Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Surrender, not defeat

Having extolled the virtues of waiting, in my last post, I need to offer a qualifier. Sometimes it just sucks.

It’s one thing to be patient and serene when you know something good is coming eventually. Meeting your love at the altar to exchange vows. Cradling a newborn and savoring their fresh-baked smell. Heading to the airport for that trip of a lifetime.

In these kind of situations, the sweet longing and counting the days and hours only intensifies the eventual experience. You’ve never really appreciated water until you’ve been parched dry. There’s a deliciousness to the delay.

It can truly be a whole other story when you don’t know what the final chapter is going to be, when it is at-long-last written. In such situations, waiting can become almost unbearable—you’re jammed by the window in coach, awaiting take-off on an eight-hour flight, unable to straighten your cramping legs, with the seat of the person in front in full recline.

And then there’s an announcement that take-off has been delayed indefinitely, and you just have to sit tight.


It’s the difference between feeling hopeful and helpless.

Facing the latter, we’ll often do one of two things. Try to force our desired outcome, or give up in despair. We clench our fists or throw up our hands in fuggedaboutit dismissal.

I’ve tried both responses repeatedly in a couple of cases, one related to a personal situation and the other regarding a loved one. But I’m finding that God isn’t looking for either from me. He wants me to hold out my hands palms-up, in surrender.

It’s obvious that surrender is different to attempting to make things happen, but it’s less immediately clear that it is also markedly different from throwing your arms up in despair. That’s defeat, not surrender.

Defeat is giving up, protecting yourself from disappointment by refusing to let it matter any more. Surrender is acknowledging you can’t do anything to change things, but hanging in there all the same with your naked desire that someone would, somehow. It keeps the door to your heart open, risking further letdown.

This is active waiting. Giving over rather than giving up. It’s living vulnerable, exposed—and it can be tiring.

In times like this I need to remind myself that God is not being capricious. He is not playing games. Charlie Peacock sweetly captures the hope of 2 Peter 3:8-9 in his classic, Dear Friend:

Dear friend, He is not slow in keeping His promises
As some understand slowness to be
Keep a watch out, don’t lose faith, He said, He would come for you
He’s gonna come for you, you wait and see, just wait and see.

Don’t grind on. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Give it over.

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