and sing (sometimes it’s pretty hard to sing for crying but God doesn’t care – He knows my heart). A couple of songs that have meant a lot to me recently include the words of this hymn. One is Even If by Mercy Me:

I’ve also been playing ‘It is Well – Grander Earth has Quaked Before’.

Yesterday the song that I was really relating to was ‘Thy Will be Done’ by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family which doesn’t mention ‘It is well’ but still has a great message IMO:

For me really leaning on Jesus and giving him praise in spite of whatever difficulties I have going on in my life can get me through so much.  It goes beyond my understanding (not that that’s hard 😜) but if you’re struggling with anything right now I’d totally recommend you give it a try.

Overwhelmed

Some days just suck. Lots of days right now. I feel overwhelmed. Too much is sad and difficult and depressing. Sometimes I feel like there is nowhere safe to turn. It would be so easy to hide under my duvet for the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself. Or to run away, escape from it all.

Then I remember about the people who would be devastated if I did that.

So much is changing in my life right now. It’s hard to deal with it all. My kids have grown up. One is about to leave for Australia for a year. The other could leave at any time if she gets moved with work or decides to get her own place. My closest friend isn’t around. Family relationships are strained. My husband is out of work. I’m trying to start a new business. And then there’s the normal run of the mill stuff that just needs done every day or every week so we can survive.

When it all gets too much I just want a friend to turn to. Someone safe, who’s not too busy or too judgemental. Who won’t be hurt by what I need to get off my chest. Someone who knows me, knows that I’m broken and flawed but loves me anyway. Someone who sees the good and the potential in me and encourages me to go for it.

It’s not always easy to find someone like that. On the other hand I know that Jesus is always with me. He’s always there to listen, never too busy even though he has the whole world to take care of. He’s never going to be surprised by what I tell him because he knows everything about me anyway and he loves me regardless. He’s not going to gossip about me or think less of me. He tells me he has put gifts and talents in me and encourages me to use them. He is a friend who is closer than a brother. A friend who was willing to die just so I could have a relationship with him. When I really really think about that I am still overwhelmed… by His love for me.