The Hope in Surrendering

As I write this, hurricane Ida is ravaging the Louisiana coast, and fires rage in California. Abroad, violence and tragedy continue to unfold in Afghanistan. My heart aches for Afghanistan’s people, and for the troops and their families. Coronavirus – with all the turmoil it brings – is resurging around the world. I am grateful that everything is currently fine in my Montana bubble, but I cannot ignore the pain and chaos I see everywhere else.

Dwelling on the declining state of the world will not help anyone who suffers from depression. It only reinforces the twin symptoms of feeling hopeless and lacking a desire to live. I also find myself questioning  God – where is He in the midst of world chaos?

I am, by nature, an over-thinker. I am in a profession that requires me to engage and problem solve every day. I cannot check out, if I want to do my job well and serve my coworkers with excellence. I carry this mode of thinking into every area of my life, including to places where it is not helpful. I worry about world events I have no control over, and that I, as one small individual, cannot fix. Sometimes it drives me mad.

In Genesis 32, Jacob is in the process of returning to his homeland when he hears that his brother, Esau, is coming to meet him with 400 armed men. (The brothers take the concept of a family feud to a new level.) One does not have to read between the lines to feel Jacob’s fear as he does everything he can to protect his family – he sends ahead multiple tribute gifts, and he divides his people into two groups and sends them across the river. Jacob reasons that if Esau attacks, maybe one group will survive.

During the night, Jacob alone remains on the other side of the river, where he wrestles with an angel (the text does not reveal the exact nature of the divine being Jacob encounters). Jacob does not retreat to blind faith, vaguely hoping that everything will be okay. Rather, his fight with the angel is a struggle with his faith and with his own fears – a bold confrontation of what troubles his soul.

In verse 28, Jacob has a breakthrough moment when the wrestling match concludes and the divine man renames him: “’Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.'” Jacob resolved his doubts and stepped into faith, though he still had no control of the situation or its outcome. He knew God was in the midst of his situation – that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies ruled over his circumstances.

In Mark 12:41-44 is the story of the widow with her two coins:

“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.'”

No details are given about what happened to the widow after she gave away the last of her money. She entrusted her future to God, and that is all Mark reveals. How many people today are in desperate circumstances, wondering what the future holds? Yet the choice of the widow stands: the complete surrender of everything – from personal circumstances to the uncertainties of current world circumstances – to God.

I lack the big picture view that omnipotent, omnipresent God has. I cannot fathom what divine purposes are being worked out through the present struggles across the globe, but I choose to surrender what I cannot control to the sovereignty, love, and wisdom of God.

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