It took a third cancer diagnosis to force me to let go of my life.
Not that I had much choice in the matter, but for the year before, I’d been tirelessly attempting to control my fate. I changed my diet, eating less sugar and more cruciferous vegetables. I ran daily, finally completing my second half-marathon. At the counsel of a medical doctor who also specialized in alternative medicine, I started a strict regimen of supplements, as well as yoga, breathing exercises, consistent rest, and stress mitigation. I did everything I could possibly do to be a strong, healthy forty-three-year-old woman who wanted to outsmart cancer.
In the middle of that herculean effort, I received my third cancer diagnosis. Nine months after the second.
Defeated doesn’t capture my grief. I’d wielded all the weapons within my reach. Nothing worked. No matter how hard I gripped the steering wheel of my life, cancer reminded me, with painful clarity, that I have far less control than I think I do.
The truth of this terrified me.
But it also set me free.
As terrifying as a cancer diagnosis can be (and it is), it is equally as terrifying if not more so to feel the full responsibility of all your life’s outcomes. If everything is within our control and we are the gods of our own lives, then who are we to blame when our children make choices we don’t want them to? Or when a marriage crumbles before it even gets a fair start? Or when a job ends, a church fails, a relationship disintegrates, or a diagnosis comes? We can either look inward and take all the blame on ourselves, or we can look around us and grow bitter at all the ways life and people have let us down. Either way, we will end up gripping our lives so tightly that we’ll squeeze the life right out of them.
On the night of Jesus’ arrest in the garden, Peter remained convinced he had enough courage to endure whatever was about to happen.
- “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
- “But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’” (Mark 14:31).
- Hours later, when soldiers came, Peter grabbed his sword, weapon ready to follow through on his promise. “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear” (John 18:10).
Peter’s passion and intention were noble, at least in part. At some level, he was indeed ready to defend Jesus. But he wasn’t yet ready to surrender to Him. And that is what Jesus wanted him to do, to allow God’s redemption plan to unfold: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulﬁlled that say it must happen in this way?’” (Matt. 26:52-54).
Don’t miss what Jesus is saying here, because it’s important.
Peter was willing to follow Jesus as long as following looked like what he wanted it to: a sword and a physical battle. But God’s plan was bigger than a midnight arrest in a garden. And when following Jesus meant surrendering, he found it easier to run than to relinquish (v. 56). To be clear, this is not a commentary on war versus passivism or even a commentary on traditional versus alternative medicine.
It’s about surrender.
Absolute surrender means following Jesus when He calls you to pick up your weapons or when He tells you to lay them down, to ﬁght the battle or withdraw from it, to go where He’s sending you or stay where He’s put you. It involves surrendering your need to understand along with your need to control, relinquishing both the outcomes and the means to the God who is writing a story bigger than the small one you’re living. And then trusting Him to bring new life even at the cost of death.
Not easy, I know. Good heavens, I know.
Ultimately, we will surrender to something. Whether we surrender to ourselves, our relationships, our work ethic, or our team of doctors, we will place our trust in whatever we believe has the power to steer our course the right direction. But surrender to the wrong source, and you’ll find your life even more out of control. Everything has an expiration date. Our bodies wear out, our relationships change, children grow up, and careers take a turn. Sooner or later, it all comes to an end.
Except for God Himself. Surrender to Him and you’ll always be in good hands.
Michele Cushatt appears on LIFE TODAY this Tuesday. Taken from A Faith That Will Not Fail by Michele Cushatt. Copyright ©2023 by Michele Cushatt. Used by permission of Zondervan. harpercollinschristian.com.