Let Allah Help You – How to overcome the 7 obstacles to whole-hearted surrender to Allah and open the door to greater growth and deeper healing.
Ibrahim’s Legacy of Surrender
AsSalamu Alaikum and a very warm welcome to episode number 7 of Kickstart Your Recovery! I’m really happy to be able to spend about 40 minutes with you today and to share with you our power tip for today, which is “Let Allah Help You”.
I’d like to start by sharing with you what Allah tells us about Ibrahim ‘alaihissalam in verse 130 and 131 of surat Al-Baqarah. He says:
وَمَن يَرْغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِلاَّ مَن سَفِهَ نَفْسَهُ وَلَقَدِ اصْطَفَيْنَاهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَإِنَّهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
And who would be averse to the religion of Ibrahim except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he will, in the Hereafter, be among the righteous.
Allah is letting us know here that the path and the way of life of Ibrahim ‘alaihissalam is so beautiful and noble and uplifting, that anyone who sincerely wants good for themselves will admire this way of life and will admire the legacy of Ibrahim ‘alaihissalam. So, what exactly is his way of life? We get it in a nutshell in the next verse.
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds.”
When I reflected on this verse, I found his response fascinating. You see, prior to this verse Allah described much of the work Ibrahim had been doing – from passing the tests Allah gave him, to purifying Allah’s house for the worshippers, to building the ka’bah with his son Isma’el.
I imagined if I were in his position, my gut reaction would probably be “What do you mean submit ya Allah? Haven’t I already done so? I mean look at all the things I’ve done!”
But he does not do so. Instead, he surrenders. It was not about “doing” at that point in time when Allah commanded him to submit. It was about submitting with his entirety, and particularly his heart.
This is his legacy of surrender which Allah calls us to – and this episode is an opportunity to pause and reflect. Given how Allah describes his legacy, the question of whether or not you and I have incorporated surrender in our lives deserves considerable attention, and that’s what we’re focusing on today insha Allah.
Now you may be wondering how surrender is related to recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors. So many people who are seeking to heal come from a place in their life where they’re so eager to simply eliminate the most obvious problem, which is the acting out, and so they just want to know how they can do that as quickly and easily as possible.
They want to get things under control in their lives. They want to take back control of the situation. So, what’s surrender got to do with all of that? I mean, if I get this problem under control and I stop acting out, doesn’t that mean that I’ve surrendered to Allah?
But what we’re talking about here is a surrender of the heart.
So why is surrender relevant to your recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors?
To answer that question, let’s take a look at the experience of one Purify Your Gaze member, named BrTwoThousand, who shared his experiences on our blog.
He had been working on his recovery for years, and while he was making progress in many areas, one thing stood out clearly: he still wasn’t able to break free from his behaviors even though he was trying as hard as trying gets.
Eventually, when one of his friends in recovery mentioned the idea of “unconditional surrender” he thought maybe he needs to give this idea another thought.
He didn’t really know what to make of it at first…
The call to “surrender” is very common in the recovery community. I had heard it many times. But I didn’t really understand what it meant practically, or why it was so important. The question often came up: OK, so what do I do differently?
I tried to reflect in very practical terms. Some things were clear: I was obsessed with controlling my reality. I was terribly afraid of making mistakes. I wasn’t so fond of the idea of “letting go”.
Does any of that sound familiar to you?
Surrender is your new lifestyle
BrTwoThousand is describing a lifestyle – one which is based on control. He’s describing the way he lived his life for his entire young adulthood.
In episode #4 I talked about how addiction is a lifestyle, and choosing a new lifestyle is not as simple as flipping a switch, it requires a conscious and consistent effort.
Addiction is actually born in a lifestyle which is focused on control. And that lifestyle is the soil which allowed the problem to take root in your life and it includes the way you think, the attitudes and beliefs you hold, your emotional patterns, the way you relate to yourself, and the way you relate to people around you.
You see, even after years of recovery work, BrTwoThousand couldn’t break free because he old lifestyle of control and self-reliance still permeated his life.
