I wish someone would have told me sooner that surrender is not “doing nothing”.
I shared earlier that as a young wife I thought my mother-in-law was causing all the tension in our relationship. And I thought I was the one to set things straight. I wanted to do something about this. So, in early marriage, I talked my husband into going with me to a pastoral counseling session.
Our pastor listened as I spent a great deal of time laying out all of the issues we were having (well, mostly the issues I was having), then he basically said, “Yeah, that’s rough.” He acknowledged that things were less than ideal, but astonishingly, both he and my husband seemed content to leave it at that.
Now, I knew that our issues (my issues) weren’t based on problems of great magnitude. On the Richter Scale of family drama, our score was pretty low. There was no abuse, unfaithfulness, substance abuse, or neglect. No one was gambling, cheating on their spouse, or even angrily blowing up. We were just a group of ordinary, sin-riddled people trying to sort out what it meant to be a family.
But this didn’t make me feel any less agitated. I was suffering, here! And I had made this appointment, looking for answers! I was hoping to leave with a list of strategies. A game plan. I wanted goals and objectives for knocking this problem out.
Having received none of these, I tensed up when the session seemed to be winding down. As my husband reached for his jacket, I blurted out, “But wait! This is not okay, is it??! What about all of the things I’ve shared? It’s not right!”
Both men looked at me blankly. Then our pastor said, “Shannon, we live in a broken world. We have to find a way to live with brokenness.” Basically, he was saying I needed to surrender my hopes and expectations to God. But what I heard him saying was, “Let’s just do nothing.”
Oh, friend. Surrender is far, far from “doing nothing”. And if, during this series, you’re hearing me say, “Let’s just do nothing” about your controlling mother-in-law, daughter, mother, coworker, or sister, I want to set the record straight.
What Surrender Is and Isn’t
When you “do nothing”, you avoid an issue, distract yourself from it, or procrastinate. You might sing a song with your fingers in your ears or start scrolling on Instagram. And while these techniques might be somewhat effective in getting you through without blowing a gasket, they won’t change you from a Control Girl into a Jesus Girl.
But the surrender I’m talking about will. Surrender to God is anything but passive. It is often the most grueling, heart-rate-spiking work of our entire Christian lives.
So what is surrender? It’s gathering up my hopes and dreams for the future (which we talked about last time), plus my frustration over what’s happening right now, and spilling the whole mess onto the altar before God. Surrender is choosing God’s will instead of my will.Surrender is gathering up my hopes and dreams for the future, plus my frustration over what’s happening right now, and spilling the whole mess onto the altar before God. It's choosing His will instead of my will.… Click To Tweet
That’s what Jesus did, remember? As He faced the grueling agony of the cross, Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Surrender starts with identifying what my will is, then follows with deferring to God’s will.
So let’s consider your will, regarding the other Control Girl in your life. What is your heart craving?
Maybe you want…
- Freedom. You wish she would stop guilting you, and pressuring you until you cave in to her agenda. You wish you were free to say no.
- Kindness. You just want the honor and courtesy any normal human being deserves. Eye contact would be nice. And maybe a greeting once in a while?
- Appreciation. Could she please just ask, instead of demanding? And could she take note of all you’ve already done?
- Selflessness. You wish she would stop making everything about her, and learn to give instead of take. Or invest, instead of sulking. Can’t she see that you could use a helping hand?
- Favor. You long for her to stop correcting or criticizing you. Is there anything you do right??
- Humility. You wish that she could see her flaws, and admit when she’s wrong. And it would be nice if could stop stepping in for God, and re-preaching Sunday’s sermon to you.
- Honor. You just want her to stop interfering, and respect boundaries. You wish she would honor your marriage and not sway your husband to her side.
- Privacy. You long for her to stop meddling. It would be nice if she knocked. Or asked. Or in other cases, didn’t
- __________ (Fill in the blank, based on your situation.)
Maybe you’d like all of these, but narrow it down to one or two. Fill in the blank:
I want ____________ from _____________.
Now, the fill-in-the-blank thing you want might be completley right and good. But what’s wrong and displeasing to God is when you scheme up ways to get it on your own. That’s what Control Girls do. Snatching up control over that other Control Girl will only cause you to repeat history. And God wants to set you free.
