How do you react when things go wrong? Your e-mail or Facebook accounts get hacked and people send you shocking messages. Your child misbehaves in public or your teenager makes choices that bother you. You’re caught in heavy traffic and late for an important meeting. Perhaps someone gossips about you that is totally baseless. Just how do you respond?
In situations like these we may worry about what people think about us. Or maybe we get angry with ourselves or someone else. Or we can just leave all these and surrender them to God.
Here is what I am thinking right now. What’s done is done. I can’t control how people react to this and so I choose not to worry about it but to trust God.
This is one spiritual discipline I have found so helpful. It is the discipline of submitting to the sovereign Lord.
In his book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard shares this valuable point — abandoning outcomes to God is a primary lesson for our formation in Christ and our own personal “soul” care. Indeed, I have found this extremely helpful and to many friends I have worked with. What exactly does it mean?
Willard says, “The secret to peace, as great apprentices of Jesus have long known, is being abandoned to God.” (p. 135) He elaborates:
If grace and wisdom prevail in the life of the one who only surrenders to God’s will, he or she will move on to abandonment. Then the individual is fully surrendered. There is no longer any part of himself or herself that holds back from God’s will…
We therefore no longer fret over “the bad things that happen to good people,” though we may undergo much hardship and suffering. While God does not cause these things to happen, we now accept them as within his plan for good to those who love him and are living in his purposes (Romans 8:28). Irredeemable harm does not befall those who willingly live in the hand of God. (p. 150-151)
Through the years, I learned that when we finally discover and learn to surrender outcomes to God, we not only experience contentment but also the opportunity to participate in what God is doing in our world. It is empowering to know that we are no longer mere observers or spectators, but that our life story is actually a part of God’s very own epic story. Yes, God invites us to play an essential part in this eternal drama. No matter how tragic or crazy circumstances may be, we embrace them while trusting God for the best because He is the power beyond ourselves. He is the one who cares beyond what we can imagine.
In other words, when we stop trusting on our capabilities to make things happen and instead present to God all our worries, we are actually empowered by God. You know what happens? We discover God’s grace anew. We learn that He is acting with us generously and powerfully and we can participate with his action by our trust and surrender.
I find this quote very enlightening. “The strongest human will,” Willard explains, “is always the one that is surrendered to God’s will and acts with it.” (p. 152)
The scriptures tell us clearly trusting God is the “easy yoke” of Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
We “accept that we do not have in ourselves — in our own ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’ — the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever ‘this’ is” (Willard, p. 209). Instead, let us “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).
Let us take on Jesus’ meekness and lowliness of heart — the humility that is foundational for all virtues — and what great freedom this is from all our worries.