Finding Joy Through Surrender

 


There's this quote from author and poet Wendell Berry that I've read just about every day for the last few years.  

It's one of the most challenging quotes I've come across. It's both troubling and comforting, which is what makes it such excellent wisdom: 

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. 

At first blush, this might seem a bit of a rose-colored-glasses sentiment, but it's far from it.  This is no "Don't Worry Be Happy" kind of jingle (although I love that song); it's a bit more misty and mysterious. 

"Be joyful" is most certainly the kind of exhortation that you would expect from an overly sentimental meme with kittens and flowers that you might see on your overly Christian friend's Facebook feed. 

But few churchy folks would hardly ever include the last bit: "though you have considered all the facts." 

This quote implies that things are not as they ought to be.  The facts reveal it to be so.  You might be surrounded by calamity, neck-deep in trouble, and the facts of your predicament bear that out. 

Still, despite all of this... Be joyful. 

As I've said, I have read and re-read this quote for years and have yet to completely absorb the brave and startling truth it holds.  

How can we be joyful in the middle of struggle and strife?  How can we muster joy when life has not turned out as we thought it would?  What do we do about finding joy when the world is all kinds of messed up?

It's a challenging thing, to be sure.  As it turns out, you can't will yourself to be joyful.  It's not something you can white-knuckle yourself to feel.  

Experiencing joy in the middle of life's challenges requires something few of us are either willing or able to do.  It requires surrender.  And I'm talking about the kind of surrender that isn't giving up as much as it is giving in.  

This type of surrender comes when we finally say to God, "Not my will, but yours."  If these words seem familiar, they are those that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested.  

When we stop fighting for control over our lives and circumstances and cede that control to God, we aren't becoming mindless puppets or resigned shells of our former selves.  

We're simply acknowledging that there might be more going on than we realize, and we are choosing to trust that God's purposes are good and faithful. 

The exciting thing about surrender is that it leads to endurance.  We find that suddenly, all of the energy that we were spending trying to solve all the problems in our world can be used in life-giving ways.  

This is when we discover the capacity to love and live in hope.  Our problems may not go away, but we have the strength to endure them because we've surrendered all our outcomes to God. 

You may have guessed at this point, but this is where we begin to feel joy again.  

Whatever joy may have been stolen or given away returns when we surrender and learn that suffering can be endured and overcome by trusting that God has our best interests at heart, despite what we're going through at the moment.  

I, for one, need to be reminded of this over and again.  We all do.  Because our first instinct when we are going through tough times is to try to fix it ourselves or to wallow in misery over the fact that we can't. 

But if we learn to pray the simple prayer, "Not my will be done, but God's," we will learn the power of surrendering our lives to the One who has purposes that are not meant to harm us but to give us hope and a future.  

May we learn to pray this prayer today and every day from this day forward. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  



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