The Secret of Happiness is Surrender

“Oh, how great is the reward for one act of loving submission to the will of God!” —St. Faustina

Pieter de Grebber (c. 1600-1652/1653), “King David in Prayer”
Pieter de Grebber (c. 1600-1652/1653), “King David in Prayer” (photo: Public Domain)

Almost 10 years ago now I went on a missionary trip to Ecuador. While I was left with a number of images and impressions from that trip, one that has remained with me was an encounter with one of the full-time missionaries as the pickup truck we were using was pulling away from the site where she was assigned. She called out to our group as we were leaving: “The secret of happiness is surrender!”

This phrase struck me then as I thought of how those words came from someone living the authenticity of a sacrificial life at the service of others, being away from one’s family and own country, and experiencing the daily crosses, and joys, of living in a developing country. Because these wise words were shared just as we were leaving, there was no real opportunity to discuss or ask her what she meant, but perhaps in this way they were all the more impactful and for this reason have stayed with me through the years.

As I’ve reflected on this saying through the years, I’ve also thought of it in relation to the oft-quoted phrase from the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes: “[M]an… cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Happiness can be found in surrendering to the will of God and making a gift of oneself in the present moment that one finds oneself in.

During this time of coronavirus “stay at home” orders, I’ve been discussing with various friends things that they have found helpful to live this time. In the course of these conversations, one friend mentioned that she thinks everyone should have a “surrender prayer” to turn to and mentioned her own appreciation of Servant of God Father Walter Ciszek’s “Prayer of Surrender,” a prayer based on his teachings which begins with the words:

Lord Jesus Christ, I ask the grace to accept the sadness in my heart. … I offer it up, in union with your sufferings, for those who are in deepest need of your redeeming grace. I surrender myself to your Father's will and I ask you to help me to move on to the next task that you have set for me.

While I had never seen this prayer until my friend shared it, I can see how it could be a helpful one.

During this time, even before “stay at home” orders began, I also have found comfort in praying a prayer of surrender, from time to time kneeling before a Crucifix and praying the prayer of Servant of God Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.” This prayer can also be found in a longer novena of his, but one can also appreciate the simplicity of the shorter version.

The surrender prayers mentioned above are just examples of a genre of prayer. For instance, one can think of the biblical prayers given to us by the Lord. Among these is the phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will be done,” surrendering to the Lord’s loving and providential plan in each and every moment of our lives, and the prayer of Christ on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” These are short prayers that we can make our own, even silently in the midst of our day.

Another surrender prayer can be found in the Diary of Saint Faustina. She writes how one morning, after receiving communion, she returned to her cell and kneeling in prayer “renewed [her] act of submission in all things to the will of God.” Here is the prayer she offered at that time: “Jesus, I ask You, give me the strength for battle. Let it be done to me according to Your most holy will. My soul is enamored of Your most holy will.” (Diary, 1498) There are other such prayers in her Diary and this is just one example. St. Faustina also shares the great value of surrender to God’s will:

Faithful submission to the will of God, always and everywhere, in all events and circumstances of life, gives great glory to God. Such submission to the will of God carries more weight with him than long fasts, mortifications and the most severe penances. Oh, how great is the reward for one act of loving submission to the will of God! (Diary, 729)

St. Faustina reveals that surrender to God’s will is most pleasing to him and carries great value in the spiritual life! “Jesus, I trust in you!”

While the words may differ, the intention of surrender prayers is the same, to give oneself to God’s plan both in particular moments and throughout our lives. Through living lives of surrender, we can know the joy of making “a sincere gift of self” to the Lord and our neighbor, even in the midst of difficulties. May we each discover the truth of the missionary’s words: “The secret of happiness is surrender.”