Surrender Without Trust

“The one who trusts will never be dismayed.” Isaiah 28:16b

The Lord stirred up a fresh thought in Bible study this week that I find myself still chewing on. I tend to process things better when I share them, so I’m inviting you in for a taste. Here’s the morsel.

Surrender differs from trust.

I’ll give you a moment to bite down.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably linked these two together in your mind. After all, it seems logical that we won’t surrender if we don’t trust. If we commit to the act of surrendering to God, it must mean we trust Him, right?

Clearly surrender and trust intertwine. But are they one and the same? Is it possible to surrender in obedience to God without trusting Him?

I can’t seem to let go of the thought. Perhaps this could explain why our acts of surrender aren’t always met with grace.

Think about it. Have you ever struggled to obey God and wondered why your obedience didn’t result in real change? Why you fell short of God-powered transformation?

I’m reminded of an area in my life that I have repeatedly surrendered to God in prayer. I have tried to choose obedience, fully expecting His divine intervention to change me. Yet I remain stuck. Instead of reveling in transforming grace, I’m just tired. Can you relate?

According to Scripture, the absence of grace suggests a lack of faith. You might know the Scriptures.

  • We gain access “by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:2).
  • God saves us by His grace, through our faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Our faith looses God’s grace into our circumstances. If I’m missing grace, I must have a problem with faith.

The issue can’t be that I don’t have enough faith. God’s Word promises we only need faith as small as a mustard seed to see mountains move (Matthew 17:20).

So maybe the problem has been that I’ve tried to surrender in obedience without trust.

If I get honest with myself, that’s where I’ve been. I’ve tried to obey God because I know that I’m supposed to, but I haven’t been agreeing with Him in my heart and trusting that what He’s asking of me is really the best choice. I’ve been going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Surrender wrapped in rebellion. Ouch.

This story I read in Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods about her niece might help you understand what I’m talking about. When the little girl’s behavior in a store led her mother to make her sit down on a bench, she crossed her arms and said, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but in my heart I’m standing up.”

I’m guessing you can relate. Have you ever obeyed God on the outside but rebelled against Him in your heart?

Jonah offers a clear example of this struggle and demonstrates what can result. You know the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. Jonah decided he’d rather jump on the nearest ship to Tarshish. 

After a storm at sea and three days tossing about in the belly of a fish, God gave Jonah a second chance. Once again, He sent Jonah to Nineveh. Jonah preached, and the people repented. The entire city was saved from God’s wrath.

You might think this would be cause for great celebration, but the preacher had a different response.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4:1-3

Jonah had surrendered in obedience to God, but he did it with a hard heart. He didn’t trust that God was doing the right thing, that God’s way in the matter was right. He simply didn’t agree with Him. Jonah didn’t think the people deserved God’s grace or His mercy. And the fact that God gave it made him angry, angry enough to want to die.

He obeyed God, but he couldn’t trust Him with Nineveh’s future. He surrendered His will without trusting God’s purpose. That lack of trust robbed him of joy and made him just plain miserable. Kind of offers a new perspective on Isaiah 28:16b, doesn’t it?

“The one who trusts will never be dismayed.”

I wonder. How often do we pray to forgive someone because we know God wants us to, but we don’t experience His transforming grace because our hearts aren’t in it? We don’t really want to let them off the hook. Or maybe we take a step of obedience at God’s insistence, but our heart remains so hard that we can’t experience the blessing meant to come from it.

Perhaps we need to ask God to help us change our wayward hearts. Like the disciples, we can cry out to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

Dear one, God does want us to surrender our wills, but to encounter grace, we also need to trust Him from the heart. Surrender wrapped in trust just might move your mountain.

Help me, Jesus. I surrender all.

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