Death, Surrender and Emptiness


These words evoke strong emotions within each of us. The most common emotion often felt is one of grief and avoidance. “Who wants to die?” “Surrendering is for cowards!” “I hate the though of emptiness!”  Each of us avoids and runs from each of these circumstances. We work feverishly to avoid them. But what if we have viewed each of them in a wrong light? What if they are the keys to true fulfillment?

One of the key lessons in our Pure Heart conferences is the lesson “Poor in Spirit”. It has been a theme throughout my life. I have recognized that I don’t have the strength or ability to overcome anything! But it’s not a lesson easily learned, nor is it a lesson that we learn once and then never deal with again. I believe Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount instructs us to a life of continued poverty of spirit (Matthew 5:3). Circumstances of my life have shown me how in need I am of Him and His strength and grace in my life over and over again.

I have been working through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step states “”We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Replace alcohol with the weakness that plagues you. We are in a state of powerlessness. A place of complete and utter surrender. There is nothing in us that overcome this weakness. If it were possible, we’d have already overcome our weaknesses. This is the initial and most important step. It is breaking free from the denial of our weakness and character faults. It is facing the emptiness at the core of our being. Until we face our brokenness and emptiness we cannot find the peace, joy and love that is our inheritance.

The second step in AA tells us “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  We are not left in our weakness and emptiness. There is a Power that is greater. God did not leave us in our insanity. Someone once said that the definition of insanity is “doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” We can’t restore our hearts and minds. We need One who is outside of us; stronger than us. Jesus made a way for us. He overcame sin and death. His victory now becomes ours. But first we must surrender to Him.

Step Three of AA tells us that “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  This is a true surrender. It is a death to the “self” that looks after our most base and selfish nature. We were made in the image of God. We were intended to be like Him. Jesus is the exact image of God. He shows us what God is really like. God is not at a distance, demanding our servitude. God is Jesus, on His knees washing the feet of the disciples. He is the one who unselfishly empties Himself for our benefit. Philippians 2:5-7 tells us, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

He calls us to follow Him and to take up our cross daily. We do this through following Him in death and surrender and by facing the emptiness that is in each of us. Will you join me in this journey? It is not always pleasant. It doesn’t necessarily feel good. Even Christ, when faced with the pain of the cross, asked of the Father “if it be your will, let this cup pass me by”.  But we cannot experience life until there is a death. Resurrection follows death, just as it did for Jesus. Welcome the death so that you can welcome the life that follows!

About the author

Tom Cole

Tom Cole and his wife, Donna, currently live in Greenville, South Carolina and together direct Pure Heart Ministries International and Hope Grows Farm and Restoration Center. Tom is an avid foodie, a certified cheesemaker, an amateur cured meat maker, a lover of all things social and political, a voracious reader and a lover of growing and making food in a natural way!

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