Sometimes I want to smile when people tell me certain situations are “the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” They might say teaching school is the hardest. Or marriage is the hardest. Or raising kids is the hardest. I am tempted to smile, not because I think those things are easy, but because I don’t think any of those things is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. There is actually a much harder decision to make, and once we make that one, everything else falls into line so well, that it almost does seem easy.

The hardest thing you will ever do is surrender to Christ.

When Jesus tells His listening audience in Luke 9:23-24 that “whoever who wants to be

[His] disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow [Him],” we almost skim over it. We have read and repeated it enough times to know it by heart. But maybe we just know it by our “heads” and not by our hearts. It certainly rings with a more solemn tone when we read that verse paraphrased in The Message:

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.”

How does that sound in your heart? If we say He is Lord, we have to let Him lead. Is there anything harder than that? Releasing our ideas of how our lives should look is terrifying, even though God promises that His ways are higher than our ways and that He works all things together for good. Though we know this, we have an easier time trusting the knowledge of certain people than we trust the One who made those people in the first place. For instance, we trust doctors’ expertise and follow their teaching for our bodies. We trust counselors’ experience and follow their teaching for our hearts. We trust professors’ explanations and follow their teaching for our minds. How much more should we trust our Creator and follow His teaching for our bodies, hearts, and minds? He designed all three!

Perhaps that paraphrase in The Message is hitting on a key point. Maybe we are “embarrassed with [Jesus] and the way [He] is leading [us].” We have expected that a believer’s life is supposed to look better than an unbeliever’s life. We worry that Christ’s reputation is tarnished when we pray for a miracle and don’t receive the one we were hoping for. We might think, “You are making it kind of difficult to defend You, Jesus. No one is going to want to follow Someone who leads them through something like this.”

The idea that we would need to defend Jesus to the world is where we go wrong, though. We are not His defender, He is ours. Besides, if you reread that passage in Luke, you’ll notice, Jesus never asked for a defender. He asked for surrender.

Surrender, as described in that passage, looks like getting in the backseat. That’s what John the Baptist meant in John 3:30, when he said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” He was willing to let Jesus drive. John got behind Christ. He didn’t try to ride shotgun.

But that is what most of us want to do. We are sincere about letting Jesus take the wheel, but instead of getting behind Him, we just scoot over a little. We prefer to stay in the passenger seat, where we can steer from the side or grab the emergency brake if He takes a sharp turn or accelerates a little too much. Many times, that is what my surrender has looked like. But surrender—real surrender—doesn’t try to navigate.

How do we do it?

We say, “Today is Yours. My body is Yours. My heart is Yours. My mind is Yours.” We should say it out loud until it is ingrained in our being. And even then, there may be days when we feel shaky and doubtful about whether we’re willing to stay buckled up in the back. On those days, we should say it out loud again.

Jesus has the credentials to take us where we need to go safely. He knows what He is doing.

So we get up every morning and do the hardest thing we will do all day … before we do anything else.


Keep up with Nika Maples and Hunting Hope by visiting or following her on Facebook (nikamaples) or Twitter (@nikamaples).