Resignation or Relinquishment

Despite all you’ve tried, all the hours on your knees, circumstances haven’t changed. You’re discouraged. Anxious. Restless. Distrustful. And the question facing you, if you stand any chance of making it through fires of ongoing sorrow, is this: Will you live halfheartedly, resigned to “fate” — or will you relinquish your expectations to the living God whose ways and thoughts are higher than yours?

The difference between resignation and relinquishment

In 1931, missionary Amy Carmichael was injured so badly that she was bedridden much of the next 20 years until her death.

As I lay there, unable to move, … would I merely “endure it,” praying for the grace not to make too much over my poor circumstances? Or would my soul willingly enter into … this new and difficult experience?

There could only be one answer to that … nothing but peaceful acceptance. And when one accepts, the all that is included in the thing accepted is accepted too — in my case, the helplessness, the limitations, the disappointments of hope deferred, the suffering.

Your burdens raise the same question: Will you simply endure, or will you willingly enter into? Will you enter into honest lament and faith (no matter how fragile it feels) that God doesn’t overlook your bitter providences?

Resignation is living as if we have no choice in our reactions because we didn’t have a choice in what happened to us. It’s not that we avoid reality; we do admit hurt — that whatever good thing we dreamed died. But we don’t quite let that hurt go, either. Resignation is living with a wary eye toward the future.

Relinquishment is choosing, as Carmichael wrote, “contentment with the unexplained.” It’s not that we don’t grieve hardship — that we don’t ask Why. But we lay our disappointment at the feet of our suffering Savior. Relinquishment is living with confidence that God safely holds our story.

Move forward with open hands

Relinquishment is the healthier option, of course, but it’s not the easiest.

Most of us spend our days (sometimes minute by minute) praying for strength and courage to open our hands. To release what we thought was best, what we thought was ours — and to instead accept what God has chosen and allowed for us, what He may or may not explain this side of heaven.

Make that your prayer, whatever pain you face, for “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). We can trust in His faithful, sovereign love and care — for this, our today, and our tomorrows.

If you are up against the question of relinquishing, go through the crisis, relinquish all, and God will make you fit for all that He requires of you.

~ Oswald Chambers

For more on living a relinquished life, read Amy Carmichael’s I Come Quietly to Meet You and Carol Kent’s Between a Rock and a Grace Place, and listen to our broadcast “Trusting God When the Unthinkable Happens” (Part 1 and Part 2).