Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

How this decision is the only path to peace.

I have discovered that the most difficult battles in life simply mirror Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. His words to the Father remain the most challenging words we could utter:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. —Luke 22:42

Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

(Photo: Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus surrendered His will. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Surrendering your will to God in difficult times is often harder than the trial itself.

I have found that my greatest challenges come not from those circumstances that press in upon me, but from the internal struggle to surrender my will to God. I enter Gethsemane daily and have to drag my will to the Father in prayer.

So do you.

Why Surrendering Your Will to God is Tough

Surrendering your will to God is hardest in difficult times. I thought of a few examples:

  • When someone for whom we’ve prayed for years dies unrepentant“Not my will, but Yours be done.”
  • When living as a godly spouse, parent, or single proves enormously harder than we ever imagined“Not my will, but Yours be done.”
  • When we lose a job and suddenly face an uncertain future“Not my will, but Yours be done.”
  • When a child is born with a physical or mental defect—“Not my will, but Yours be done.” 

The list only ends when life does. That’s what makes it tough.

Garden of Gethsemane olive trees.

(Photo: Garden of Gethsemane olive trees. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Why Surrendering Your Will to God is Essential

Life will hand you what seems like a raw deal. Solutions seem as gnarled as the olive trunks in Gethsemane. And when God’s will for you seems cruel to you and anything but good, you will wage no greater battle than the surrender of your will.

At that moment, when God’s goodness seems like a hypocritical pile of hogwash, you stand only inches away from using anger to justify your sin. But don’t do it.

I promise you, surrendering your will to God lies at the very core of whatever grieves you. And surrendering in absolute trust to the Father—as Jesus did in Gethsemane—remains the only path to peace.

Especially when you can make no sense of it all.

Tell me what you think: How does surrendering your will to God help you when you’re struggling? To leave a comment, just click here.

Walking in the Footsteps of JesusLike This Post? Get the Whole Book!

This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ.

• Enjoy an engaging, inspiring, and humorous travelogue that mingles the life-changing truths of Jesus with a walking tour of the Holy Land.

Experience the Holy Land through the sights, sounds, and tastes of this personal travelogue, and discover how these sacred places influenced the lessons Jesus taught.

You will discover lessons Jesus has for your life.


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  • Walt

    When my wife’s cancer came back, we went through 31/2 years of tough times before she went home to be with our Lord. I realized that I couldn’t fix this, and began to pray that God’s will be done. Reluctantly at first. He knew what she needed, not me, and I learned to trust Him is ways I never knew were possible. At some point “not my will but Yours be done”, became the most comforting prayer we prayed.  He gave us His peace that passes all understanding during those very difficult times. 

    • It’s amazing how we never know how deeply God’s peace can comfort us until those hard, hard times when nothing else will help. Only God could make such tough seasons such rich ones in retrospect. Thanks, Walt, for sharing.

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  • Jane Franks

    When my husband was critically injured in an automobile accident — broken neck and spinal cord damage — I was so grateful he was not fully paralyzed. And yet as time passed I became impatient and was tempted with bitterness that he didn’t get “completely” well again; when I realized he was permanently deformed. He could no longer drive the car or walk long distances, and many other little things. As Walt, below, said, I couldn’t fix this. That was 7 years ago, and we are still in that altered state of our lives. I get tired, and sometimes I pace and pray — when it is cold or raining, in the garage! At those times the struggle to release my will — for our lives to be different — is almost suffocating, but as I pray anyway, and by an act of my will — not relying on my feelings — release my will into God’s will, tears flow, and peace comes. I wish it didn’t take so long to let go sometimes! But I wouldn’t trade those times of close fellowship I feel with God when the peace does flow in for anything. And it is then I realize that God was very close all the time, just waiting for me to release my will into His. This whole experience has made Him far more real and central in my life than anything else ever could have. And I have the peace and joy that one day we will be whole and free. And in the meantime, I’ve seen my husband be a blessing because of his incapacity in ways he might not have been otherwise.