Sometimes my boys come up from the basement, completely winded and desperate for water. Even though I didn’t see or hear anything, I know what they were doing. Wrestling. It’s always amazing to me how only a few minutes of straining against each other can press my two athletes to exhaustion.
Surrender is no less demanding. But instead of straining against another person, when we surrender to God, we’re straining against ourselves. Our goal is to pin down our inner Control Girl who’s hollering, “But, wait! This is not right!!”
Yet what if—after pinning yourself, and raising your hand in victory, you scan the bleachers looking for God. When your eyes rest on His face, you see that He is distracted, scowling, uninterested. He’s not even looking at you, let alone pleased.
Of course, this would never be the case. Yet I’m guessing there are a good number of women reading this, who picture God this way. If that’s you, let me ask you something. If you see God as indifferent, distant, uncaring, or condemning, why would you ever give Him control?
Our view of God has a drastic influence on our willingness to take self to the matt, straining to surrender ourselves to God. If we’re ever to be victorious, you’re going to need to engage in some pre-match strategy work.
Imagine trying to wrestle blindfolded. (I can’t imagine trying to wrestle at all, but work with me.) My son tells me it would be impossible, and I’ll take his word for it.
When our minds are hardened toward God; when we fail to see that He is kind and gracious, and instead we try to carry the burden of proving ourselves to Him, the Bible says it’s like we’re wearing a veil. (II Cor. 3:13-15) Read this verse carefully:
“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed… with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (II Cor. 3:18)
Turning to the Lord involves asking Him for help. It’s the opposite of relying on yourself to make everything turn out. And the verse says that when you lift your eyes and gaze at the beautiful landscape of God’s character, the veil is ripped from your face and you become reoriented to what’s really going on!
Getting clarity on God is what changes you. Why? Because your troubles and difficulties become instantly dwarfed when you suddenly see who God is and what He does for His people.
There is so much to discover and learn about God, but here is a short abbreviated list to get us started. It makes such a difference to know:
- God is near. He sees me, and involves himself in the details of my life.
- God pursues me out of love and kindness. He invites me into relationship with Him.
- God’s valuing of me is reflected in sending His son to die on the cross and rescue me.
- God is for He holds no condemnation over me.
- God is working all things—even the painful, difficult things—together for my good.
Gazing at these sorts of truths about God provides a pre-match strategy. It prepares me to do a takedown of self! Why would I burden myself with taking control—even of that other Control Girl, when God is in the room? He’s already in control, which means I don’t have to be.
Seeing Him from the Closet
So here’s your strategy: When you’re faced with a person or situation you can’t control, find a correlating truth about God to focus on. Prepare yourself by going over and over this particular truth about God. Then, in the heat of the moment, you’re ready.
Your wrestling match might need to take place in a closet or a bathroom, on your knees. The other Control Girl making you crazy might be right outside that door, tempting you to erupt in anger or melt in anxiety, but the real battle is in your heart.
There in the closet, rehearse what you’ve already been seeing and learning about God. Get reoriented. As you remember who He is, you’ll see her for who she is—someone who also needs to get on her knees and surrender to God!
In the closet, as you remember who God is, ask His Spirit to empower you to strain against yourself so that you can pin your sin to the mat and walk out victorious—surrendering control to God.
So here is your assignment for this week. Recall how you filled in the blanks:
I want ____________ from _____________.
Now determine what characteristic of God is most soothing to you in this situation. You could glance through the abbreviated truths about Him that I listed above, or you could look through my Meditation cards (39 cards, in all!) and choose the free download which best encapsulates the truth about God you need to grasp. Better yet, open your Bible and receive a truth about God directly from Him!
Now fill in the blanks:
I want ____________ from _____________…
but I will surrender to God because He _____________.
Commit to reviewing your truth about God each day for a week. As you do, watch the other Control Girl in your life shrink in proportion to your growing faith. Let God transform you little by little, as you struggle against self and give control to Him.
Extra Credit: Send your fill in the blanks to a friend. Or send them to me! I would love to hear about your personal surrender strategy.
If you’re looking for extra support, here are some options:
- Read the book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible!
- Gather some friends for a Control Girl Bible study. If you’re interested in leading a group, we have everything you need here.
- Download the meditation cards which seem most applicable, or buy the coloring book.
- Listen to the Control Girl playlist.
- Don’t forget to sign up here, to have this series delivered to your inbox!