Striving to surrender to God’s will
by Jasper Keller
Reflecting on my first year of seminary, I am humbled by the gifts that God has given me. I have grown profoundly as a person of prayer, as a man of God, and as a son of the Father. Of course, I still have a long way to go. However, the gift I value most is the grace of surrender, of trust in God.
This surrender to God is absolutely everywhere in our faith. At the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites, in a panic because of the Egyptian onslaught, were told by Moses, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still” (Exod. 14:14). In the Psalms we read, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Ps. 125:1). Jesus says to us, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matt. 6:33). I’ve also powerfully encountered it in my Marian Consecration and the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux.
Early in the school year, I came across the Novena of Surrender to the Will of God, a daily series of short meditations on the nature of true reliance on divine providence. It radically changed my prayer life. I highly recommend it. I had often learned about the sanctity of relying on God and trusting in him, but never had I read such a powerful description of both what that is and is not. To illustrate, I’ll give an excerpt:
“Surrender to me does not mean to fret, to be upset, or to lose hope, nor does it mean offering to me a worried prayer asking me to follow you and change your worry into prayer. It is against this surrender, deeply against it, to worry, to be nervous and to desire to think about the consequences of anything. It is like the confusion that children feel when they ask their mother to see to their needs, and then try to take care of those needs for themselves so that their childlike efforts get in their mother’s way. Surrender means to placidly close the eyes of the soul, to turn away from thoughts of tribulation and to put yourself in my care.”
God worked through this novena to give me unbelievable peace and joy. Day by day, I realized just how much I relied on myself for most everything big and small, and how much anxiety and difficulty this caused me. Slowly and steadily I was given the grace in more of those moments to turn to God and “placidly close the eyes of the soul.” As a direct result, I was able to see the miracles God works for me everyday. I began to see his hand in all things, big and small: finances, my grades, overly-busy days, my relationships with friends and family, getting my daily holy hour in, my relationship with God, stubbing my toe, my spiritual and personal development, homework, getting to enjoy my hobbies, my summer assignment for the diocese, and so on. He truly does take care of everything. We just need to let him.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a child quieted at its mother’s breast;
like a child that is quieted is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and for evermore (Ps. 131).
Keller is a College II seminarian studying at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb.
Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. Please continue to pray for them.