    • As a daily caregiver, Jane, you’d likely find some encouragement in the Special Needs Blog of Insight for Living. Its whole goal is to encourage families like yours and folks like you. Thanks so much for sharing here . . . and for loving your husband according to your vows: “In sickness and in health.”

      • Jane Franks

        Thank you, Wayne, I’ll check that out. I am very impressed with the Special Needs ministry at Stonebriar. That’s amazing! So needed, and so tragically missing in many churches. Praise God for all you (collectively) are doing!

  • Laura Apligian

    He gives me peace and helps me to see at times his wisdom and will in my struggle.

    • Good to hear from you, Laura! Yes, it’s amazing how God grants peace amidst the most challenging times of life. Thanks so much for your comments.

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  • LKO

    As hard as it is, surrender to God’s will is the only real option if you want peace. The alternative is bitterness and anger, and those emotions – however justified they may be or feel – are self-destructive.

    What brings me comfort is focusing on the sovereignty of God, that He will take the sinful actions of others and the pain and suffering of living in a fallen world and somehow use them for our good and His glory – beauty for ashes – in ways that I still can’t see or imagine.

    For those going through difficult seasons, give yourselves grace if you struggle – struggle is almost inevitable. Knowing that God is sovereign is one thing – fully resting in that sovereignty requires a daily – and at times an even more frequent – act of surrender.

    • Your words are wise. Thank you for sharing the insights that can only have come from experiencing God’s grace in the midst of struggle. Thank you.

  • Kim

    One of the hardest things im experiencing is dealing with the expectations of others. They look at you like why aren’t you better yet, something must be wrong with you’re faith, etc. I find that most often God is the only one who can authentically deal with my struggles. That’s hard;

    • I know what you mean, Kim. I have found that when others’ expectations hurt me, I have to unhook my value from them and place it back on God. Tough assignment, but absolutely essential. A book that really helped me is When People are Big and God is Small. I think it would encourage you too. Thanks.

  • Eliajh

    Especially when you can make no sense of it all.
    The Line of the year, there is the best explanation of the new creation. Following the pull is the only real influence at times. So glad to see this as a topic. Joy Joy to not be alone, so cool. Yeah man i experience great joys and express myself through wonder Praise in church and at Home alone as well. Yet when trials come and the devil comes for the Word that was heard, I want to learn to fight and stand up against the enemy. yet my spirit hears, Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Most of my time now is spent, learning and seeing the Word opening up into new revelation. My life is changing through faith. Peter is such a great example, Christ told him yeah you are gonna fall, but when you get up again go and restore the others. So through faith this displacement will be an effective tool for the kingdom. But for right now, Wow

    • I am thrilled to hear of your commitment to the word of God. Stand strong, my friend, and continue to pursue your walk with Jesus Christ. Thanks.

  • Prescious One

    I understand that I have to surrender my will to God’s will but my question is shouldn’t his will line up with the word of God? In other words would it be God’s will for me to be with a man who believes something different than what God’s word says in other words this man I’m talking about I’ve known him for 20 years and he believes that God has a wife and we are to worship her as well that’s not scriptural. He also believes that just like Solomon and Abraham and David had so many wives that God will allow more than one wife that’s also not scriptural because God said to follow the laws of the land that may have been allowed back then but it’s certainly not allowed right now then he says not everything in the scripture is Right some things were taken out and some things were added and you need the spirit to lead you and guide you into the right path.

    AND I mean don’t get me wrong he has helped me out tremendously in so many areas of my life. When I’m sad he automatically knows the spirit will guide him to call me to encourage me with a word from the Bible and tell me how to overcome and I need to stand against the devil and tell the devil where to go and when I’m around him I’m not fearful at all and he has the gift of healing as well as prophecy so he’s helped me out a lot BUT this is completely and totally different from what God’s word says so he keeps telling me I need to surrender my will to God’s will as if he’s trying to hint that I have to go along with this polygamy crap and if I don’t I’m disobeying God and not surrendering my will to his will. Can someone please help me please explain shouldn’t surrendering my will to God’s will line up with God’s word in the Bible?

