Truly surrendering to God is difficult, but it’s worth the pain

How God is teaching me to sacrifice my selfish desires for the benefit of others, even my family

By Margaret Agnew

When I think of “surrender to God,” I think about things like following the Ten Commandments, serving in my church, and trying to live a decent life.

I believe that I do an okay job of that, mostly. I taught Sunday School for a very long time. I’ve gone on several mission trips to Spanish-speaking countries.

I helped an evacuee family from New Orleans from the time they arrived in Brenham until they returned to New Orleans. Craig and I are committed tithers. I’ve checked off a lot of the boxes.

I did those things out of love for Jesus, not to earn a place in Heaven, because I know that I can’t work my way there. My service is an expression of love for Him. Double-box-check.

I lift my life, lift my life up, I give it all in surrender. I lift my heart, lift my heart up, You can have it forever. All my dreams, all my plans, Lord, I leave it in Your hands.
- Lyrics from “Lift My Life Up” by Unspoken

But in other areas of my life, it’s been a growing process.

I believe that I have gotten better at surrendering as I’ve gotten older, and God is forever with me.

Craig and I learned to turn job choices over to God instead of just deciding for ourselves. In the last twenty years or so, we have prayed to God that if He wanted us to have a job, that it would be offered to us; if He didn’t, then it wouldn’t be.

When it was time to move on from a job that had become “ugly,” we knew that we were there for a reason and for a season. We focused on what God’s plan was for us instead of pointing fingers or harboring resentment.

He has given us some wonderful friends in every town we’ve worked in, and we have grown in our service for and relationship with Him.

Also, when I was jumping through the hoops required to become a teacher, I finally had to surrender, fall to my knees, and pray, “God, I’ve taken that test and failed SIX times! I can’t do it on my own! I need Your help!”

And then, I passed it.

When our grandson was born ten weeks early, and I was driving to Waco stressing over where our daughter would stay while he was in NICU, trying to figure out a plan on my own to help my little girl take care of her little boy, she called me and said that Dylan was being transferred to Scott and White in Temple. “Of course, God!” I said out loud. “Kellie can stay at the Ronald McDonald House!” That house is her second home!

Photos of her as a little cancer patient are all over that building, and the precious lady who was the Executive Director back in the 1990s is STILL the Executive Director and knows our family very well. God is good! I can look back on these times when God took care of me and mine and hold onto that when difficulties rise. Once I get out of my own way.

Now here I am at 56 years of age and God is bringing me to another level of surrender: true surrender, daily surrender. I am not saying that God speaks these thoughts into my head while I am sleeping or even while I’m reading my Bible. Nope. God brought me to a little Baptist church in Anna, Texas, to tell me all these things. Our pastor is Zach Williams, and our teaching pastor is Darryl Cuffie.

They are both wonderful teachers of the Word who challenge my heart — — every — — single — — week. Darryl says things like, “What’s your name?” which led me to confess my fears to whomever might read the story. Zach says things like, “You don’t need to come up with a game plan. Just follow Him. He has the plan!”

And His plan is simple! Matthew 22:37–39 tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s plan for me is for me to give up my selfish desires and focus on others. I need to stop thinking about myself and MY needs so much and look to the needs of others I encounter.

He doesn’t want me worrying about this, that, or the other. He wants me to open my eyes to opportunities to bless others. I don’t have to go to Honduras for a week in the summer. I can do simple things on a daily basis, like holding doors open, talking kindly to people I see, letting that driver cut in front of me, helping an elderly couple put their groceries in their car. And telling them “God bless you!”

On a daily basis. I have to focus more on my neighbors. As Zach challenged us: Smile more, laugh more, and help others. I have to work on this to grow closer to God. That is God’s plan for me.

All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
- lyrics from “I Surrender All” by Judson W. VanDeVenter, 1896

But God didn’t stop there. He is telling me that I have to do this with my own family! For some of you, that might be easier. For me it isn’t. I have a hard time humbling myself and putting family members first.

I can do it occasionally, but it doesn’t take much for me to lose it, in more ways than one. God, through Zach, showed me Ephesians 4:31–32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Dang! ALL bitterness? ALL wrath? ALL anger? ALL malice? Man, oh man. I’m really not one to hold onto “the big four (bitterness, wrath, anger, malice)” against non-family members. I’ve even learned to not hold onto those things against my siblings. So, I can work on that and with God’s gentle nudging, I believe that I can get better.

But with my children? My husband?

Especially now that we live close to Kellie, I can easily find myself all caught up in bitterness (self-explanatory) and anger (extreme annoyance and frustration) with her. And don’t even get me started about my difficulties following God’s plan with Craig! I can red zone to the big four with him so quickly!

I’ve discussed bitterness before. My anger (extreme annoyance) with him is way out of control and undeserved. My wrath (extreme anger) can boil over in a heartbeat, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve even felt malice (the intentional desire to do evil; ill will — or — wrongful intention, especially as increasing the guilt of certain offenses) toward my own husband!

God is dealing with me strongly in this area. And He has a tough row to hoe, I know.

I have to work on being kind and tenderhearted. When we took a Spiritual Gifts survey, I scored better at interpretation of tongues than I did exhortation! I have to work on forgiving. But I will not make a plan for how I will get better about this. I have to surrender it to Him. On a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

Now, my prayer:

My father, my God, I praise you for bringing us to Anna, Texas to be closer to Kellie and her family. I praise you for the new friends we have made here and for the little, God-centered First Baptist Church of Anna.

I praise you for helping me to see the next level in Your plan for me. I ask that you will help me every day and every moment to remember to get out of my own way and to focus on others.

I ask you with all fervor to raise me up to a place where I can break the hold that bitterness, wrath, anger and malice have on me when it comes to my family, especially Craig. I know that I cannot continue in this place and grow closer to You.

I surrender all that negativity to You. Help me to smile more, laugh more, and help others so that they can see You in me.

In your precious name I pray, Amen.