Thy Will Be Done

Every day, we face circumstances that may not seem ideal. For a day to be “a good day” generally means the events of a day go how we want, and “a bad day” means they do not go how we want. We often allow those days to determine our mood; it’s easy to be happy and kind when we have a good day, and sad or angry when we don’t. Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we allow more than our mood to be determined: Our very perception of reality—ourselves, other people, the world, and even God can be affected by a string of “good” or “bad” days.

Throughout the Old Testament, after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God worked with His people to bring them from this childish, unstable way of living to a more mature, consistent life of trust in Him: The lives of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, and the three holy youths (amongst many others) served as luminous examples of trusting that God still knows best on the “bad days,” of submitting to God’s will even while suffering greatly.

This week we are preparing for the great mystery of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so we may hear or read the divine words of the Lord found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. These serve as the perfect example for us of how to offer the most unjust and difficult circumstances to God: “…not my will but thine be done.”

While this is the perfect example, the saints of the Church never presumed to equate their circumstances with Christ in the garden before His crucifixion. Rather they considered the difficulties that came to them in life as “a just recompense” (Heb. 2:2), and accepted suffering with gratitude as a sign of the Lord’s chastening those whom he loves and scourging those whom He receives as a son (Heb. 12:6).

St. Paul himself—who is called “a spectacle to angels” in the hymns of the Orthodox Church because of all his incredible efforts to spread the Gospel (2 Cor. 11)—never despaired in suffering but rather continued to humble himself, submitting to God’s will as “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

Presented with these otherworldly examples, they may inspire some questions: Like, “What is God’s will for me?” Or, “How can I know that I’m submitting to God’s will rather than my own?” This takes quite a bit of discernment, and ultimately our actions are only proven to be of God after being tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13).

If we don’t know God’s will, or whether we’re submitting to it, maybe our own will is too prominent. Being open to allowing a will besides our own makes it possible for us to receive God’s will. We can practice this by deferring to others, by insisting less, and by not resisting events that might normally make a day “bad.”

Even though it’s very hard in the moment, when someone cuts us off in traffic, maybe we can simply say “thank you” because that person is really helping us cut off our own selfish will. Or when our food at a restaurant isn’t exactly what we ordered, maybe we just accept it and remember God’s mercy toward all of our own mistakes. These are just a couple of ways we might begin submitting our will to allow room for God’s.

A beautiful quote along these lines that has stuck with me for many years is one by C.S. Lewis, from his book, The Great Divorce:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

May God help us trust Him during “bad days”, and turn them into “good days” by offering Him whatever happens in our life, not resisting, but trusting that every circumstance can be an opportunity to recognize His love and desire for our eternal salvation.