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Cease Striving and Surrender

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Guilt. It was a constant companion, a joy-stealing robber of freedom and a misguided motivator. Are you familiar with this coy, esteem-ruining culprit? Guilt has followed me around for most of my life. I remember leaving for school in the morning and feeling sad on the bus because I thought my absence made my mother lonely. As I nursed my newborn baby at night, I envisioned the mother in Haiti unable to feed her crying infant or the lonely child across town longing for a loving parent. As I sat down to eat dinner with my new husband, my heart ached for my newly single friend or the elderly woman at church who just lost her husband of 60 years.

My “spiritual gift” of mercy became a tool of the enemy of my soul. I longed to exchange my gift for something less painful. An old hymn sings, “count your many blessings, name them one by one…” Listing my blessings only seemed to fuel the monster that stole my joy. My guilt grew fat during times of blessing. I am painfully aware of those who do not possess this “gift.” Guilt often attaches itself to those of us with a propensity toward self-abasement and/or accommodation. It feeds off our innate awareness of our sin nature and undermines our intentions.

Listing my blessings only seemed to fuel the monster that stole my joy.

I never felt that I could do enough, help enough, be enough, grow enough, or make enough of a difference. I was Oskar Schindler in the last scene of Schindler’s List, desperately aware that there is so much more I could have done.

This mutated version of eternal perspective that I thought so much about and wanted to be about became a noose around my neck. If I only have so many years on earth to make a difference, each and every moment must count. No wasting time on frivolous, non-eternal things. No reading fiction!

I have had a similar theme in my focus words for the past 10 years: freedom, peace, trust. Often I would see a new year coming and simply transfer the word from last year to my journal, as an act of surrender to my guilt. Another year, another futile attempt.

This mutated version of eternal perspective that I thought so much about and wanted to be about became a noose around my neck.

I once told a friend that my guilt was the thorn in my flesh, my life-long burden to bear. I truly believed that it would likely torment me until I finally got to slip out of this flesh and enter perfect Peace. She disagreed and said I was believing a lie, that the Gospel was about living in freedom and accepting the truth that Christ paid the penalty for my debt in full, not only for eternity but for my time on earth as well. It took my husband raising the white flag to fully wake me from my works addiction and begin my journey toward a healthy perspective, a journey I am still exploring.

Yes, I have been blessed beyond measure. Yes, I am ultimately here to serve, to make a difference, to be used. But not for my glory. Not to assuage my guilt. Not to do what everyone else is doing or to fulfill some altruistic image in my mind. I had allowed those deceitful chains to burden me long enough and it was going to take complete surrender in order to finally experience that peace I longed for.

Take a deep breath. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He alone can set the captives free. He alone can breathe life into your works and make them useful for His glory.

I am ultimately here to serve, to make a difference, to be used. But not for my glory.

We are here for the glory of Another. We have an audience of One. The One who set us free. The One who continues to write our

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stories and provides the discernment we need for each day. He fills our cups and they flow into others as He wills.

May He alone order our steps and direct our paths, and may we all find freedom in surrender.

Have your spiritual gifts ever mutated and become sin? When you are gut-level honest, who is your audience? When, where and how are you allowing stillness with God to fuel your passion to serve?

Pray for God’s will to be done in and through you. Refuse to compare your gifts and service to others and find freedom in the path He has planned for only you.


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Jen Bell


Jen Bell is a southern girl at heart, having spent her childhood in a quiet town in Oklahoma where all that matters is the Friday night lights. She is married to Brad Bell who pastors at the Well Community Church. They have two daughters who could be called “Night” and “Day” (in no particular order) and bring them great joy even though one is on the brink of the teenage years. She has a passion for discipleship and going back to the “ancient paths” and hopes to be a woman who speaks the truth in love for the glory of God. She and her husband converted their suburban backyard into a mini farm complete with grapevines and chickens, therefore much of their free time is spent tending and cultivating the growing things.

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