“Struggle challenges me to trust, but when I do eventually surrender, it means I’ve entrusted my life to God. And every time I do this, I’m heartened by the knowledge that God is eternally capable.”
– from Teach Us To Want, by Jen Pollack Michel
It’s a classic kid’s tale from ancient days, and for some us who are aging, it feels like another lifetime when we first heard the words of our Sunday School teachers and were mesmerized by Jonah being swallowed up in the belly of a large fish for days.
In my young mind, I loved this story. It seemed impossible, but with my little mind and little heart, I believed it because it came from the Bible. In those pigtailed and patent leather shoe days, the story centered around the swallowing and the spitting out of a man. Yes, yes, I did remember the part of Jonah not wanting to go somewhere and getting on a ship for someplace else, but the swallowing and spitting was what I was after. This was good stuff!
As much as I enjoyed this story as a child, I resist it today. As much as I wanted to be picked to move a piece of the tale around a flannel board, I don’t want to touch it today. As much as I don’t want to admit, it is because this story is about struggle and surrender.
We are afraid of this. If we’re honest, we are afraid of this. To surrender to something or someone means we’ve let go, means we’ve admitted we can’t do this by ourselves, means we’re not enough and that maybe someone else knows what’s best.
As Christians, we know this is true. We’re not enough, only Christ is. And yet we struggle to surrender, even in our knowing.
But the Bible is full from beginning to end with struggle and either a surrendering to God or not. The struggle leads to surrender, but we don’t naturally want it. We don’t naturally embrace the hard things of life. We want something else, we want what we think is better, easier, sometimes never tasting what is best.
Looking back, though, I can see myself in the characters of God’s Word. I can see myself living in the in between places of God’s Word says it and I believe it – and that settles it, right? Not really.
Without the struggle, the turning over of something, the prayer on my knees, asking, questioning, bare before the Lord and honest with my emotions, there can be no surrender. I will still try to manipulate or find something of God’s word to justify my desires.
And what God wants to do is better.
He wants to meet me on my knees on hard wood floors. He wants to hear my cries. He wants me to see Him. He wants to surprise me with his best, and it’s always more than I could have imagined.
Swallowing the struggle, learning to trust Him in it. Spitting out prayers of surrender, taking steps forward, knowing He is able.