Good Shepherd Lutheran Church


The Shepherd's Staff

Blessed Surrender

Posted by Ted Moeller on

“I feel so blessed.” Those were the words of a young mother who’d ridden out a tornado in her bathtub, clinging to her tiny baby. Her house was gone, as were most of her belongings, but she felt blessed. As I sat and watched her story on the evening news, I did not feel blessed at all…because I’d been hit with a few extra bills I hadn’t anticipated.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?
Must we face utter disaster to appreciate the hand of God in our lives? I hope not. I’ve known people whose faith in the aftermath of some personal catastrophe was as devastated as the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence. I’ve also known people whose faith prompts them to say, “Thanks, God!” for such mundane things as a good parking space or an extra gum ball. So, what makes the difference? The key lies in our doing something we are loathe to do when times get tough: surrender.
     The way to find blessing in whatever circumstance we face is quite simply to surrender to God, to resist that natural urge to direct things, control things, or ride things out on our own, and give them up to God instead. To pray, “Thy will be done,” and actually, actively, mean it. I recently rediscovered Peter Kreft’s insightful book, Making Sense Out of Suffering. For him, “Thy will be done” means dying…to self-will, self-regard, self-protection, and self-sufficiency; and instead putting God first, consecrating everything—every thing!—to Him. To me, that means surrender.
He goes on: To die to self and what self wants is the essence of suffering. If I want x and get y instead, I suffer, both because I do not get x, which I want, and also because I get y, which I do not want. But if I want only God’s will, I do not suffer, because I always get God’s will. We suffer to the extent that we are out of line with reality, the ultimate reality, God’s will. Thus, paradoxically, the essence of suffering (death to self-will) can become its opposite (perfect joy) when it is undertaken freely for the love of God. God not only compensates us for suffering, He turns suffering instead into perfect joy if only we obey his first and greatest commandment wholeheartedly, if we love and will to worship him alone and above all.
     Of course, none of us ever do that perfectly and wholeheartedly. We don’t even come close. We are fallen, fractured creatures who are indelibly convinced that God’s will must be for us to be happy. But human behavior in the extremes of life can be telling. Disasters bring out the best in people. Even in the midst of despair we find those who are devastated helping one another. They may not feel blessed, but still they strive to be a blessing to others.
     When Job had lost everything, he said simply, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” [1:21] There can be no better statement of faith. That’s the difference between giving up and surrender—acknowledging God is in control.
     I know not, all His plans;
     But I know it’s in His hands.