If you hoped to heal from your ailment, that soil had to be thrown out, and replaced with new soil for a new way of living.
Surrender is that new soil – surrender is at the core of your new lifestyle.
But, have I truly not surrendered?
BrTwoThousand shared that even as he reflected on this, he still didn’t realize what he was doing wrong when it comes to surrender. Afterall, he was very keen in his prayers and that included going to pray Fajr in the congregation, even when he had acted out sexually the night before.
So, what was I doing wrong exactly? It wasn’t entirely obvious, so I had to search deep within me, and I had to ask the difficult question: am I willing to surrender everything to Allah?
This lead to an internal search for BrTwoThousand that revealed something that caught him by complete surprise…
As I searched, I realized that a part of me absolutely refused the idea. “Not a chance. Are you going to let go of everything, and entrust your fate with someone else?” Whoah! The voice yelled out loudly, unexpectedly. Where did this come from?
With continued searching and reflection, it dawned on me: for years, I have utterly refused to accept Allah’s call to surrender. I refused to accept my powerlessness. I refused to entrust Him with all that is dear to me. Who would have guessed?
It turns out there were certain objections that BrTwoThousand held in his heart that prevented him from surrendering to Allah wholeheartedly, and he uncovered these obstacles only when he searched deep within himself. Later on, I’m actually going to share with you the 7 obstacles to surrender that he uncovered, so that you can examine your own state of surrender and you can be better equipped to choose a lifestyle of surrender which will set the stage for greater healing and growth for you, insha Allah.
Self-Reliance vs Surrender
So, once again, addiction is born in a lifestyle that is focused on control and self-reliance. This lifestyle creates a “fog” and with this fog you’ll often find your own self getting in the way of your own progress. This “fog” has the following characteristics:
- Perfectionism – you believe that making mistakes is unacceptable
- You set unrealistic expectations for yourself with little flexibility
- You judge yourself harshly when you do make a mistake, and you fail to consider the circumstances in your life that could have contributed to your slip
- A focus on external “performance” – on “doing”
- Being very impatient for results
- Often feeling very anxious and worried, and this leads to poor overall well-being
Can you see how operating from such a place of control and self-reliance will certainly produce very little progress if any at all?
Surrender, on the other hand, which is at the core of your new way of living, lifts the fog of self-reliance. By answering Allah’s call to surrender, you are actually getting out of your own way. When you do so, you open the door to the abundance that Allah has made available. The abundance of learning, wisdom, resources, supporters, inspiration. All of it is there for you to utilize, and surrender gives you access to it, and as a result you experience the paradox that when you let go of control, you actually experience much better results and progress in your recovery and in your life.
The 7 Obstacles to wholehearted surrender
Now, let me share with you 7 obstacles that get in the way of true, wholehearted surrender to Allah. I sincerely hope that with these insights you’ll be better equipped to make your own conscious decision to live a life of surrender.
Obstacle #1 is being afraid of incompetence. Do you often find yourself feeling like you’re “supposed” to know how to do something? For example – stopping your unwanted habits is supposed to be an easy task, right? Afterall, it seems like others are able to do it, so why not me?
You see, we sometimes fear that if I don’t know all the answers or if I can’t handle a particular task, then I’m less worthy as a human being. As a result of this belief, we try so hard to take control of the situation in order to prove to ourselves that we are worthy of love, and in the process we forget Allah’s role as the true caretaker of our affairs.
If this is an obstacle to surrender you find within yourself, how do you respond?
Well, what if you reflect on how Allah created you in the first place. When you were born, did you know anything? When you were born, were you able to do anything? Nothing at all, you couldn’t feed yourself, or change your own clothes. You didn’t know any of the answers.
So why should it come as a surprise that now as an adult there are still many things in which you are not competent, where you don’t know the answers, where you are not able to bring about the desired results?
The lack of knowledge and ability is our default state in which we were created, and it is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. Reflecting on this will make it easier for your heart to let go and surrender to Allah once again.
The second obstacle to whole-hearted surrender is taking things for granted.
