Finding Strength in Surrender

12/08/2017 .
Sandra Wright  .  Volunteer Storyteller

“This service is going on forever,” an eight-year-old Ken would think to himself on Sunday when his parents dragged him to church. He always believed in God, but standing, sitting, kneeling, reciting prayers, and being still for hours at a time just wasn’t working for him — he was bored out of his mind.

As a teenager, Ken was still curious about God but attended church less frequently. His friends from church were into partying and Ken began to feel like he didn’t need church anymore. He thought he should take his own path, relying only on himself. But his own path left him empty inside. “There was always this void that I felt needed filled,” Ken recalled. “I filled it with alcohol and women, trying to maintain my outward appearance of control.”

Ken’s life seemed to be going well. He eventually married a beautiful Christian woman, had two wonderful kids, and began a great career. Ken’s time in the military and training as a firefighter ingrained the discipline of maintaining self-control. He thought he was managing his life perfectly. But bit by bit, cracks started showing up. “As I struggled, I hurt a lot of wonderful people along the way,” Ken said, “including my wife.”

Eventually, the cracks in his life turned into craters too big to overcome. Ken tightened his grip, he tried to be a good person, he wanted to have all the correct answers. Ken read self-help and leadership books; nothing seemed to help. As if his personal struggles weren’t enough, a family member was diagnosed with cancer, and as Ken’s children entered their teenage years, he lost confidence in his parenting skills. Ken felt his life slipping out of his control.

Ken looked at his wife, Shelley, and saw that in spite of all the struggles they were going through, she seemed to have a peace that was out of his reach. His wife had never given up hope. Ken would occasionally agree to go to church with her, but he still felt disconnected from God. On the outside, Ken fought to make things look perfect, but on the inside he was silently suffering.

Ken wanted to trust God, but he didn’t want to give up control. He had all but given up on church as a solution, but Shelley persisted to invite him every weekend. Frustrated, Ken thought he could give it one more try. “I usually didn’t even want to go, but the sermons I heard began to speak to me personally,” Ken said. “It really helped me realize I was trapped in a big struggle with God. I wanted to do things my way rather than trust God to show me how to do things his way.” Ken decided he had to do something he’d never done before — he surrendered to God.

Driving home from San Diego a few days later, he turned to Shelley and said, “You know what? I’m in. I just want to let you know I have made a decision to trust God.” She saw that he had tears in his eyes. She realized he was completely serious and found herself in shock, speechless, with tears running down her cheeks. For more than 20 years, Shelley had been praying for him. They had heard many moving messages at church, and they had just made it through their worst-ever life crises. And now that everything was getting better, he had made this decision and let her know in such a matter-of-fact way.

“For me, it was a choice, not a feeling,” Ken recalled. “But the amazing thing is how much God has changed my willingness to surrender. I could now see things I just couldn’t see before. I had been concerned that I might be weak, but found I can now be stronger than ever because I know where my strength comes from. I can give my worries to God now instead of carrying them around inside of me. I am finally experiencing the peace I had quietly been observing in other Christians — and it feels amazing!”

Because of that peace, Ken said he is a stronger leader for his family now more than ever. Communication with his family has totally changed. “Shelley and I have always had a good marriage, but now we can share our lives in areas that were taboo before,” he said. “We can pray together, share dreams, visions, and thoughts on a level that simply wasn’t there before I made the decision to follow Christ.”

Now that the couple is united in their faith and purpose, they’ve gotten involved in serving together at church and are planning on going on their first PEACE trip together. “Nothing could ever replace the happiness we feel when we see lives transformed,” Ken said. “No vacation, no purchase, no partying — nothing in the world could ever give us the deep level of satisfaction and gratitude that having an impact in other people’s lives does.”

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