I closed my Bible as the tears that puddled beneath the surface finally burst free. I was growing bitter and resentful toward God. Only months earlier, our infant daughter was tragically killed in an auto accident that left me reeling with pain, questioning my faith, and groping for answers.
I wanted to know why. Why did she have to die? Why did God allow this? Why didn’t He come to our rescue? Why her? Why us? Why now?
That one little word unraveled me. I spent far too much time pondering these unanswered questions and, like a thief in the night, they managed to steal my peace and my joy. I wonder if you can relate?
The Bible offers several examples of hurting people who were also plagued by ‘why’ questions.
Moses asks, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant” (Numbers 11:11)?
David pleads, “Oh Lord why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I’m in trouble” (Psalm 10:1)?
Job cries, “Why have you made me your mark, oh God” (Job 7:20)?
Habakkuk asks of the Lord, “Why do you make me see iniquity and why do you idly look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:3)?
The disciples questioned, “Why was this man born blind” (John 9:2, NLT)?
I wasn’t alone in my wrestling. Trying to make sense of a good God in the face of tragedy and suffering is a common theme woven throughout Scripture. The sobering reality I had to accept is that suffering is simply a part of life. No one is exempt, and we don’t usually know the why behind the suffering this side of heaven.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
In spite of my lack of understanding, was I willing to surrender my heart to the Lord?
Some might argue my circumstances didn’t call for a surrendered heart. The hard truth was that my daughter died. Whether I chose to surrender my brokenness to God or not, nothing would bring her back. Yet deep down, I knew if I wanted to heal, surrender was necessary.
TO TRUST GOD OR NOT
My fingers slid across the smooth surface of my Bible while the unanswered questions loomed. In that place of restlessness, the Lord drew near and I heard Him whisper to my heart, Rachel, I know you don’t understand, but will you trust Me anyway?
Will you trust Me even though the outcome was not what you hoped?
Will you trust Me when you don’t have all the answers?
Will you trust Me to bring beauty out of these ashes?
Will you trust Me to be your good, good Father?
I confess I wanted my answer to be a fast and steady “yes!” I wanted to say with utter determination and unwavering faith that I trust Him no matter what. But the reality was, I struggled. My heart had been shattered into a million tiny pieces and I was afraid of what it would cost to trust again.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
I felt stuck. I wanted to trust God with my unanswered questions and uncertain future; however, I couldn’t seem to move forward without knowing there was some profound reason for all the pain and chaos of our loss. If I could just catch a glimpse of the bigger picture, I reasoned, perhaps it would all make sense. Maybe then I could push past the pain and the heaviness sitting on my chest, threatening to suffocate me.
But no such explanation was given. If I’m being honest, I’m not convinced that it would have made much of a difference anyway. I thought if I had answers to all my questions it would somehow satisfy the longing in my aching heart, setting me free to finally heal. Perhaps it would have eased the pain a bit, but grief is grief. It needed to be acknowledged and faced, not explained away.
“God, where do I go from here?” This quickly became the prayer of my heart. I knew I had to resign myself to being okay with not knowing the answers to my questions. But I didn’t know how. How do you let go of something that weighs so heavily?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).
As we lean into the Father, we give Him our burdens so we can be set free. I didn’t realize it before, but my need-to-know obsession had become a burden. It kept the Lord at arm’s length, and said “Until I understand what you are doing, and why, that’s as close as I’ll let you come.” No wonder I was unable to enter His rest. I had failed to let God carry what was never mine to hold.
LET IT BE
I longed to have the kind of faith that didn’t demand all the answers. I wanted a faith that simply trusted Jesus’ love and guidance. I wanted to rest securely under the banner of a surrendered heart and yield to God what my fists held tight to.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not given a choice about her immaculate conception. The angel of the Lord merely stated, “Behold, you WILL conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call Him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Could Mary have argued? Probably. Would it have made a difference in the outcome? Probably not. But in her heart, most certainly, yes. A yielded heart makes all the difference as we live out our faith in this world.
Many times over, I have been awed by Mary’s humble response to the angel’s proclamation: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’” (Luke 1:38).
Let it be.
Three little words with a mighty impact. Mary said “yes” to God’s plan, believing it would ultimately be for her good and for His glory. She did not ask to have all the details beforehand; nor was she aware of what it would cost her. She simply trusted in God’s love and care. She knew without a doubt the One who had called her out into the deep waters would surely go with her. Oh, what faith!
I, like Mary, couldn’t control my future, but I could trust the One who holds my future.
Experience has taught me that surrender is much more than just a sacrificial offering. It’s a posture of our hearts. It’s a willingness to exchange our hopes, dreams, and plans for the Lord’s. It’s kneeling before God with hands open wide and heart abandoned, declaring, here’s my life, Lord. It’s relinquishing our good for His best, even when it doesn’t make sense.
This is hard work. Soul work. Surrender does not come naturally to me. My guess is the same could be said of you. I don’t want to trust the Lord only when circumstances are good. I want to trust Him because He is good, regardless of my circumstances.
FREEDOM IN SURRENDER
Lying prostrate on my closet floor, my heart laid bare before the Lord, I surrendered all that I held tight to—my doubts, my fears, my desire to control—in exchange for God’s sovereign plan. Jesus met me in that space where my broken heart and shattered dreams intersected with the perfect love of God. I experienced His promise to be near to the brokenhearted, to those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
In the presence of His love, I was free. Free to yield. Free to receive. It so happens the answer to our why isn’t what brings us the healing we crave. Instead, it is found in surrendering our why to a loving God who brings beauty out of our ashes and gives us hope—despite the unknown.
I may never understand why our family has endured such sorrow. Or why disease touches those we love. Or why children go astray. Or why spouses leave. Or why life so often doesn’t make any sense. And I may not know what my tomorrow holds. Do any of us? But I know Who holds our tomorrow. I know that He is good. He will never leave us or forsake us, especially in the midst of our brokenness.
OUR GREATEST EXAMPLE
In the garden of Gethsemane, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus so perfectly modeled the beauty of a surrendered heart. Though He had spent His first moments of that long and agonizing night pleading with God to remove His cup of suffering, Jesus closes His vulnerable prayer with this: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Not my will—the ultimate prayer of surrender, if ever there was one.
Lord, that my hope would be grounded in You alone, and my heart so fully Yours. Amen.
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