Take, for example, your recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors. You want to get your life back in order, you want to stop wasting time on harmful stuff, you want to be able to have a healthy marriage.
Do you feel entitled at all, when it comes to these things? Do you feel like you’re simply supposed to be able to achieve the results you seek, otherwise you are being deprived of something you are entitled to in life?
This attitude prevents surrender, because when you assume that Allah’s blessings – such as recovery itself – are something you are entitled to, something to take for granted, then you fall into self-reliance because you do not see Allah’s Hand in all the little things in your life.
So what do you do about this? This obstacle requires that you practice presence. It requires that you slow down and start noticing the small things in life – that morning coffee, or that smile from your loved one, or the birds chirping outside – things that if you properly appreciate, you will come to realize they are truly gifts.
When you value Allah’s blessings as gifts rather than things to take for granted, you will be more willing to rely upon Him for all the beautiful gifts that you seek in life, such as the gift of recovery.
The third obstacle is not reflecting on your powerlessness.
When you believe you can handle something, why would you entrust it to Allah and let go to Him? If you know the results you want and you believe you can make them happen, why surrender?
Sometimes we spend so much of our lives trying with all our might to change our situation. But we forget along the way that “la hawla wa la quwwata illa b’Illah” there is no might nor power except with Allah.
If you forget your inherent weakness and powerlessness as a human being, then this will prevent you from surrendering to Allah.
Some people come face to face with their own powerlessness when something dramatic happens – such as a car accident or a disease. Or.. in the context of recovery.. Relapsing back to your unwanted habits when you thought everything was just fine.
But rather than wait until you are knocked to your knees to remember your weakness, you can actually remind yourself on a daily basis. Here is what BrTwoThousand shared about how he reflected on his own powerlessness.
The proof of my inherent weakness was plenty, all I had to do was notice it.
Now, a simple illness reminds me of my physical weakness. I face my intellectual weakness when I stumble upon a book revealing insight and wisdom I never before thought of. My emotional weakness is obvious when I am overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities.
Even when the results you want are extremely important, like your recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors, then it’s important to remind your heart that the progress you seek lies with Allah.
The fourth obstacle is an important one, and it is believing you don’t deserve Allah’s care.
Imagine a man who is in a gathering of pious people when some kind of exquisite dessert was presented. As the others started eating, he did not touch the dessert. When a wiser man asked him why, he said “this is such a great blessing, I don’t deserve to enjoy this dessert, you go on and enjoy it.”
The wiser man told him “do you mean to say that you deserved the rice and chicken we were eating a few minutes ago? Don’t be silly, and eat the dessert, and say alhamdulAllah.”
Many of us are like this. We may assume that Allah’s intimate, personal care is available only to those who are pious, that we do not deserve for Him to manage our lives and grant us success. That would be such a great blessing, would it not? For Allah Himself to be your personal caretaker in all the little and big things in life?
But we mistakenly assume we did not deserve such a blessing, so therefore we must manage our lives ourselves. Sure I’ll turn to Allah whenever something big and overwhelming comes up. But aside from that I don’t deserve more personal care.
The response to this one is simple… When did Allah, your Lord, Master, and Caretaker, ask you, His slave, to deserve His Care? Stop trying to do His work, and embrace His Mercy and His Care in your life.
The fifth obstacle to whole-hearted surrender is not trusting Allah.
What can we say here? If you’ve addressed all the obstacles we talked about so far, and you’re just about to let go and truly surrender to Allah, you might find a hesitation within you. Afterall, if all your life you’ve relied solely on yourself, how can you feel certain that Allah will take better care of you than your own self?
Will you really let go of something so dear to you as your recovery? What will Allah do with it, once it is out of your hands, and in His?
In order to answer this hesitation, reflect on your past experience in life. Think of a moment when Allah delivered His Mercy far beyond anything you would have expected. Think of a moment Allah took care of something for you that you didn’t think He would.
Also, reflect on what you know about Allah through the Quran. Don’t you think His attributes of Mercy, Kindness, and Generosity make Him the most deserving recipient of your trust?
