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Why Surrendering to God Doesn’t Mean You’re Giving Up the Battle

Last Updated: March 9, 2021

Jen Ferguson
Jen Ferguson

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy. She’s also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

Surrender is hard.

Surrender is especially hard when you’re a type-A, emotional caregiver who struggles with anxiety. Hello, perfect storm.

I want to fix everything. I want people to be happy and healthy and free. My first instinct is to evaluate and plan. I find solutions, present them, and cajole the person into using them. And then I’m disappointed when they don’t. I get frustrated, angry, and resentful. When they continue to struggle, I say in my head, “If you’d only listen to me!”

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has this habit.

Ironically, when I’m in fix-it mode, trying to promote “Healthy! Happy! Free!” I find myself feeling unhealthy, unhappy, and chained. I’ve found that the harder I try to bring about change in people with my own solutions, the more I find myself drowning in the fear of the problem at hand. I become antsy and restless, my mind spinning with more ideas, more “what-if’s,” and a cascading list of new problems that might crop up because this one is still unresolved.

Praise the Lord that there are some problems we can take care of with ease. But those issues that we find in others—the ones that rub us the wrong way, the ones that induce fear, the ones that seem to threaten our security—those are the ones that require surrender. I do not mean the kind of surrender where we lower our walls and turn the other cheek. Please know that it is incredibly crucial to have boundaries in every relationship, especially a spouse overcoming addiction. Rather, I mean the kind of surrender where we give our life to God and trust that only he can change the heart of our spouse.

We can’t make anyone raise their own white flag.

Why? Because the problem requires their surrender, too.

Craig can’t make me choose faith over worry.

I couldn’t make him stop looking at porn.

Craig can’t wrestle the things out of my hand that I try so hard to control.

I can’t make him eat healthy and exercise.

These things—our idols, our addictions—we are the only ones who can truly let them go. But when we see our spouse suffering and when their suffering induces our suffering, many of us will search to the ends of our minds for something that might provide relief.

I picture myself in my house, frantically searching for the balm that will sooth, the key that will unlock, the piece that will complete the puzzle. The buzz in my mind drowns out the slow and steady knock of Jesus at the front door. I keep thinking if I search high and low and long, I won’t need to answer it.

Why is it so hard to open the door? Why can’t I invite Him into this problem?

Why is this action so pale and puny in comparison to all the other ones that never bear fruit? Why does the relentless spinning on the hamster wheel feel better than the being silent and the sitting still?

I don’t know the answer for you. But for me, it seems to be a mixture of stubbornness, guilt, fear, and habit. And probably the worst answer of all: I don’t want to have to depend on anyone else. Sadly, this includes God.

Faith Versus Flesh

My faith screams at me: He’s all powerful! He’s all loving! He sees it all! He knows it all!

My flesh screams back:

I don’t want to give up. I don’t want failure. I don’t want to entertain defeat.

I feel guilty if I stop trying.

I’m afraid that the situation (or the person) will fall apart.

I’m used to bird-dogging a problem. If I try hard enough, I’ll figure it out!

The past few weeks, Jesus has been quieting my screams. 

I learned a long time ago how to surrender Craig’s porn addiction, but somehow, even though God did a miraculous work of freedom in him, this didn’t translate over to my struggles with his health. He’s wrestled for much of his life with his weight. I’ve wrestled for much of our married life with fear that his lack of concern over his health will lead to big problems for him down the road. Thus, I’ve nagged. I’ve encouraged. I’ve meal-planned. I’ve been an accountability partner. The kids even gave up dessert for a month so we wouldn’t have anything in the house to tempt him.

I’ve come to realize the level of my angst and his frustration. Instead of using my voice to cajole, I used my voice to pray. I got out the “physical health” prayer card. I read the scripture. I started praying the prayer points. I told God all of my worst fears and told Him what I wanted Him to do. Then, I shrugged my shoulders and reminded myself that no matter what, God will be here with me.

Surrendering is far from easy.

It can be the hardest thing, this act of surrender, because it means trusting in someone other than ourselves. It’s waiting for God to move and for our spouse getting to that similar place where we also want to be—sold out to God’s power and goodness.

I’ve found that when I can get to a place of surrender, I can access God’s gifts to me—His peace, patience, and joy. These gifts are independent of my earthly circumstances. And I cannot have them without Him. When I choose Jesus, I also choose to change my relationship with my spouse. I become an encourager instead of a nagger. I look at him with love instead of scorn and shame. I am able to respond to situations instead of react negatively because my emotional tank is fuller.

Our marriages will never be perfect. We all will most likely struggle with some sort of vice at one time or another, from numbing with Netflix, to eating too much junk food, to pornography. Satan wants to distract us from the most important relationships of our lives. We live in a state of constant battle. We can either choose to get entangled with the problem or enraptured by the Savior who is far more competent in healing than we will ever be.

Lay down your weapons.

Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. Watch what He will do.

Quit the frantic searching. Answer the door. Be quiet.

God wants to fight for me. He wants to fight for you. But before He can, we have to surrender—not the battle, but to the One who can win the battle.

It will be hard, this laying down of our man-made weapons, but once we do, we will realize that it’s so much easier than wielding them day after day, night after night. He is strong. He is all powerful. He is all loving. He does see all.

May our faith scream louder than our flesh.

  • Comments on: Why Surrendering to God Doesn’t Mean You’re Giving Up the Battle
    1. Roelf van Wyk

      Jen Ferguson
      Thanks for people like yourself shearing your personal exsperiences and knowledge with people like me
      I can assure you it will help a lot
      I want to read a few times again and dont want to try bot to mis a thing

      Thank You

      I am a man that felt in this trap years ago of the world – and not yet 100% there but came a long way and with God’s grace and with article’s like you written i can with vonfidence see myself getting 100% healthy

      Thank you and may God bless you and Craig

    2. Cierra Shaney Smothers

      This helped me so much. I recently had to surrender a relationship and found myself trying to hold on tighter instead of releasing it. It just wasn’t the right fit and I knew that God had to do a work in my ex. I had to release my selfishness by not wanting God to change him for me but rather for himself and the purpose he has called him to do.

      I would nag, send long audio messages and voice messages to my ex hoping he would just get it, but he didn’t. It’s because I wasn’t called to be his savior, but rather a servant. This is by far the hardest surrender because although I wanted more from my ex, I saw the potential that he had to be an amazing man and he is a good person, just not for me. Not now. I hold on to hope that we’ll bump into eachother again when we’re both in a different space, but open to other possibilities as well. Learning to trust God and hold him at his word that he knows the plans he has for me and that he’s concerned.

      God can do exceedingly and abundantly above all we could ever ask, think, or imagine.

      Bottom line is, we just need to trust him.

    3. pradeep

      Jen you have touched a raw nerve by your such truthful admission in this article! I am passing through a medical situation and this faith vs flesh dilemma is haunting, may the Lord forgive me for any doubt on HIS ALMIGHTY POWER, NO! I am that type-A caregiver; husband of a brain cancer survivor wife who through the merciful miracle healing of the Lord has overcome a deathly dark valley and is active today though weak, we stand at a crossroad today and pray to the Lord to carry us on HIS mighty righteous arm into a happy healthy life.

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