Why Surrender Doesn't Mean Giving Up the Battle

Surrender is hard.

Surrender is especially hard when you're a type-A emotional caregiver who struggles with anxiety. Hello, perfect storm.

I want to fix everything. I want people to be happy and healthy and free. My first instinct is to evaluate and plan. I find solutions, present them, and cajole the person into using them. And then I'm disappointed when they don't. I get frustrated, angry, and resentful. When they continue to struggle, I say in my head, "If you'd only listen to me!"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

Ironically, when I'm in fix-it mode, trying to promote Healthy! Happy! Free!, I find myself feeling unhealthy, unhappy, and chained. I've found that the harder I try to bring about change in people with my own solutions, the more I find myself drowning in the fear of the problem at hand. I become antsy and restless, my mind spinning with more ideas, more "what-ifs," and a cascading list of new problems that might crop up because this one is still unresolved.

Praise the Lord there are some problems we can take care of with ease, but those issues that we find in others—the ones that rub us the wrong way, the ones that induce fear, the ones that seem to threaten our security—those are the ones that require surrender. Those are the ones where our solutions won't stick, where when we begin to talk to our spouse about the issue, we are met with silence, a blank "smile and nod," or empty promises.

Why? Because the problem requires their surrender, too. We can't make anyone raise their own white flag. 

Craig can't make me choose faith over worry.
I couldn't make him stop looking at porn.
Craig can't wrestle the things out of my hand that I try so hard to control.
I can't make him eat healthy and exercise.

These things—our idols, our addictions—we are the only ones who can truly let them go. But when we see our spouse suffering and when their suffering induces our suffering, many of us will search to the ends of our minds for something that might provide relief.

I picture myself in my house, frantically searching for the balm that will sooth, the key that will unlock, the piece that will complete the puzzle. The buzz in my mind drowns out the slow and steady knock of Jesus at the front door. I keep thinking if I search high and low and long, I won't need to answer it. 

Why is it so hard to open the damn door?

Why is this action so pale and puny in comparison to all the other ones that never bear fruit? What does the relentless spinning on the hamster wheel feel better than the being silent and the sitting still?

I don't know the answer for you. But for me, it seems to be a mixture of stubbornness, guilt, fear, and habit. And probably the worst answer of all: I don't want to have to depend on anyone else. Sadly, this includes God.

My faith screams at me: HE'S ALL POWERFUL! HE'S ALL LOVING! HE SEES IT ALL! HE KNOWS IT ALL!

My flesh screams back:

I don't want to give up. I don't want failure. I don't want to entertain defeat.

I feel guilty if I stop trying.

I'm afraid that the situation (or the person) will fall apart.

I'm used to bird-dogging a problem. One day, I'll figure it out!

The past few weeks, Jesus has been quieting my screams.

I learned a long time ago how to surrender Craig's porn addiction, but somehow, even though God did a miraculous work of freedom in him, this didn't translate over to my struggles with his health. He's wrestled for much of his life with his weight. I've wrestled for much of our married life with fear that his lack of concern over his health will lead to big problems for him down the road. Thus, I've nagged. I've encouraged. I've meal-planned. I've been an accountability partner. The kids even gave up dessert for a month so we wouldn't have anything in the house to tempt him.

I realized the level of my angst and his frustration. Instead of using my voice to cajole, I used my voice to pray. I got out the "physical health" prayer card. I read the scripture. I started praying the prayer points. I told God all my worst fears and told Him what I wanted Him to do. Then shrugged my shoulders: No matter what, You'll be here with me.

This past weekend, Craig went on men's retreat in Colorado with Ransomed Heart Ministries. He came back, free. God showed him the roots of his food addiction. Through prayer, God plucked that root out of his heart and brought healing to a relationship with which the emotional eating was tied. The road ahead will be challenging with habit-changing and temptation, but the infestation? It's gone. I've watched it happen with porn, so I believe it's real with food. No doubt because I've also experienced this same freedom with my own food addiction.

Monday morning Craig was telling me all of this freedom he experienced. When I went to have my quiet time, I read in Exodus 14:13-14:

"And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” 

I wrote in the margin of my Bible:

"I think I often have to do everything, but the reality is all I have to do is be obedient—leave behind what I need to leave behind (whatever is hindering), go where You ask me to go, give what You ask me to give. In my surrender, you are able to fight for me."

Don't be afraid. Stand firm. Watch what He will do.

Quit the frantic searching. Answer the door. Be quiet.

He wants to fight for me. He wants to fight for you. But before He can, we have to surrender—not  the battle, but to the One who can win the battle.

It will be hard, this laying down of our man-made weapons, but once we do, we will realize that it's so much easier than wielding them day after day, night after night. He is strong. He is all powerful. He is all loving. He does see all. 

May our faith scream louder than our flesh.