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Cancer Survivor and Trauma Expert on 'Spiritual Surrender'

At the age of 35 Christian psychologist and researcher Dr. Jamie Aten was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his pelvis. Aten said:

For the first six months, whenever I asked for a prognosis, all my oncologist would say was: 'I can't tell you that it's going to be okay, Jamie. It's too early to tell. If there's anyone you want to see or anything you want to do, now is the time.'" Cancer wasn't the first disaster I faced. My family and I had moved to South Mississippi six days before Hurricane Katrina. But this disaster was different. There was no opportunity to evacuate as I did before Katrina made landfall. This time the disaster was striking within: I was a walking disaster.

Aten learned that the key to both traumatic situations involved what he calls "spiritual surrender." Aten writes:

Spiritual surrender helps us understand what we have control over and what we don't. In a research study I led after Katrina, we found that people who showed higher levels of spiritual surrender tended to do better. This finding didn't make sense to me at the time. It seemed like a passive faith response. Fast forward to my cancer disaster. I vividly remember taking the trash to the curb one winter morning while praying that God would heal me. The freezing air felt like tiny razor blades cutting across my hands and feet because of the nerve sensitivity caused by chemotherapy.
Wondering if God even heard my prayers for healing, I kept praying as I walked back inside my home. Then all of a sudden I dropped to my knees and prayed the most challenging prayer of my life. Instead of continuing to pray for God's healing, I asked that God would take care of my wife and children if I didn't make it.
This was the hardest prayer I had ever prayed. For the first time in my life, I truly experienced spiritual surrender. I finally understood. True spiritual surrender is far from passive—it is a willful act of obedience.

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