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“Surrender to love: Discovering the heart of Christian spiritualitysummary”


Primary goal

The primary goal of the book is to convince Christians to surrendertheir heart to God, mainly because he is the only source of true anddependable love. Just as the people surrender to authority and power,they should surrender to God. The author insists that people shouldnot surrender out of fear, but beyond just obedience. He also worksto convince the people that God means love, and that he intends foreveryone to live in his love. Therefore, by surrendering to love, thesouls will be led into an unexpected place, where God frees them fromall problems. He also urges the people to engage in an authenticrelationship filled with intimacy and devotion to God.

Developmentof problem and personal need

Benneridentifies the lack of love as the thing that disturbs people themost. He says that people know little or nothing about theunconditional love of God, which can be experienced daily. He notesthat of all God’s creatures, he is most emotionally involved withhuman beings. However, given the sinful nature of the human beings,this relationship is affected. This is the reason most people lacklove in their hearts. This is where the problem develops, and in thelong run, there is a personal need for love in every human being.Given this, the author notes that sin does not change everything, andthat God still has love for all the people, however, they mustsurrender their hearts to him to receive this love in full.


In his methodology, the author carefully examines the scripture andreflects on the Christian traditions to show the reader that Godoffers them his love. The Bible is extensively used in the context oforienting the reader to the nature of God’s love, mainly from theearly Christian lives. For instance, in explaining one of the majorthemes of the book, obedience, the author uses the scripture toexplain that the term surrender is not used in the Bible, apart fromthe military context. One of the greatest shows of unconditional lovefrom God is giving his son Jesus to deliver man. The authorextensively refers to Jesus and stories about him from the Bible toorient the reader about the major theme of love.

Formulafor change

Benner suggests three steps to affecting full change in his book. Thefirst step is surrendering. He does state that surrendering goesagainst the grain of autonomy and self-control, and reminds thereader that surrendering, under any circumstances other thantrustworthy love may be extremely wise. The second formula for changeis love. According to him, only love can free the human beings fromany tyrannizing effects of fear. Additionally, he asserts that thereis nothing more important in life than learning to love and to beloved. Finally, Benner says that spirituality is the third formulafor change. He says that love invites surrender, and that surrenderis at the core of spirituality. Love and spirituality share manythings in common, and surrender is the most vital of them all.

Balanceof theology and spirituality

Despite the fact that the author uses both theology and spiritualityin context, he leans more to spirituality. The book is a combinationof a number of inter-related spiritual principles which are thefoundations of the three themes discussed, love, surrender andspirituality itself. He intends to show to the reader that one canreceive the fruits of love by living a spiritual life, which issubmissive to God. The author also aims at influencing the reader tointensify spiritual relationship to Jesus.


Benner purports that every person has their own inner life, whichenables them to exhibit a true inner spiritual life. Throughout theirlives, men develop an instinct about what is best for them in life,the reason why with time they come to realize they need God’slove. Additionally, people have the power to reason, a power whichcannot be claimed by any other animal. God blessed humans with aunique gift of being able to conceptualize, which sets them above allother animals. Given the unique bodily structure, the humans canchoose what is right and what is wrong. Using these unique features,they can surrender to God’s love and be even more blessed.

Counselor’sfunction and role

In guiding the counselee to realize spiritual satisfaction, Bennerasserts that there has to be a positive attitude between the two.This is built mainly on positive perception of matters, such as therelationship between God and man, and the fruits that come withsurrendering to God. For instance, Benner speaks about a conversationhe had with the family of a fourteen year old boy, who had beenreferred to him by his mother after he caught him dressing in herclothes. The parents had condemned him from their family, and toldhim that God was equally disgruntled by his actions. Surprisingly,the boy believed that indeed God too had damned him to hell ineternity. However, with positive attitude, Benner was able to councilthe boy and the parents, by maintaining that God was forgiving andloving.

Majorcontribution to counseling

The biggest contribution to counseling by the book is that it equipsthe councilors with techniques and material to provide spiritualguidance to the counselees. The book demonstrates keen perception andsensitivity to certainty of spiritual formation, a crucial tool tohelp the councilors understand the spiritual weaknesses of thecounselees and to provide a way forward for them. Benner’srespective study of the human nature has immense implications forcounselors, as he extends the role of therapeutic counseling tospiritual guidance and human transformation. Additionally, it helpsthe counselors themselves to experience the fruits of surrendering tolove, as a pre-requisite to approaching people who need God’s loveand orienting them through the three processes of change that arehighlighted in the book.

Limitationsof the counseling theory

Given that Benner’s spiritual assessment is based onJudeo-Christian perspective of belief in God, the results may not berepresentative of the general population and may come short ofaddressing spiritual issues of some people. Additionally, Benner’sspiritual counseling theory does not provide for channels to followup on the spiritual progress of a person once they have beencounseled. It instead assumes that the person receives spiritualcleansing at the moment of counseling, and that they carry on withjust smoothly with the rest of journey of changing their lives andsubmitting to God. The instruments of counseling outlined in the booktake a measurement of spiritual constructs which are perceived toless more complicated than they actually are. This is because, theBible, the source of reference for supporting arguments in histheory, has been used by many other spiritual counselors, and yieldedunimpressive results.


This book is classified as Christian psychology. This is because allthe elements of approaching the themes are based on the Christianfaith and beliefs. The book also focuses on selected main principlesthat differ from the traditional counseling as it is known. Bennerfocuses the counseling of the reader on “soul-care” and upholdsall the Christian values as presented in the Bible. The aim of thetext is to help the readers to gain a sense of hope, manifested inlove, as provided for by God and Jesus Christ. Benner asserts thatthe core of his theory of counseling is to help the counselees toachieve higher understanding of their souls’ and bodies’ needsthat are rooted in the conviction of the Supreme God. The bookintends to let the reader to know that the source of their lack oflove is caused by not submitting to God. For this reasons, the bookcan be squarely classified as a Christian counseling material.


Practicalapplication and potential influence

This book is practically applied in spiritual counseling. Thematerial can be used by spiritual counselors to help clients byproviding them with support and guidance. With its content, theclients’ need for comfort, guidance and support can be met.Additionally, it has enough material to provide mental and emotionalcare to individuals who have undergone mentally hurting ordeals, suchas the boy who had been condemned by his parents in the book. In mylife and ministry, this book has influenced the manner I regardspiritual strengthening as a way of connecting to God, in order toreceive his blessing, and most importantly, love. I have gained aninsight into approaching human relationship with God, thanks to thesuccinct and elegant way Benner has gathered facts to support hisideas and thoughts. The book has also served me with the skills tospeak right into the heart of people and helping them understand howobedience and surrender relate.

Howit may impact a counseling moment

There are a number of counseling situations where the counselee isconfused by love and fear. In spiritual counseling, many people donot fully comprehend the implications of their actions and how Godmay react to them. They are aware that God has love for them, and atthe same time, there is a fear factor in the God-human relationship.This is the reason why Benner asserts that love and fear stand in acomplex relationship to each other. He gives an example of how sincethe times of Adam, man has struggled to escape from the grip of wrathand be able to love and be loved back. Similarly, John’s words thatperfect love outcasts fear pass the message that the soul is freefrom being bound by past sins. Given this explanation of love andfear from the book, a spiritual counseling session where thecounselee is confused by love and fear can be easily handled, so asto help them to overcome the fear of being rejected by God and seethe possibility of being loved, regardless of the perceived weight oftheir sins. This would make the biggest difference between asuccessful counseling session and one where the counselee justlistens without internal reflections.


Benner, D. G. (2003). Surrender to love: Discovering the heart ofChristian spirituality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.