4 things that hold us back from total surrender to God’s will

“Have you ever heard of the Surrender Novena?”

I sighed and stopped mid-step. “Only because you’re the fourth person to mention it to me this week,” I muttered. I was sorting through a complicated family relationship, and I’d asked my friend to join me on a long walk to ask her for advice. I shared with her how I was struggling with anxiety, control and the fear that there would never be a resolution.

She told me how the prayer helped her surrender to God’s will and grow in trust of his providence. As soon as I got back to my car, I pulled up the novena on my phone and prayed the prayers for the first day.

The Surrender Novena is a prayer written by Servant of God Father Don Dolindo Ruotolo, an Italian priest who lived from 1882-1970. He referred to himself as “the Madonna’s little old man,” and for a while, Father Ruotolo was St. Padre Pio’s spiritual director.

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Each day of the Surrender Novena ends with praying the refrain (“O Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything”) 10 times. The first day I squirmed at that line, struggling to even say the words. But after a few days of repeating the prayer, the desire to trust that God would actually take care of things started to grow.

At the end of the nine days, there weren’t any big changes for the better in my family conflict. But the Surrender Novena had changed my perspective and heart. When I was in the middle of a hard conversation with a family member, I found myself repeating the refrain of the novena, asking Jesus to take care of it.

Whether you’re experiencing anxiety about something or struggling to give up control over a situation, the idea of surrendering absolutely everything to the Lord can be daunting. Here are four thingst Father Ruotolo mentions in the Surrender Novena that can hold us back from surrendering to the Lord and his will for our life.

1. Worry

“Why do you confuse yourselves by worrying?” That very first line of the Surrender Novena was a wakeup call for me the first time I prayed it. I began to see all of the times where I wasn’t living in the present moment because I was busy replaying things from the past and imagining worst-case scenarios in the future.

That summer, my prayer had become a place where I simply listed off all of my worries and demanded that God fix them. I spent little time listening for him in prayer, and an even smaller amount of time trusting that he had a plan.

“It is against this surrender, deeply against it, to worry, to be nervous and to desire to think about the consequences of anything,” reads the prayer from the second day of the Surrender Novena.

God knows about every single aspect of what’s troubling us. When we allow worry to consume our thoughts, it can keep us back from the intimacy of allowing God to provide for us.

2. Doubting that God is a good father

After the first few days of praying the Surrender Novena, I was tempted to stop. I wanted to snatch back all of my prayers of surrender. But at the heart of that temptation was a lie — the original lie, actually. It was the lie that God was keeping something from me, and that he wasn’t a good father.

“It is like the confusion that children feel when they ask their mother to see their needs, and then try to take care of those needs for themselves so that their childlike efforts get in their mother’s way,” one of the reflections from the Surrender Novena says. “Surrender means to placidly close the eyes of the soul, to turn away from thoughts of tribulation and to put yourself in my care, so that only I act, saying, ‘You take care of it.’”

In moments of spiritual desolation, it can feel as if God isn’t close to us. We can try to take care of everything ourselves. But we are never forsaken and forgotten by our heavenly Father and he desires to take care of everything that we need.

3. Discouragement when things don’t go the way we expect

When we have a specific prayer request, it can be incredibly discouraging to not see those desires come to fruition. I remember praying specifically for a piece of pro-life legislation to pass in my state last year, only to see the news of it not passing. My initial prayer was to yell at the Lord in prayer asking him where he was.

It’s not bad to wrestle with the Lord — in fact, it’s Biblical. In the Old Testament, God renames Jacob “Israel,” which means “to struggle with God” after he spends an entire night fighting with an angel. But the Surrender Novena encouraged me to take those discouragements and turn to the Lord with them, to recognize him as the God of all comfort.

“You see evil growing instead of weakening? Do not worry,” the Surrender Novena says. “Close your eyes and say to me with faith: ‘Thy will be done, you take care of it.’”

4. Trying to find the fix ourselves

How many of us have spent time in prayer trying to change God’s mind? We might think we have the perfect solution that would solve everything. But this isn’t surrender.

“You do not turn to me, instead, you want me to adapt your ideas,” the third reflection from the Surrender Novena reads. Father Ruotolo reminds us of the words of the Our Father prayer: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” These are words that we’ve probably said so many times that they can lose their meaning. But if we are truly asking for God’s will to be done, we’re praying that he takes care of it.

One line from the Surrender Novena strikes me every time I pray through it: “I perform miracles in proportion to your full surrender to me and to your not thinking of yourselves. I sow treasure troves of graces when you are in deepest poverty.”

You might feel completely drained from worry about a certain situation or relationship. It might seem insurmountable. But God can resolve even the most difficult situations.

We have to surrender our will and trust that he is with us, even when it feels as if he couldn’t be further away. He is a God who works wonders for us.

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