Today, let’s talk a little bit about surrender, which is making sure Jesus is in the drivers’ seat of your life, leading and guiding your every step.

Surrender is something Mark and I have actually shared quite a bit about before as it was such a huge part of our marriage journey. Here’s another article and a podcast we’ve done on the topic:

[Article] What Does it Mean to Live a Life of Surrender?
Episode 76: Where’s Jesus in Your Car? (LIVE @ The Church Next Door in Columbus, OH)

What got me thinking about surrender again was actually a new book series we have been hard at work on getting out there for couples who are trying to figure out how to move forward after infidelity.

The book I wrote is titled My Heart is Broken: Your Next Steps for When Your Spouse is Unfaithful (originally titled Your Next Steps: What to Do When Your Spouse Is Unfaithful — the content hasn’t changed from that, just the title and the look of the book.) Mark’s book, however, is brand new, and is an important read for anyone who has broken their spouse’s trust in some way, but it does cover specifics when the broken trust happened from infidelity. It’s titled I Really Messed Up: Your Next Steps to Heal Your Marriage After an Affair.

So back to surrender.

In the journey of healing our marriage, we both had some surrender work to do. I needed to surrender to God my desire to control, my “buck-up” mentality, and my relationship with emotions. I had to let God truly lead my life in those areas. Mark needed to surrender to God his expectations, his own desire for control, and the shame and fear that were influencing how he saw his identity. He needed to let God truly lead his life in those areas.

In Mark’s book, I Really Messed Up, he outlines 6 descriptions of what true surrender is. I thought these were powerful perspectives for us to hold about the idea of surrender, so I wanted to share a brief overview of them with you here on the blog as well.

Let’s take a look at what surrender actually means:

#1: Surrender is Trusting God to Lead

If we’re honest, there are times that we’ve felt disappointment in how God has allowed life to play out. A lot of time that comes from our expectations. Expectations, in general, can fuel our discontentment with life. When you sit in unrealistic expectations day in and day out, you become discontent, disillusioned, discouraged, and eventually disconnected. 

We often expect God to do things our way. We want Him to show up how we want Him to show up. We want Him to cater to our timing.

We want.
We want. 

That’s what an unsurrendered life looks like.

When we throw up the white flag of surrender, our heart can change to, “Whatever you want is best, Lord. I trust You.”

#2: Surrender is Trusting God’s Ways Are Better

God doesn’t give us guidelines for life to be mean or bossy, or a fuddy-duddy. He gives us direction to protect us! Life on this side of heaven is painful all by itself. This is a broken world, and we are touched by its brokenness. What we need to understand is that God gives us direction to keep us from adding more pain to the brokenness!

God’s ways often feel upside down to us. They go against what we feel like doing, but these are those moments of surrender.

It isn’t once and done. We have to lay down our old ways and actively choose God’s ways day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute. When we understand that God’s ways are the best because they protect us and our loved ones in the long run, we can better surrender to His leadership in our life.

#3: Surrender is Trusting That God Is at Work

When we’re in a healing and restoring season of life, there are times where it feels like nothing is happening. Because we can’t always see progress, we can jump to the assumption that progress isn’t being made. However, the truth is that God is always working.

We can’t follow our feelings; this is where God’s truth needs to inform us. John 5:17 tells us, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” We can trust that God is working even if we can’t see how He’s working.

We all have free will so when God is at work, He is inviting us to do things His way. He’s inviting us to surrender. He’s inviting us to healing and restoration. He’s doing the same for those around us.

We each get to choose, however, if we’ll respond to His invitation. You can only control you. You can only decide for you. Trust that God is at work and make sure you respond to His invitation to do things His way each and every day.

#4: Surrender is Giving Up the Right to Know and Understand

It’s important that we pay attention to Isaiah 55:8, which says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” There are just some things we will never know and never understand on this side of heaven. We have to let God be God and recognize that we are not.

In the Ten Commandments, the first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Do you know that sometimes we try to become like God? This is when we can begin to worship the idol of “self.” When we surrender, we settle it in our hearts that “God is God and I am not.”

#5: Surrender is Giving Up the Demand That Things Turn Out the Way You Want

In I Really Messed Up, Mark writes, “When we pray and ask God for something, we must be careful about assuming what the answer to that prayer needs to be. When I was praying for God to change my marriage (and if I’m honest—most often I was praying that He would change my wife), I kept looking for that prayer to be answered in specific ways and those things weren’t happening. Therefore, I determined God wasn’t listening and He didn’t care. That’s when I took things into my own hands.”

There’s a story in the Bible about what surrender looked like in Jesus’s life. Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that he was facing a horrible death on the cross. Knowing this he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Do you see the request and then the surrender?

“Take this cup from me” is the request. He’s saying, “I don’t want to experience this pain. I don’t want to die a horrible death on the cross.”

“Not my will, but yours be done” is the surrender. He’s saying, “I made my request, but I trust you. I’m laying down my right to demand that things turn out like I want them to.”

God wants to hear our requests. He tells us to ask. However, He wants us to ask with a surrendered, trusting heart. That’s exactly what Jesus modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

#6: Surrender is Giving Up the Right to Do Things Your Way

There’s a truth in the Bible that Mark and I often explore with the couples we coach. It’s in Romans 8:5-6:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

When we do things our way, we are walking in the flesh. When we do things God’s way, we are walking in the Spirit. These verses tell us that when we walk in the flesh, we will experience death. Not a physical death but a spiritual or a relational death. Maybe it’s death of connection. Death of intimacy. Death of hope. However, when we walk in the Spirit, we will experience life and peace. That’s what we want!

So what about you? Is Jesus in the drivers’ seat of your life? Where do you still need to hand the keys over to Him? Where do you need to release control and let Him lead? Surrender is crucial to experiencing true healing, restoration, and purpose in our life.

By the way, if you or someone you know is working to heal from infidelity, please share or take a look at this new book series from Mark and I. You can find my book here, and Mark’s book here. We truly hope you don’t need either of these books, but if you do, we want you to know they’re here. They’re short—less than 100 pages each—because when you’re in crisis you are already overwhelmed. However, they are filled with hard-earned wisdom and clear, practical next steps that you need from two people who have been where you are.