Mar 09, 2020 885 Carlos Briceno

Stop Worrying and Start Living

“I surrender …”

No military leader ever wants to say that phrase. It implies loss. Giving up. Bowing down to someone more powerful.

That phrase also frightens many Christians. It means they have to follow God’s will. It means God is in charge and we, as fallen creatures, do not like to hand over control to God. I wanted to surrender my life to God’s control but excessive fear and pride held me back.

In the summer of 2018, I finally discovered the key to yielding to God’s will. My surrender to God was kickstarted by my wife’s diagnosis with a terminal illness called Huntington’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative disease with no cure. If you are related to someone who has it—my wife’s father died from it, as did multiple relatives on his side of the family—you have a 50 percent chance of getting it. Here is a common description of the illness: imagine that you have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) rolled into one disease. A genetic test last summer revealed she had it. Our 22-year-old daughter also tested positive for the gene last spring.

This news was devastating. Falling onto my knees in fervent prayer, I cast my problems at the feet of Jesus. I realized I needed to turn to Him for the answer. His life and mindset modeled surrender. Only He could give me the love and peace I needed to accept God’s will, and only He could fill me with the kind of patience and love I would need as a caregiver.

Banishing the “If Only”

In the months since, I have learned that surrendering to God’s will requires living in and acknowledging the sacrament of the present moment, a phrase most famously used in the 17th century by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J., in his classic book, “Abandonment to Divine Providence.”

This phrase means we need to lovingly accept whatever God is allowing, in His divine will, at each moment of the day. My path to holiness depends on seeing God in each moment, being wholly indifferent to what I may perceive as “bad” things in life, such as something not going my way or a suffering I wish I did not have to endure.

In this spirituality, we live each moment confidently as a blessing from God, full of faith and gratitude for His love and mercy—not anxious about the future, or bogged down by the past, but surrendering each moment with love to the one who is love.

To show you the power of this surrender, here is a concrete example. This past November, my sister, Rose, died in a tragic accident. During a bad storm, a tree fell on her car in her driveway as she and her son waited for the tempest to pass. They had just returned, full of joy, from a faith-related event that evening. Her son lived, but her spinal cord was fatally severed.

A week later, on the night before her funeral, my nephew (her son), a friend of my late sister and I attended a talk on surrendering to God by Father Jeffrey Kirby. He had written a book, “Be Not Troubled,” based on Father de Caussade’s book.

Bouncing Off the Fear

That evening, I drove to the airport to pick up three of my sister’s friends who were arriving to attend the funeral. I was in an old Crown Victoria, a car much larger and older than my car back home. I was not used to the brakes. You had to really push down to get decent braking action.

The roads were slick, the night was cold and I was unfamiliar with the route. All these factors combined to make me anxious. I stayed anxious for about three minutes. Then I remembered Father Kirby’s talk and his book, which I had just read that week. I also thought about how, in recent months, I had been training myself to be in the present moment. To accept God’s will, I repeated “Jesus, I trust in You” over and over.

My anxiety disappeared. I was in the moment and God was with me, so all was good. As I was returning with Rose’s friends, a deer crossed two lanes of the highway, on a collision course with my car. I swerved slightly to the right as I braked, but the deer bounded into the side of the car, shearing off the left rearview mirror. It happened in an instant.

My reaction: I was as calm as I had been before the deer appeared. My sister’s friends were astounded. I was in the present moment. God was there. Thanks be to God.

In his book, Father Kirby wrote: “Holiness is found here and now. Holiness is looking for God’s presence where we are, and not where we would prefer to be. It is seeing God’s goodness in circumstances or people we would rather not. Holiness is leaving the world of fantasy and wishful thinking and being in the present moment. It is being attentive to where we are and what we are doing—not existing in the future, but accepting God’s providence that is at our fingertips.”

I am surrendering. Will you?


Carlos Briceno

©Carlos Briceno is a veteran Catholic journalist and joyful missionary disciple. To discover the divine in the sacrament of the present moment visit his website at sotpm.design.blog/.

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