Torrential rains cause a river to rise and a dam to break, flooding a valley. There is a small cabin in that valley, so the lone occupant heads for the roof and prays that God would miraculously rescue him.
Moments later, as the waters have reached halfway up the house, a boat full of people comes by. “Hey,” they call out, “we have room for you! Come aboard!”
“No thanks,” the man says, “I prayed and I know God’s going to rescue me!”
The boat floats on and the man waits some more while the waters continue to rise to the level of the roof.
A helicopter flies into the valley and the pilot lowers a rope ladder. But the man waves it off.
“No thanks,” he says again, “I prayed and I know God’s going to rescue me!”
So off flies the helicopter as the waters rise higher and higher. They engulf the man, who passes away and is immediately met at the Gates of Heaven by God.
“God!” the man says. “I prayed and prayed! Why didn’t you rescue me?”
God looks him in the eye and says, “I sent you a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?”
I thought of this joke recently because I’ve noticed a lot of people in my world keep talking about “surrendering to God” or how “God is teaching them something in a difficult time.”
I don’t know… what does “surrendering to God” really mean other than just being super-Christian? What, practically, does surrender to God look like?
My wife, Jeanette, has a friend who has some health problems and has put on a lot of excess weight. She’s gone to doctors and specialists and tried all kinds of medical means to drop the weight—medicines, procedures, all that—but nothing’s working.
My wife has also had medical issues—different ones, but still the kinds of things that don’t have an immediate solution. During the course of these, my wife saw a natural doctor who recommended a book that caused her to radically rethink her philosophy on food.
As Jeanette read this book, she kept thinking about her friend, of all the ways her friend might benefit from this new philosophy of food, of all the reasons why her friend probably wouldn’t subscribe to it. After all, this new method of thinking about food is hard. It’s difficult, it’s rigid, it’s scheduled, it’s time-consuming, it’s expensive. You have to regulate what you eat, down to packing your own salad dressing when you go to a friend’s house for dinner. But: it’s totally changed and helped Jeanette.
I took it upon myself to email Jeanette’s friend and suggest she check out this book. She wrote me back: “I’m sure God’s just teaching me something through this and I have to surrender.”
Why, as Christians, do we think that God wants us to struggle like this? Because I hear things like this so many times. But rather than think that God could provide us with a way out, we just chalk our struggles up to “teaching” and needing to “surrender.”
Maybe God puts people in your life who actually have the opportunity to point you toward something great, who can teach you something. But for some reason, so many people think it sounds more spiritual to say “I’m going to suffer for Jesus” or “I’m going to surrender to God”?
And again, I ask: what does that look like?
When you say “Not my will but His will be done,” do you think it’s God’s will for you to suffer? To battle against your desires your entire life?
This isn’t just about my wife’s friend. I also hear this all the time with porn, where people think it’s their lifelong struggle or battle. But surrendering to your own desires is harder than surrendering to God.
In the case of my wife’s friend, “surrender” apparently means that, rather than challenge her own assumptions or her actions, she’s going to spiritualize the issue rather than give up her current practices. Saying, “I’m going to try this new philosophy behind eating, even though it goes against what I’ve done my whole life and even though I know it’s going to be hard and will stretch me beyond anything I’ve ever done,” is a much more difficult type of surrender than just saying, “I’m surrendering to God.”
Now, I don’t want to sound like Joel Osteen.
I don’t believe God has promised us a life free of suffering.
I know there are things that bring suffering into just about everyone’s life. Yet there are a lot of Christians who are content in the struggle, thinking that this is God’s will for them so they can “learn” something.
That’s not me.
My nature is to fix things. If I’m in trouble, I want to find a way out. I don’t want to just sit in the suffering. I want to find an answer so I’m not stuck in this place anymore. I understand that God can teach me something in the midst of my struggle, but I also know he can provide a way out. It just might not be the obvious way or the easy way or the way that requires no work from me. Why don’t we connect the dots on that?
Are we too content in the struggle? Have we already determined that this is how it will always be? That we’ll always be fighting and battling so that God can “teach us” something? And is that keeping us from looking for a way out?
Maybe God’s already tried to send you rescue. What more do you want?
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