Shifting Our Understanding from Surrendering to Yielding to God’s Will (Part 2)

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In part one of this series, Mark L. writes about how the surrender he thought he needed to embrace to rejoin the Father might be more aptly described as yielding to the wooing of a lover who is always quietly beckoning him.

Yielding to God’s will to move from addiction to recovery requires persistence and prayer. The goal is to align our wills with God’s and give ourselves to Him with trust and love, rather than as a reluctant decision made because the alternative will result in physical or spiritual destruction. Yielding to God’s will happens with multiple “little” decisions throughout each day. It requires spiritual stamina that can only be gained through a sustained and consistent prayer life—we must “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is because the journey back to the Father is not a smooth one without obstacles.

I am also convinced that this gradual yielding to God’s will must include the intercessory prayers of fellow travelers, because Jesus elicited as much from His disciples. He did not go alone to Gethsemane to pray. As recovering addicts, we need other recovering addicts to pray for us and accompany us on the journey. Further, the type of prayer from us and our intercessors can take on multiple forms, but it is essential that an informal “dialogue” is part of it. Prayer should not be a one-sided conversation characterized by “foxhole” petitions for help with every minuscule need or issue. Rather, it should be a conversation with a loving parent who hears His children and offers them guidance, assistance, and love.

Yielding to the will of God requires an openness and honesty to discern what He is calling us to do. It also requires the faith to accept that often the thoughts and responses emerging in our minds and hearts during these times of prayer are from God. If we are sincere in seeking Him at the outset of our prayer, we must take the leap of faith and trust Him to guide us. And if we have mistakenly heard our own thoughts rather than His, we must trust He will lead us to the necessary correction. The consequences of misreading our thoughts for God’s are not negligible and can lead to serious mistakes (and even sin), so we should not take them lightly. But those transgressions represent stumbles on the journey and are not met with harshness or even disappointment by the Father if our intentions are to know His will. C.S. Lewis states it beautifully when he writes, “[God] wants [us] to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there, He is pleased even with [our] stumbles” (The Screwtape Letters).

Initially, we may be unsure, hesitant, and stalled in our effort to yield to God’s lead and take the necessary action to proceed decisively. We might struggle because we find it hard to move with purpose and confidence on this new path. Our former travels of addiction were on a path we could navigate with familiarity, even without thought or effort. That path, though often bumpy, uncomfortable, and painful, was at least known to us and relatively easy to stay on. Addiction is nothing if not repetitive and monotonous. The other difficulty we might face, in contrast to indecisiveness and hesitancy to yield to God, is an overly confident and hurried approach that seeks to “gun it” and catch up to God and make up for lost time. An unrealistic and overly enthusiastic approach that is not matched by experience and humility will also result in a faulty start on this new journey. A “lead-footed” start can lead to careening out of control and colliding with our ego and hubris.

Yielding to God’s will requires being gentle with ourselves and learning to trust in His mercy and goodness. It requires an integration of prayer with our daily recovery routines and faith activities so that we can seek His counsel in our interactions with Him, ourselves, and others. Once we have committed to yielding our will to God’s and made a sincere start, the journey will still require continual assessment and maintenance along the way. 

We must adjust our navigation, so to speak, checking in with Him to determine if we are maintaining a consistent and measured pace. We must also be on the lookout for new invitations from Him along our journey. Are there signs along the way that I must heed for the wellbeing of my soul and that of others? Do I need to “pull over” to rest, regroup, and renew my commitment to God on my journey? Do I accept that the road ahead may have obstacles and detours that frustrate my efforts—perhaps illness, broken relationships, or other challenging moments that test my will to continue with Him? Am I truthful and forthright about the occasions where I have knowingly veered off track, and am I willing to ask for forgiveness and continue onward despite the guilt, shame, and disappointment of having failed? It is a mistake to think that once we yield to God’s will it will be a smooth and predictable road ahead for us. It’s going to be hard, yet, by God’s grace, we can remain faithfully on such a road.

As we grow according to God’s timing and providence, moments with God in prayer will lead to the awareness that we have a desire to please Him in all we do. This emerging desire to please Him in all ways, big and small, begins to take on the real meaning of surrender that had seemed so elusive at the outset. Surrender once meant resignation in the face of defeat after reaching the bottom of a pit with no other choice or recourse left. It was a painful, coerced experience of humiliation and defeat. It was a surrender to the enemy of addiction and sin under threat of force and subjugation and made in a moment of hopelessness.

On the contrary, “surrendering” to God is a process of yielding through our daily decisions and choices to His grace out of love. It is fortified by God’s unconditional love that beckons us to respond in kind. It is the yielding to a lover who patiently awaits our response. The true meaning of surrender, in other words, is a continual and ongoing “fiat” of our minds and hearts. And in this way, our yielding to God the Father begins to mirror Jesus’ own utterance, “My Father…your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42)

Mark L. is a recovering alcoholic and sex and love addict. He lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and started a CIR General Recovery meeting at St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. He has a particular devotion to St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, martyr and opioid addict.