Stress, pain, and “surrendering all” to God…


What are we to do with the things that burden us?  Typically Christians respond that we should “surrender all” to God.

The idea, I think, is to give over my desire to control situations and outcomes, as well as my negative feelings about them, to God.  This way I can be at peace with the matter (and also with God and with others—even those who have hurt me).  And the sooner I do this, the better.

Great goals.

But I don’t think that immediately “surrendering all” to God will achieve them.  Let me explain:

My experience is that God responds to my pleas for help in a variety of ways, based on: a) who I am and understand myself to be, b) what the situation is / how I understand it, and c) the nature of my relationship with God (and who I conceive God to be).  In other words, God’s response always considers “who I am” and “where I’m at.”

And God’s response is always—always—conditioned by God’s greatest desire for me: that I be in right relationship with God (and thereby, in right relationship with myself, others, and the created world).  The core of this “right relationship” is spelled out clearly in the gospels: love God entirely, love yourself rightly (so that you may) love your neighbour likewise.

And this God whom I am to love entirely is one who knows me intimately and loves me adoringly.  So, strange as it may sound, my wager is that being in right relationship with this God means not letting go of our issues but embracing them.  More to the point, perhaps God’s response is not so much to take away our burdens but to be clear (and demonstratively so) that God knows us truly and yet loves us deeply even as we are burdened.

Knowing us truly, God distinguishes between hurts that wound us and our own orientations / filters that create worry, stress, or pain out of situations where they should not.  Both require healing, one because we are wounded by them and the other because we wound ourselves (and likely others) by them.

Loving us deeply, God determines how (and how much) I can understand the difference between the two and God is patient—patient enough to allow me to blunder through this the wrong way.  But God’s love always aims at returning me to right relationship with God.

So in this context “being in right relationship with God” might require such things as me releasing my fears, trusting God, experiencing God’s love, etc.  Yet doing so involves going through the fear, anxiety, or worry that impede this releasing, trusting, experiencing.  It involves literally “sitting in them;” living with the tension they evoke.

And while the Christian life is not to be marked by worry, stress, and negative emotions, I wonder if Christians are too eager to “surrender” what is uncomfortable… to their detriment.  My belief is that we are to rely on God by collaboratively “going through the issues,” understanding that resolution involves many stages.  This sometimes requires me doing (or not doing) certain things, sometimes God.  Sometimes both of us, and sometimes neither—just waiting.

So promptly “surrendering all” needs to be replaced with prudent, reliant stewardship.

As Christians we are to exercise prudent stewardship in the context of right relationship with (and so reliance on) God, even stewardship over things we don’t like.  Yes, I will be victimized—I will suffer rejection, mistreatment, and dismissal.  But, in addition to feeling pain, working through such situations has stimulated my intellect, developed my relational abilities, and cultivated my talents and imagination.

Yes, I may take seasons, years, or even decades to forgive.  But I accept the time because it is only through the full process that forgiveness becomes what it is meant to be: an embodied response capable of reconciling despite great betrayals, and fully able to point back to relationship where I am truly known yet most deeply loved.

4 thoughts on “Stress, pain, and “surrendering all” to God…

  1. Pingback: Should faith be "blind" / we act by "faith alone"? - Another Christian OptionAnother Christian Option

  2. Interesting post – I have been pondering this very issue lately. In reading the Road less traveled by M. Scott Peck. He states “This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.” As you so aptly stated, “in addition to feeling pain, working through such situations has stimulated my intellect, developed my relational abilities, and cultivated my talents and imagination.” Sometimes, the desire to “Surrender” is just an escape hatch that we would like to take in order to avoid mental, physical, or emotional stress or pain. Walking through the pain is many times what God desires us to do. I know that many times the pain and stress comes from my relationship with God or others being out of balance. Getting too focused on a goal or task, without considering God’s perspective or the other people involved.

    • Hi Chad,

      Thanks for your comment and for your helpful feedback. I’m glad that this post / my comment about “working through” such situations had some traction with you. In addition (as you mention) to not considering God’s perspective or others who are involved, I often find that there is a trust issue at hand, whether my ability to trust God, others, or myself.

      I also with Scott Peck’s here, and sadly have seen the results of this in the lives of people that I love. I find Peck to be a “mixed bag,” however, as I value a good amount of what he wrote and yet find his view of love immensely dissatisfying. In fact, my podcast partner and I are hoping to get to discuss Peck’s view of love, but this will likely require that I get my view out on paper in an accessible way (and that will take a little more time to complete). What are you thoughts on Peck? What do you like, and why?

  3. Pingback: "Surrendering" as Perpetuating the Problem - Another Christian OptionAnother Christian Option

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