“Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.” (Psalm 38:9)
I have often prayed this raw prayer of David’s, especially regarding my desire to be married. It’s a significant desire of my heart. And so my soul inwardly sighs as I celebrate a friend’s engagement or even as I watch a movie couple drive into the sunset. I want to know when it will be my turn to see this dream fulfilled.
And then God answers that wondering with “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). I want to know this God. Who is He and why is He so worthy of being exalted? Why is He one to whom I can entrust my desires?
The summer before my senior year of college, I embarked on a journey to find out. I camped out in Psalm 27 and verse 4 became my theme verse for the summer (and the rest of my life, really):
“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.”
I wanted to seek the Lord with all that I was. I realized that in order to fully behold the beauty of the Lord, I needed to surrender my desire and right to be married to God. But how? Psalm 27 ends this way, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14).
With the courage God gave, I could start to see His goodness even in the process of surrendering my dreams. And you know what? Because I chose to seek the goodness of the Lord, to lay my desires before Him, I found Him faithful and beautiful (Psalm 27:4). I found the nearness of God to be good (Psalm 73:28). I found joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). And I had the best summer of my life.
The surrender story didn’t end there. It began there. God started teaching me a lesson that has been one of the most valuable of my life. The lesson is how to pray as Jesus did, “yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
A couple of years after the start of that lesson, God took me a step deeper into surrender. I liked a guy. We were friends and I wondered if it might become more.
I knew I needed to seek the Lord first in this friendship, so I surrendered it to God with open hands. I metaphorically opened my hands to release my grip on this friendship. I committed my way to Lord and trusted Him (Psalm 37:5). God could take and do with it what He wanted to. It was a step of surrender.
In that process of opening my hands, I learned a beautiful thing about how God works: Open hands aren’t just a way for God to take away something dear; they are hands open to receive the blessings that He gives. And my faithful God provided rich blessings as I surrendered with open hands.
The ending you’re probably hoping for in this story is that God gave me a beautiful romance and we lived happily ever after. But God doesn’t write Disney stories. (And happily ever after doesn’t just happen because you get married!)
He writes Kingdom stories. God didn’t give me an earthly romance as a reward for surrendering with open hands. He gave me the courage to surrender even when it hurt my heart and He gave me firsthand experience that I could trust Him even with my deepest desires. My open hands received the blessing of rich fellowship with Christians, the blessing of a more earnest and intimate prayer life, the blessing of a heart that knows it can trust God even when it my emotions don’t agree.
Surrender isn’t a one-time lesson, especially when it comes to the affections of the heart. I continue to surrender my love story, my affections, my hopes to God over and over again. And the lesson of surrender won’t end when we get married; we’ll need to learn and practice it in many stages and situations of life.
Even now, God is challenging me to another level of surrender. My emotions tell me not to let go, but my Bible says “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1). My feelings tell me to hang on to MY dreams, but the Bible says that “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). My selfishness tells me to try to build my comfortable kingdom, but my Savior said to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Over the years God has led me on a path of surrender and taught me that I can confidently submit friendships, dreams and hopes to Him, even when it hurts to let go. I can lay them before my Father with the full assurance that He will transform what I give into something for His greater glory. Maybe that will be marriage someday. Maybe it won’t be. Maybe it will be a deeper richness of knowing Christ. Or maybe it is the ability to share these lessons and stories with you to encourage you today.
Whether your dream is marriage or something else, have you surrendered it to God? Have you entrusted it to Him? Let me encourage you to try to praying the prayer that Jesus prayed and letting God work for His glory: “yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).