    • Of course, you should follow God’s will as outlined in the Bible. If a person is urging you to do differently, you should ignore that poor counsel and stick with God’s Word. Unless you are married to this man, it may be time to move on and trust God with your future.

      • Prescious One

        NO we are not married, we are JUST FRIENDS as stated above but I believe deep down he wants me but won’t admit that but I”ve made it clear 20 years ago until now that I look at him ONLY as a brother nothing more, ALSO furthermore, I am already a married woman. Although the guy I am married to is no good and not saved, and we are currently separated, STILL in Gods eyes, I’m still married to the man. Bottom line is not whether I’m married to this guy or not, the question is his doctrine he is trying to get me to believe. He also doesn’t believe in marriage and says marriage is corrupt because of so many Homosexuals. This is not scriptural.

        He has helped me so much in spiritual battles so that’s why I’m so torn. What do you have to say about this? He’s always telling me things that turn out to be true. And says your being attacked by demons because your not studying Gods word. He prophesied that women in their 70’s and 80’s will conceive. He prophesied that shootings will happen in the church. Some of these things came true. Anyway I appreciate your reply again. Trust me I’m sticking with Gods word just want some encouragement and answers thanks

  • Nancy Freund

    When I got sick and missed two days of touring in Jerusalem on my trip to Israel this spring, I spent most of the first morning sobbing in the hotel room! Then God gently whispered to me, “Pray, ‘Not my will but yours be done.'” I did, and felt a sense of peace. It still really stunk to go through that, but I felt like I was in a cocoon of safety because I was letting God (who is quite capable of running the universe) determine my fate in his wisdom and love, rather than me. Fighting against his will only gave me a stressed-out mind and puffy eyes. Surrender fed humility and vice versa, because who was I to think I know best. It also led to greater love for God because I had to really chew on all God’s promises that He was still good in that painful detour. [Incidentally, I later discovered that when I prayed in my hotel was when my group was in the Garden of Gethsemane!]

    • I love that story, Nancy. On our last tour in November, we had a gentleman fall on the Mount of Olives and break his hip. He then had his hip replaced in Tiberias and missed the rest of the tour! But, like you, his attitude was stellar and he trusted God. Now, he plans to re-take the tour with us this fall! Maybe you can try to go again as well? 🙂 God bless you for your tremendous response.

  • bigyakky

    God is so great he allows us to lean our (at times insignificant) human struggles on to Him. I am not worthy. Thank you for writing this, something we all need to hear!

    • You are very welcome. Of course what seems insignificant to us, is very significant to God regarding us. He knows the number of hairs on our head’s. We are more precious to him than anything else.

  • Amy Hauser

    Surrendering my will to His reminds me that I am not alone. I am not responsible for every little outcome and He walks with me through all things. His ways are not mine and His thoughts and plans are much higher and life-giving than my own. The more I walk with Him throughout all my days, the more I am able to surrender to the path His will encamps. When I trust my true Father and His goodness, the more I can surrender to His will in my life. I know when I can do this, I feel the anxiety leave my body. Anxiety is often my bodily alarm to drawn near and release what is not mine to carry.

    • What a great phrase, Amy: “Anxiety is often my bodily alarm to drawn near and release what is not mine to carry.” Thanks for sharing and for modeling your faith. God bless.

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  • Jonathan

    You know, I’ve prayed this before but nothing changes. A few times I’ve meant it and haven’t had a response or noticeable change. God uses to speak to me but it’s been silence for 3 years. I know I need to surrender and need to do better, but I need his help. I cannot do this on my own but God doesn’t help me. Horrible silence. Idk what to do except do the best I can.

    • I know what you mean, Jonathan. The prayer of surrender is essential, but the basis of the prayer is trust that God will lead in what is best. Part of trusting is waiting on His timing. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. You may find some encouragement in my recent book, Waiting on God, where I go much deeper into the struggle and its solutions.