One of the biggest battles I've been facing recently is this: When do I surrender and wait on the Lord...and when do I act in the authority Christ won for me on the cross? To me, these two things are opposites that will produce very different outcomes. This seemingly paradoxical situation has made me very confused on how to move forward with my ministry to help women break free from the bondage of diet culture and body shame.
This week, God began to reveal the answer. This morning, it became perfectly clear.
In order to understand the answer, you need to understand what the last year and a half has been like for me. A year and a half ago I handed my business over to God and made it faith based. I was expecting blessings from the Lord for being obedient (a lie from the devil that I had to EARN God's blessing). Needless to say, things got much harder.
Finding women who want to lose weight is extraordinarily easy. Finding Christian women who are ready to give up dieting in order to steward their body for God's glory...that's much harder. The more difficult things got for my business, the more I tried to control the outcome. I hit a breaking point. I was angry with God. I had such passion, why wasn't He bringing me more women to help? I knew I was being obedient to His call; yet, things in my life only seemed to get worse. How could this be?
Still convinced that I needed to earn God's blessings, I started doing everything "right." I started praying more. I began educating myself more. I started going to confession more, adoration more, reading the Bible more, reading Christian books more, listening to Christian speakers more. I was burning myself out by trying to figure it out; yet, my circumstances did not change. I broke. Where was God?
One day He spoke: "You have turned your business into a diet. You think the success of your business determines your worth. You try to be hypervigilant in order to control the outcome. You are only praying to change your outcome, rather than to grow in relationship with Me. You think you have to be a perfect child in order for Me to love you and bless you. You are trying to manipulate Me into giving you want you want. I do not desire this kind of a relationship with you. Seek Me first and surrender fully, then all these things shall be added to you."
So, I surrendered...or so I thought. I prayed a surrender prayer daily. I did a surrender novena. I checked off all the "surrender" boxes. Still, nothing changed.
One morning, I was lying on the couch, praying my surrender prayer. At this point, I was just saying words. I had no hope that this prayer would change anything. In my last desperate attempt, I begged God, "Why won't you let me surrender? I don't know how! I must be doing it wrong because nothing is changing! How do I surrender?"
As clear and loud as day, I heard a voice firmly say, "Just do it!"
Honestly, this made me more angry. "What do you mean 'Just do it?' That's what I'm trying to do! It's not working! I must be doing something wrong. Lord, show me!" I was met with silence.
Later that day, it hit me. I was not surrendering in the slightest. The only reason I said surrender prayers was to get the outcome I wanted. This isn't surrender at all.
Surrender is to hand EVERYTHING over to God, and trust HIM regardless of the outcome. It's to trade pride for humility, control for trust, performance for faith. Surrender is a choice, not an outcome. When I realized this, a huge burden suddenly lifted off my shoulders. I felt lighter and happier. My desires quickly changed from that of worldly success to simply wanting MORE of GOD.
I traded doing more for surrendering more. I found more of God in return. Still, my circumstance did not change. However, my heart certainly did, and the peace I felt was steady. I did not lose this peace when my circumstances changed for the worst. And, oh boy, did my circumstances only get worse.
I was warned when I entered this ministry of freeing women from the bondage of shame, body objectification, body idolatry, diet culture, and disordered eating, that the enemy would attack out of anger.
"The enemy absolutely has his hand in this deception," was the warning I received from a man I respect, a man who is on the front-lines of helping others fight all forms of spiritual warfare in their lives.
The spiritual warfare has seemed relentless for me and my husband, but through it all we see God's blessings..Not worldly blessing, but spiritual blessings. I see His plan unfolding. It doesn't mean life is easy. It's dang hard. But underneath it all, I feel that unshakable peace. God is teaching me that my peace lies in the permanent: The Great I Am. It does not lie in my ever-changing circumstances which are not mine to control. The more control I grasp for, the less control and peace I find. What a paradox. Thank God for the fruits of surrender.
However, I have to admit, I've been feeling lost yet again. Fear, doubt, and confusion have started to creep in as the spiritual warfare rages on. I feel an underlying peace, but at the same time I feel God pulling me somewhere new. God led me to a program called Encounter School of Ministry to help me deepen my identity in Christ, break through strongholds, and experience greater healing and truth in order to strengthen my ministry.
We've been covering identity and authority. Christ gave us all authority through his cross, death, and resurrection. With this authority, we are called to act boldly in faith to help others. We are not called to be passive, mediocre Christians. We are made for greatness. Not for our own glory, but for God's glory. I kept hearing the same message, "Use the authority Christ has given you and pray with faith and confidence." In studying this authority, I was reminded of Gideon.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” -Judges 6:12-16
Gideon was shocked to be called a mighty warrior. He certainly did not see himself as one. He was also doubting the Lord because of all that had happened - because of his circumstances.
