Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Finding Strength in our Surrender

The following comes from Integrated Catholic Life: 

Surrender, giving control of our lives to Christ, is an enormous obstacle to living out our faith in the workplace, or anyplace for that matter. Surrendering to Christ and putting his will before my own for the first time more than seven years ago was the very moment I felt stronger than at any other time in my life. By surrendering, the strength of the Lord flowed through me, energized me, gave me courage, and put me on the path to a life of discipleship filled with meaning. The recognition that I had to give up control and experience the death of my old self allowed me to put absolute trust in him; without which, my soul’s conversion would not have been possible. Even more important, I have come to recognize that my surrender and conversion is an ongoing process and not a one-time event.

Yet, so many good people I encounter each day struggle with this idea of surrender. It is almost as if we have developed barriers around our hearts that keep the world at an emotional distance. The most important casualty, however, is our relationship with Christ, as we often wind up keeping him at a distance as well. I observe men and women every day who come right up against a deeper faith and a closer relationship with Jesus, only to walk away. Why? After countless conversations with a large number of my brothers and sisters in Christ, it comes down to three main obstacles in the way of our trustful surrender to the Lord: pride, fear, and excuses. Do any of these obstacles resonate with you? At various times, they have all clicked with me. When our pride gets hold of us, we forget our roles outside of the workplace: as a spouse, parent, or friend. When fear controls our faith, we fail to submit to Christ and his divine will. And in making excuses, we create barriers between God and us. In order to avoid these obstacles, therefore, it’s important to know how and when to surrender.

When we are experiencing success in business and our personal lives are flourishing, do we think about putting the Lord first in our lives? Is submitting to his will top of mind? Do we thank him? Before answering these questions, consider another perspective, following the words of Saint John Eudes: “You can advance farther in grace in one hour during a time of affliction than in many days during a time of consolation.” How do we view Jesus when times are tough? We may have lost our job or be going through serious financial problems. Maybe our children are struggling with peer pressure at school or a family member is dying. How would we view Jesus then? When is our trust in him most apparent?

In my professional life, I encounter dozens of people each month who are going through career transition, especially in this difficult economy. Many have shared with me that they have turned to our Lord for help in these tough times when they were at their weakest moments. They turn to him when they used to rely only on themselves. The point I am making is we often turn to Jesus when we are in crisis and ask him for help and strength. Crisis can be a helpful catalyst to truly and unreservedly surrender to his will, and any means to achieve that end is worthwhile. But we should not wait until our backs are against the wall to pray the words, “I am no longer in charge Jesus, please lead me.”

To give ourselves daily to Jesus Christ, it is important to put our absolute trust in him. What have we got to lose? When I think about my own faith, I remember what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.” When we give ourselves up, God lets himself in. And that is exactly what he did for me.

In the second Mass I ever attended (in October 2005, shortly after my wife and I made the decision to join the Catholic Church), I went through a powerful personal conversion. I was trembling, sweating, nervous, and felt weak at the beginning of the Mass. My family thought I was having a heart attack! This strange feeling lasted for about ten minutes. What happened in those few precious minutes was life-altering. I went into the church that morning feel­ing lost. I knew I needed help and that I no longer had the answers. I remember praying silently to God to lead me and acknowledging I was no longer in charge. I felt so weak because I had never asked God for anything before, and I didn’t know how to relinquish control. When I prayed those words, gave up control, and sincerely surrendered to his will, I felt a surge of strength and a sense of peace that felt like a wind blowing right through me. I had given up more than twenty years of stubbornness, ego, and pride that had been accumulating since I last attended the Baptist church as a teenager. When I humbly surrendered to his will, the Lord gave me strength and a sense of peace I still feel to this day. I still struggle with plac­ing Christ first in every aspect of my life, and I have problems like everyone else. But knowing that he will forgive me, love me, guide me, and bless me keeps me coming back again and again to the place where I pray the words, “I surrender Lord, please lead me.”

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