Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Struggle and Surrender

What is the balance between struggle and surrender? I am thinking particularly of those contexts where either we desire something that does not come easily or we are seeking to escape difficult circumstances.

How does a person following Jesus respond when prayers for a job go unanswered — keep struggling to find one, or surrender to what the Lord may want to do in a period of abandonment? What does a Christian do when the health report is grim — exhaust every remote medical option or rest in the reality that everyone dies and know that Christ has defeated death?

If we are excessive with our struggle is it because we are too committed to self-will? If we too easily give up in surrender is it an indication of apathy and sloth?

Jacob wrestled with God, refusing to turn loose without a blessing. Jesus wrestled with His impending death in the garden, but then surrendered to the Father with not what I want but what you want (Mtt 27:39).

In his book The Struggle of Prayer, Donald Bloesch says, “God wishes us to strive with him before we submit because he wants to convince us. He desires to see how earnest we really are. He hides the full meaning of his will from us until we are ready to accept it. When we finally surrender, we triumph in that God triumphs.” This essentially says that, while we tend to seek “answers” so we can get on with the way we perceive life, God is always seeking intimate relationship with the people He has created and redeemed.

Yet this does not tell us where the “line” is because, I think, there is not one. The “line,” even if we are seeking such from God’s point of view, would be just another “answer” — a “spiritual formula” that would come between us and God instead of keeping us dependent on Him.

Whether we are desiring work, health, or anything else, the only “answer” seems to have been given by our Lord: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mtt 6:33). And when “these things” do not come on our schedule (or, seemingly, not at all), we still come to the Father as our Lord did and say not what I want but what you want.

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