But the Lord said, "Go in the strength you have."
What strength? Surely it's not Gideon's own strength. On the contrary, Gideon was a strong and mighty warrior because God's strength was with him. It was not Gideon's circumstances that made Gideon a mighty warrior, it was GOD.
We do not earn this strength. Thankfully, Christ won all we need. We are called to act boldly because of our faith in the Lord's strength and in Christ's victory. All we need is the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains.
Now for the hard part: I know all this. You likely do to. But head knowledge and heart knowledge are different. I still had questions: "We are called to act boldly because of faith in Christ. But how can I surrender AND act?" I was so confused. At one of our Encounter classes, I had someone pray over me. He prayed for strength, and that I accept the authority Christ has won for me.
On my drive home, I spoke openly with God. This is how the conversation went:
"Lord, I'm so confused. You have revealed to me time and time again that I must surrender. If I surrender, how can I act with authority? What if my desires don't align with yours? How can I act when I don't trust myself? Also, when I was weak, you showed me your strength. I don't feel strong. I feel weak. Is it not humility to admit our weaknesses? How can I be strong?"
He replied, "It is true you can do nothing without Me. You are weak without Me, but it does not end there. You ARE strong Kirsten. You ARE strong because My strength IS with you. You have been using weakness as an excuse to stay a victim. There was a time when your desires were far from Mine. "You are a slave to the one you obey." -Romans 6:16. You were not obeying Me, you were obeying the world. Your pride made you blind to My will. I have delivered your from this place, but you keep hanging on. You want to stay in this place of weakness. I am with you, mighty warrior! I am sending you! Go in faith and confidence! Leave this place of victimhood, and move boldly as I guide you! You are waiting in passivity, hoping everything just falls into place. You justify this by saying, "Your will be done." But my will is to work THROUGH you. I do not desire for you to be a passive player. I did not commission the apostles to stay passive. Christ said 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore GO.' Leave this mentality of victimhood, come as you are. You are not perfect, but I am greater than your imperfections. Let me show you My strength."
Okay, I was starting to understand. However, I admit, I still doubted. I wanted to be sure I was hearing God right. Was He really telling me to act after He just told me to surrender? The next day, I asked God one more question of clarity. "Do you want me to surrender or act? I'm afraid to go back to that place of control and burnout, where I refused to rest in You because I doubted You.
His response: "Act in faith so you learn My voice, and I will show you when to rest. If you walked boldly in the authority I gave you through my cross, death, and resurrection, you would act in obedience despite fear of failure, hardships, or judgment. You tell your clients that mistakes are necessary to understand how the body communicates. Yet, you are so afraid of mistakes that you do not act in obedience to Me. Trust that as you act in obedience, you will learn My voice. When you make a mistake, I will guide you back to Me and produce fruit despite your shortcomings. Fear is plaguing you. Am I not bigger than your mistakes? I have never expected perfection from you."
A day later, more was revealed. The daily reading at Mass was Luke 11:5-13. I was reminded, "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you." The passage also emphasizes the need for persistence. It became clear.
Gideon simply had to have faith that God's strength was sufficient, then act in obedience because of this faith. Gideon had to SURRENDER his doubts, SURRENDER the outcome, SURRENDER his circumstances, and simply act BOLDLY in obedience to God. It takes faith to surrender. It takes faith to act in obedience. This faith is where mountains are moved.
I surrender my will, so that I can hear Your voice and act in obedience, faith, and courage. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and. Surrender AND act. When I act in faith, I simultaneously surrender my expectations of the outcome. All the while, I pray. I pray for God's will to be done, and it will be done. I pray for guidance, and I will be guided. And when God puts a desire on my heart like He did a year and a half ago, I keep moving forward with persistence, faith, and obedience, regardless of circumstance. When prayers seemingly go unanswered, I do not give up. I do not surrender to victimhood or hopelessness, because I know God has already given me everything I need to accomplish His will. I act boldly from this place of abundance. At the same time, I surrender my expectations for how I think HIS will must play out. I surrender to the Holy of Holies, the Lord of Lords, the Kind of Kings, the Most Powerful, Most Merciful, Most Just God. I continue to BOLDLY come to the Father, because I trust that when my desires align with His, it WILL be done. I must simultaneously act from a place of surrender and authority. I will persist forward in faith and act boldly, even in the face of adversity.
I must surrender - for God is in complete control. He gives me all I need. I must act in obedience - for God is in complete control. He gives me all I need.