I remember the day we came to this spot on the trail we had chosen. The first part of the trek had given us no clue this would be farther along on the trail after we were more weary and ready to return to our lodging. It was getting in the way of a leisurely hike and setting us up for using up our stamina and putting us at risk for the difficulty of the path ahead. We would have wished for the path to continue that we had experienced before, but that was not the path and there was no other way except to press on.
How like us that is! We move out in a direction that looks right or uncomplicated or less risky and more doable, and then we discover there were things ahead that challenged us and made us doubt and want to turn back.
It can be true in every area of our lives, and it can be true in our spiritual lives as well. Perhaps that is more a temptation now than in times past as our faith and courage to hold fast to our values and beliefs are tested on every level and arena we find ourselves. The path ahead is not as clearly marked and rockier than we think we have skill to manage and yet it is the path the Lord has charted out.
“One who has made up his mind to go to the uttermost with God will come to a place as unexpected and perhaps looking as impossible to travel as that riverbed looks. He may glance around for an alternative route, but if he wants what God promises His faithful ones, he must go straight into the danger. There is no other way.”Elisabeth Elliott
We hear that echoed in Christ’s words in the Garden of Gethsemane when He knew the path before Him and had chosen and yet asked his Father, God, if it would be possible to take that cup from Him. But there was no other way if Christ were to accomplish what He had been sent to earth to do that would open a door to eternity with Him to any who would believe. It was the choice before Christ that He knew God required Him to obey and surrender.
Surrender is not a word or a choice we want to make. It seems innate in us. We fight to be free. We fight to have our own way. We fight to gain something. We fight to live. To surrender seems unthinkable and a way of defeat that we cannot see as right. But it does not mean we are to give up, but rather to know when and what we are to surrender.
“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”1 Peter 4:12-13 (MSG)
God wants us to discern where we are in the story – his story and our story.
The truth is that we don’t always see that clearly or recognize that we don’t.
In J.R.R.Tolkien’s epic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, we first meet Frodo as a carefree hobbit living in the Shire anticipating the celebration of his uncle’s birthday. The Shire had been a peaceful place and it was to be a grand party, but that was only a small segment of the story Frodo was a part of. He didn’t know about the secret of the ring his uncle possessed or the powers it contained and represented. Even when Gandalf fills in some of the details, Frodo cannot fathom the evil connected to the power of the ring.
Men, elves, dwarves, wise sages, and even hobbits believed they could use the power of the ring for good despite its evil. They had been captivated by it and longed for it for ages past. Battles had been fought and lost in its quest. To think that it could only be managed by destroying it was hard to grasp, but when the ultimate decision was reached to take the ring to Mt. Doom to destroy it using a fellowship of those committed to it none realized the path ahead would destroy more than one of them. Even Frodo did not initially realize there was no other way.
The Lord of the Rings allows us to see stories within a story unfolding at the same time testing individuals, cultures, and nations. Frodo battles to overcome incredible odds on his trek to Mt. Doom with Sam while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli marshal forces of light to meet the enemy head on time and time again until the battle at the black gate where they must risk it all.
Tolkien’s metaphor shows us there are times to stand and times to surrender and how difficult surrender can be when we see Frodo stand at the edge on Mt. Doom and refuses to surrender the ring to the molten flames. He had taken a hard path and yet he could not see and was not shown that the celebration for his uncle was nothing compared to the celebration that would occur at the end of the story when the king returned.
In this hour when the economies of the world begin to crumble, threats of war and famine fill the headlines and all manner of opposition to life as we have revered it and known it are being threatened, we need to remember there is no other way. The story we read in the Bible has told us that before we would come to the grand celebration it would be this way. It is ours to remember what our part in the story is to be and that sometimes the most powerful thing we are called to do is to discern when we stand and when we surrender to the path God would have us take.
“Surrender…is the key that unlocks the vault of God’s best and deepest treasures.”Chuck Swindoll