Obstacle number six is believing that you need to fix what you’ve messed up.
So far, it might be tempting to think “sure, I should definitely trust Allah when I’m seeking to do bigger things in life… but right now I’m just trying to clean up the mess that I’ve made in my life. I mean am I not supposed to clean up my own mess?”
Especially when it comes to your struggle with unwanted sexual behaviors, can you relate to this experience? You may hold on so tightly to the mistakes you’ve committed believing that if you do so you might be able to reverse the damage you’ve done. As a result, however, you end up stuck in the past rather than moving forward.
The truth is that when you’ve caused damage in your own life, it is necessary to take responsibility for your mistakes, but it is no reason whatsoever to try to become obsessively controlling of the situation.
For when the prophet, salla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam, taught us how to ask Allah for forgiveness, he taught us to say “fa innahu la yaghfir al-dhunooba illa ant” – that no one forgives sins except for You.
Even in times where we’ve harmed our own selves and others, it’s essential to start with surrender to Allah in hope that He will bring about a positive, uplifting, healing outcome that only He in His Mercy can bring about.
Obstacle number seven to wholehearted surrender is holding a grudge against Allah.
You might be working hard to maintain a daily practice of surrender in your life. And you might be enjoying the fruits of this new lifestyle.
But what happens when despite your best efforts, you fall into a slump once again? Or you relapse back to your old habits? Or you fail in some way or another?
You might feel like “ya Allah I was doing everything right, so why did you let this happen?”
You might even feel hurt or betrayed and believe that Allah let you down or did not live up to the trust you invested in Him.
What do you do?
Well, if this is an obstacle you face, then there is one little assumption that deserves to be examined.
You see, the assumption is this: Allah let something bad happen to me when I was trusting Him to take care of me.
Now, you need to ask: Does that objectively describe what happened?
Or are you assuming that what happened was bad when perhaps there is meaning behind it which you haven’t understood yet?
I can’t answer these questions for you, all I can say is to be aware of the assumptions you are making, and I can remind you of what Allah tells us in verse 216 of Surat Al-Baqarah: that you may hate something when it is in fact good for you, and you may love something when it is in fact bad for you, and Allah knows whereas you do not know.
Whole-hearted surrender is step 0
Whole-hearted surrender is step 0 on this journey of recovery. It is the core lesson to be learnt, because it is the basis of your new lifestyle.
If you invest time to reflect on the obstacles that are standing in between you and true surrender to Allah, you’ll realize that you can actually choose how to respond to these obstacles. You can choose to focus your energy on the things that will guide your heart toward surrender, insha Allah.
What can happen if you do embark on this journey of introspection and you experience deeper surrender is that you can, insha Allah, establish surrender as a principle in your life. You see lots of people fall to their knees in surrender only when life knocks them to the ground. Recovery teaches us that it’s necessary to proactively choose to fall to our knees in surrender to Allah.
BrTwoThousand shares the following reflection on his search for wholehearted surrender.
I began my search for surrender based on a hunch that it was important. Through this seeking, I gained an understanding of letting go to Allah, surrendering to Him, entrusting Him with what I hold dear. Far more than a warm feeling I get on occasion, emotional surrender is now a principle, rooted in my heart and backed by experience and the Qur’anic message.
Barak Allah feekum for being with me for this episode of Kickstart Your Recovery. I hope you gained some new insights on how to establish surrender as a principle in your life to open the door to greater healing and growth.
If you did find this message useful, would you help me out and share it with one person who you think needs to hear this? And don’t forget to checkout www.purifyyourgaze.com/kickstart for all things related to this show.
And I look forward to seeing you for our next episode where our tip will be “Just Show Up”. You see a lot of time we know what we need to do to make progress, but we find ourselves facing a thousand internal obstacles like fear and doubt that stop us from taking steps in the right direction. We’ll talk next time about how you can develop better habits of action when you learn to “Just Show Up” in your recovery, and in your life, so I hope to see you there, insha Allah!