Thy Will Be Done

Feb 21, 2024 by Colleen C Orchanian

St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Don’t think that through your own strength and effort you can arrive. It’s beyond our power. But with simplicity and humility say, ‘Thy will be done.’”

In some parts of my life I learned to say, “Thy will be done.” There are others where I still resist, trying to make things happen through my own strength. Let’s consider some opportunities we have to surrender to God’s will.

Understanding Scripture or theological concepts. I like to learn, and my favorite thing to learn about is God. But sometimes what I’m reading is difficult to understand, whether a passage in Scripture writing from the great saints like Augustine, Aquinas and Teresa of Avila. No matter how hard I try and how much I want to grasp what I’m reading, sometimes I just don’t get it. It used to frustrate me because I thought I would understand if I tried a little harder. That never worked. What I have learned over time is that God will reveal things to me in His timing, not mine. So when I’m reading something and don’t get it, I make an effort to understand, and if it’s not clear, then I surrender to God’s will. Thy will be done.

Unexpected Change in Plans. This happens all the time. We have a plan for our day and something throws it off. Your day is filled with meetings but the kids have a snow day. You get sick and can’t do anything on your to do list. The internet stops working and you can’t do your work. The traffic is horrible and you’re running late. You may have heard the saying, We make plans. God laughs. When things begin to go wrong, I can get very stressed. How will I get everything done? When I surrender - Thy will be done - I don’t stress about the change. There are times I have to make a decision about what to cancel, but I can do that more easily when I trust God. Thy will be done.

Planning a retreat or talk. I put a lot of thought and prayer into the talks and retreats I give. I often doubt myself in the writing process, wondering if it’s any good or if anyone will find value in it. At some point, I have to stop writing and begin speaking. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me say what He would have me say and for those listening to hear what they should hear. Then I leave it to God. I’ve done my part in preparing. When I finish the talk, there’s always a little voice telling me I should have said this or that, but I am quick to reject that voice because I know it isn’t from God. I know when my work is done and I leave the rest to God’s will. Thy will be done.

Our personal health challenges. Sometimes we have a serious health problem, one that totally changes our lives. Or someone we love has the diagnosis. It could be cancer, a stroke, heart attack, brain tumor, or even a mental health diagnosis. These moments can shock us. We thought we would be healthy forever. Life changes. We may not be able to work or volunteer. We may not be able to have the social life we like. We may even have to prepare for our own death. Surrendering to God’s will in these situations doesn’t mean we don’t get treatment. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He chose to get immunotherapy treatment, which had fewer side effects than radiation or chemo. That worked for a while, but at some point it was no longer effective and he stopped treatment. He surrendered to God’s will. With health challenges, we do what we can to manage them and to recover, but we seek God’s will to know when we’ve done enough. Dad got to that point and was at peace with it. Thy will be done.

Faith of those I love. This may be the hardest to surrender. I want all those I love to go to Heaven and to know, love and serve God in this life on earth. And I want it now. I think about all the things I can do to make it happen. The hard sell: Go to church or go to Hell. The guilt trip: If you loved me you would go to church. The soft sell: Whatever you want, God loves you, man. We do have a role in the salvation of those we love. The tough thing is to figure out what that role is and stay with that role. We have to trust in God’s timing and God’s love for them, which is always more than our love for them. So we pray for them and we surrender them to God. Thy will be done.

Sometimes people misunderstand what it means to surrender.  For example:

Doing nothing. If God wants it to happen, it will. I’ll just sit back and wait. St. Ignatius of Loyola said: “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” That speaks to the need for both our effort and our prayer. I prepare to lead a retreat, but the power comes from the Holy Spirit.  If I went into a retreat without a plan because I think God will do it all and I just have to show up, I’m not doing my part.

Giving up too soon. Often we hit obstacles in our journey. The obstacle can be something from God or from the enemy. If I assume an obstacle is God’s will and I give up, I may not be discerning well. Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4 that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance, character; and character, hope. God can use obstacles. Maybe I see an obstacle as a reason to give up because it’s the easy path. That may not be God’s will. Years ago my brother found out on a Friday that he would be deployed on Monday. That weekend my parents were both out of town. Mom was at a Teddy Bear Conference and Dad was climbing a mountain. This was before cell phones so we didn’t have a way to contact them and share the news so they could talk to him before he left. Nobody had a key to their house to find out where they were, so I broke in. I found a flyer from the Conference and called the first hotel on the list. My mother happened to be at that hotel, and happened to be in her room when I called. That was easy. She told me that Dad was climbing Mount Marcy but had no idea how to reach him, Maybe I could contact the hiking club he was in. I tried them. No luck. They suggested some other places to call. No luck. Finally someone said I should call the park rangers. So I did. They had rangers on the top of the mountain and would get the message to him as soon as he reached the top. And they did. There were many times that day when I thought of giving up. Maybe it was God’s will they didn’t get to talk to my brother. But I remember thinking I needed to do everything possible in case he didn’t make it home. And so I kept going. I tried everything. If we haven’t done our part, if we quit too soon, we aren’t surrendering to God’s will as much as we are surrendering to our own weakness.


Jesus said, Father, take this cup away from me, yet not my will but Thy will be done. Jesus teaches us to ask for the cross to be removed. It’s good to ask that we not suffer. Never hesitate to ask for relief! At the same time, we defer to God to know what is best for us and others. Thy will be done. The more we trust in God, the easier it will be to say those words with confidence and certainty: Thy will be done.

Questions for prayer:

  1. Where do you find it easiest to surrender to God’s will? Why?  
  2. Where do you struggle to surrender to God’s will? Why?