You have probably seen this word before, but have you noticed what word is tucked into the middle of surrender?
Sur – REND – er.
According to etymonline.com, the word rend comes from an old English, Germanic word rendan and the Frisian word renda. It has two forms, the verb and the noun. The verb means “to tear, to cut down, to break.” The noun means “a torn place, a split, an opening made by tearing.”
To tear. To cut down. To break. A torn place. A split. An opening made by tearing.
This doesn’t sound that appealing, does it? Yet, I love the accounts in the Bible in which I read of God rending or splitting that which could not be opened by human strength, ingenuity, or resources to make a way or an opening for his people. When the Israelites were utterly trapped and about to be overtaken by their enemies, God made a way of escape by splitting the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). When they were running out of water in the wilderness, God “split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas” (Psalm 78:15). When the Israelites marched around the fortress city of Jericho, God caused the impenetrable walls to split apart and collapse at the shout of his people (Joshua 6:20). Stories such as these are inspiring and can bring about the birth of hope in the knowledge that God is entirely able to split apart what needs to be opened to make a way.
But what about when the splitting, cutting, and breaking apart takes place on a much more personal level, within my very life, heart, and soul?
The process isn’t so inspiring. It can leave one feeling angry, frustrated, and trapped. Other times, it wrenches the heart, tortures the mind, and results in pain so deep that it cannot be expressed by words. The agony leaves one gasping for breath as tears, pain, anger, fear and a multitude of other emotions pour out of a fissure made by the split or loss of something integral of one’s life – the loss of a close relationship by distance or death, the tearing apart of a foundational aspect of daily life, or the cutting off of a dream as it withers and dies.
Ever been there?
I have. When we lost a child, the pain cut my soul deeply. When my trick horse died, the ripping was almost unbearable. When the bank came at us with ugly papers, I felt like the world split under my feet, and I fell into a bottomless, black abyss.
Jesus has been in this place too. On the night before his death on the cross, the agony within his soul was so great that he sweat tears of blood as he fervently prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.” Jesus was fully aware of what was about to take place and what this cup of suffering, of cutting, and of breaking would cost him. The disciples would run away. He would be falsely accused, tortured, and nailed on a cross to die. His own Father – with whom he was one – would turn his back on his only Son.
Yet, it was in pouring out his agony caused by the breaking he was about to endure that a space was made for surrender, and strength was gained to endure the path set before him. After he prayed with a broken spirit, “Not my will, but yours be done,” an angel appeared and strengthened him (Luke 22:39-44).
In the surrendering of his will to his Father’s will, in the cutting of his body so that his blood was shed, and in the giving of his life in my place, a way was made for you and for me to receive eternal life when we believe in Jesus (John 3:16).
Not only that, but also at the moment that Jesus released his spirit and died, the curtain in the sanctuary – the one that symbolized the separation between God and man – was torn in two, from top to bottom. A path was made for us to come boldly to God’s throne, where we can find the mercy, grace, and help that we need when our lives are being split apart (Matthew 27:50-52 and Hebrews 4:16).
When we walk through the opening created for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find a safe place where we can honestly pour out the pain in our hearts. While this doesn’t remove the circumstances we are experiencing, it releases the burden we are carrying and rolls it onto God’s shoulders. This then creates space for us to be strengthened by God’s Spirit, so that – like Jesus – we can endure the path of surrender on which we have been called journey.
When the breaking of our lives tears apart that which before seemed to be whole, an opening is made for us to come to the throne of grace and kneel before our Father to honestly pray, “If possible, take this cup of suffering, this cup of brokenness, this cup of tearing from me. Yet, not my will, but yours be done.”
We don’t walk the path of sur-REND-der alone. Jesus has gone before us. He understands, and he journeys with us to strengthen us and to help us in our time of need.
That day that the bank came at us with nasty papers, the world beneath me opened, and I freefell into a black abyss. In that moment, the shock, pain, and fear that I experienced was so great I could not recall any encouraging verses nor could I find the strength to cling to the truths of God’s promises. I was falling into a pit, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Then, quite suddenly, my phone rang. It was my sister, and I was compelled to answer. Almost immediately, she knew something was wrong for I couldn’t do anything but cry. She didn’t know the reason for my pain, but she prayed a simple prayer for me and then hung up. That day God’s provision came in a phone call through which he arrested my fall. He strengthened me with the knowledge that he held me in his all-powerful, sovereign hands. He protected us from the bank so that those threats were not carried out.
If you are in this place of brokenness and life as you know it being torn apart, take time to honestly pour out your heart to God. Somehow, in some way, you will be comforted and strengthened, for he is “our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in ALL our troubles.”