I surrender all, I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all. If only those words could be true when I sing them alongside my brothers and sisters at church. All too often, the question my conscience and the Holy Spirit ask in response is “really?” The simple words of this classic hymn remind me of those areas of my life that I have been willing to surrender, and unfortunately those areas of my life that I’m still trying to hold onto. I have surrendered my career to the Lord. I have surrendered my finances to the Lord. I have surrendered my reputation to Him. But, if I’m completely transparent, there are still some areas of my life that I struggle, time and again, to surrender to the Lord. Maybe you can relate to my struggle.
Recently, I was reading the story of Israel spying out the Promised Land in Numbers 13-14 and was surprised to see my own struggle to surrender played out in the people of Israel. You may recall how the Israelites were on the outside of the Promised Land of Canaan when they sent twelve spies into the land to search it out that they may inherit the land which God had promised to them. Ten of the spies came back with an unfavorable, faithless, report of giants in the land that would surely defeat them in battle. Two of the spies gave a favorable, faithful, report that God would give them the land He had promised. Upon hearing the reports, the people were frightened and didn’t want to go into the land. The same people who had experienced freedom from Pharaoh’s bondage, the miraculous parting of the Red Sea where Pharaoh’s army was destroyed in an instant, and being fed manna that literally fell from Heaven didn’t trust God’s word to fulfill His promise. They failed to surrender, to trust, in their Deliverer.
I’m always baffled that the Israelites lacked trust and faithfulness toward God. Their grumbling that it would have been better for them to die in Egyptian bondage, or wandering in the wilderness, was almost as absurd as their assumption that God intended to have them die by the sword in the land He promised to give them as an inheritance. But as I was reading, I realized the Israelites’ fear exposed the underlying reason for their lack of trust, and it was in that moment that I realized I struggle to trust God for the exact same reason.
“And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?” – Numbers 14:3
They feared that losing the battle for the Promised Land would result in terrible outcomes for their families. So, instead of fighting and taking over the land and fulfilling the promise of God who had proven Himself time and again, they called for a return to bondage in Egypt. At least they knew what they were in for back in Egypt, and even though conditions were brutal there, they knew they and their families could survive. They needed to be in control of their family’s well being.
That’s my struggle! I’m willing to surrender all, to trust God, in many areas of my life. I can walk by faith, follow Him in obedience, and submit to God with my life. I’m willing to do what God says when it’s just me, but oh the struggle when it comes to my family, and especially my children. I need to have control of their lives, what they will do, where they will go, and how things will turn out for them. Maybe the lyrics to my song should be “I surrender all (except my family), I surrender all (please not my family), all to thee my blessed Savior I surrender all (just leave them to me)”.
Looking back at the story of the Israelites lack of trust you’ll see the disastrous results of their faithless response. God responded by promising that none of those who refused to obey His voice and enter into the land would see the land. Their children experienced 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Even worse, those children missed the opportunity to see their parents live in fellowship with God. Instead, they saw their parents trade a land of milk and honey for a barren wilderness. They watched their parents die in that wilderness were they missed out on the inheritance of a blessed life offered to them by God. They witnessed first-hand the results of living a faithless life.
What a sobering story. There are times that God permits us to control our own lives rather than surrendering to Him. Paul’s words in the book of Romans ring especially true in the light of Israel’s rebellion:
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
It’s worth noting that the Israelites didn’t ultimately get what they wanted. Remember, they wanted to return to Egypt, but God did not allow that. While God may permit rebellion, He is Sovereign and our will can never overwhelm or override His will. In the end, the generation of faithless Israelites died in the wilderness, but the next generation did finally inherit the land. Just as God had promised. When God allows us to control our own lives and not surrender to Him, there are consequences for us and for our families, and in the end His will must be fulfilled.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure. – Phil 2:13
May I learn vicariously the lesson of surrendering my children and spouse to the Lord. May the example of what not to do resound in the chambers of my mind as I face the challenges that are before me. May I surrender my children and spouse to the Lord even when it's hard. Even when I fear for their safety. Even when it doesn’t feel right. I have not been faced with a war zone with my children’s lives in danger. I have not had to face persecution and realizing their life may end for the sake of the Gospel. I pray I never do. Yet, whatever future I face with my children, may I surrender them to the God that loves them more than I do because He knows what is best for them.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? – Luke 11:13
As parents, we know to give our kids a coat if it’s going to be a cold season to help them walk through winter. In a similar way, God has given us – His children – the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us walk through life. He comes alongside us. He guides, comforts, and convicts us. When we surrender to God, He empowers us to walk through the journey He ordained for us with His help. He also provides and empowers our children to walk through the journey too. He is a good father. He knows what is best for both us and our children, and He gives us what we need to help us through the journey. When we release our grip of control and surrender to Him, our children are in the safest, best place for their lives.
Whatever the area of your life that you find difficult to surrender, the same principle applies: God knows what is best for that area of your life. God can be trusted. He is good. While we fight for our family against Satan and society, may we surrender our family to the One True God who loves them. May we walk out a God honoring life before our spouse and our children, demonstrating a surrendered life totally submitted to Christ. May I surrender all, including my family, especially my family, because my children cannot live a life that is worth living any other way.