First, right when I think I have a handle on things … I don’t; and second, semantics does matter.
Last year was a tough one in many ways. Plans were interrupted. Life was put on hold. Dreams were deferred. I don’t know what the normal “grief” cycle for something like this is, but I personally went from compliance––to weariness––to anger to ______––and here is where I had a choice between two words –– resignation or surrender. And no, this decision was not “just a matter of semantics”—of personally ascribing a different meaning to a word to promote my own meaning. In this case, there is consensus that these two words do indeed mean something different.
Though both at their core mean “giving up,” resignation connotes a hopelessness, of not seeing a way out of a situation, of throwing one’s hands up in defeat and giving up on possibilities.
Surrender also denotes giving up, but in surrender, a person gives himself over to someone else. He submits to someone else's authority. A stronger force. And with surrender, there is still a hope that life will be good if not better.
We know from history that surrendering to another human being will not always end up well. However, surrendering to God––an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, just, and loving God––who has our best interests in mind––will always be better. It just doesn’t seem like that to us because surrender means giving up our personal freedom and right to make our own choices and dictate our own lives … which always seems like a good idea until … we realize there is only so far that will really go.
A while back a friend of mine shared the following series of statements by Dr. Gary Smalley from his book The DNA of Relationships. They are statements of surrender––not resignation. Of surrendering to God. Here they are:
Today I will reduce my earthly expectations to as close to zero as I can get.
I will accept anything that happens as filtered by you.
I will use any disappointment as an opportunity to worship you.
I will sit quietly and ask you what you are telling me to do.
Last year, I realized there was only so much control I had over what happened around me––both on the world and the personal stage. There were things I wanted to happen that I had no power to make happen––but God did. There were disappointments and difficult times I wanted to avoid––but God didn’t. There was confusion and questions about why things were happening that I couldn’t answer––but God could. And there were walls I was butting my head against hoping I could make them move, but I couldn’t––but God could.
So this year, I decided I would start each day with reading and thinking about those four statements, realizing that if I began each day reminding myself that God was indeed in control, that perhaps I could better handle what the day brought.
The result? Not surprisingly, because He said it would, it has brought a “peace … which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).