Strange Allies: Surrender and Contentment
May and June are when we celebrate two of our most popular holidays.
According to the National Retail Federation: just a little over $40 billion combined, was spent on gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Day. With all the hustle and bustle of families celebrating; husbands, wives, and kids searching for the perfect gift, or special way to honor mom and dad. It’s easy to forget that these two holidays in particular can be very sobering and solemn experiences for many of us.
At times they often serve as an abrupt reminder of what we long for, but do not yet have.
As a single woman who has never been married or has yet to have the privilege of being a mom, a woman who has never known her biological father, and at one time suffered a somewhat strained relationship with her mother, these holidays are hard. But not for the reasons many might think.
These two holidays are hard because every year God uses them as a tool, to point me back to my need for surrender.
By God’s grace I am content in my singleness and childlessness most of the time (until I see a pair of baby shoes). However, the longing for companionship…a life partner to serve alongside, someone with which I can cry, laugh, experience forgiveness, frustration and someone I can make out with (I’m just keepin’ it real) is still there.
Likewise, the desire to have little T’Challas’ and Shuris’ are also there. And yes, I will be naming my future children after Black Panther characters. #dreams
Over the last few months and years I’ve been wrestling with the paradox between surrendering and being content; two things that God asks me to do frequently. My contentment seems to ebb and flow, but surrender has become the roommate I never asked for. Contentment and surrender are two very strange allies, but they go together in God’s Kingdom reality.
In God’s eyes surrender is more than just waving a white flag and saying I’m done. Surrender is a full body effort that requires us to trust God wholeheartedly with everything…EVERYTHING! Being content in our circumstances, yet longing for more, or better.
Paul writes “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12
Before Paul or Jesus came on the scene in the flesh, no two people modeled the complexities of contentment in the midst of surrender and longing better than Sarah and Abraham. The father and mother of a multitude of nations; even kings (Gen 17:16). Sarah and Abraham both had a longing for family; to be a mother, a father; to have a biological heir. They longed for assurance of safety, provision, redemption, expansion; for their life to matter.
So, when God said to Abraham “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…and offer him as a burnt offering”, it was an unfathomable request; it would seem illogical to any rational mind. A blatant contradiction to what God had promised years before; to make Sarah and Abraham the father and mother of many nations.
Ultimately what God was asking them to do by surrendering Isaac, was to surrender both what was, and was to be; every dream and every desire.
Have you been there? Has God ever told you to do an unfathomable, illogical thing?
Call off an engagement, quit a job, stay in a marriage, be single, forgive this person, start this nonprofit, repent, give up your child; the list goes on. Whatever God has told us to surrender, Let’s be honest, surrender sucks most of the time. However, it’s through surrender that contentment is born.
Surrender will always be hard, but if we have experienced and digested the faithfulness of God, we have the ability to be content in the midst of the longing, as well as the surrender. Contentment is not the absence of longing or surrender, but it’s having a Holy perspective while walking in the midst of both.
Through our obedience to surrender, God gives perspective and increases our faith; He provides, strengthens, and nurtures our relationship with Him.
We are reminded throughout Scripture time and time again that blessing is not necessarily contingent on our surrender, but salvation is. Surrender requires that we lay everything down on the altar; offering it up to God. Every hope, dream, and ambition…nothing can be withheld; this includes our worship in the midst of surrendering that which we hold most dear.
Our offering, that which we surrender or are willing to surrender unto God is, never in vain.
We may tremble at the altar, eyes flooded with tears, and hearts overwhelmed, but we can rest assured that He will use what has been given up to Him for the sake of the Kingdom; for restoration, the saving of many lives, and to reflect Christ and inspire worship. This is a hard truth, but true nonetheless.
Psalm 126:3-6 reads:
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them (NIV).”
Ashley Bell was born and raised in a little town in Virginia and moved to Portland in 2007 to attend Seminary at Multnomah University. After graduating she moved to Tallahassee, Florida. However, in 2012 the Lord so graciously provided for her to return to Portland to begin working at Multnomah, while getting another master’s in education. She is currently the Outreach Pastor at Cedar Mill Bible Church. Ashley believes that discipleship is not only an essential part of our relationship with Jesus, but it is also essential in the process of becoming astute, kind, loving, citizens, that are committed to engaging relationally, and lovingly with present social realities. Her greatest desire is to be an accurate reflection of the grace and love of Jesus Christ to everyone she encounters.