Five Ways to Trust God – From People Who Did
The Second Greatest Story Ever Told (Week 2 of 8)
Truly, sin begins with a lack of trust: “Man let his trust in his creator die in his heart.” Sure, pride was there, too. But the starting point, the origin of sin, is lack of trust in God. And this applies not only to the first sin but to “all subsequent sin.” Indeed, every one of our sins involves “lack of trust” in God’s goodness. — The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, p. 18
Five Ways to Trust God – From People Who Did
Lent is upon us. And some of us view this heralded liturgical season with about as much anticipation as an appointment for a root canal. We treat it as a millstone of sacrifice and simplicity to be grumblingly endured for what feels like the longest six weeks of our year. In theory, we know sacrifice is a beautiful thing; but in practice we often fall short, much preferring the view from afar.
Take heart. While Lent is a time for us to emulate Jesus in the desert, it is not meant to be a restrictive and confining tunnel through which – if you squint really hard – you can see the light of Easter waiting at the very end.
The word Lent is actually the Old English word for Spring. It’s a time to clear the cobwebs from our hearts and yank the drop cloths from our minds. A season where we allow the rain to wash away the grime of sin as we pull up the shades and open wide the windows of our souls. This is a time for enlivening our faith. Relieving ourselves of desires and habits that muddy the soul; taming that natural concupiscence that drives us to disobey God. When Christ finds us on Easter morning, we want to offer Him an inviting place to rest – a respite in the recesses of a soul that is both fresh and peaceful, the beauty of which has not been neglected by a focus on passing fancies and short-lived pleasures.
Lent is a time for releasing the weight of the material world, not enduring the weight of the spiritual!
It’s that time in the desert where we gather our bearings and build our strength. And how did Christ spend His time in the desert? His trust in God was tested and found to be perfect. Trust is the necessary baseline for any solid relationship, and Christ offered us a beautiful example to emulate as we contemplate our own relationship with Him.
In The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, Father Gaitley reminds us that sin begins with a lack of trust. So how can we gain trust that we might say good riddance to sin? How do we imitate Him whose trust was perfect?
The saints had a lot to say about building trust. If we read them carefully, we can learn to open wide the doors to Christ. Here are just a few suggestions for building trust this Lent and always, from some of His closest friends:
1. Acknowledge that death will come as a “thief in the night” and your only recourse for salvation is God.
It is said that there are “no atheists in foxholes”, referring to a dependence on God that is acknowledged by all who face imminent death. By recognizing at this moment that we are beholden to God for our lives, we can much better prepare for death. Turning from that fact does us no good. Neither does leaving it for consideration in the distant future. By facing death now, we can realize that truly, Christ is The Way. In the end, we either trust Him, or face eternal death.
St. John Chrysostom frequently prodded believers with the following:
“If you would labor effectually,” he says,” “to make your soul the temple and the abode of the Divinity, never lose sight of the solemn and awful day when you are to appear before the tribunal of Christ to render an account of all your works. Represent to yourself the glory and majesty with which Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. Consider the irrevocable sentence which will then be pronounced upon mankind and the terrible separation which will follow it. The just will enter into the possession of ineffable joy and happiness; the wicked will be precipitated into exterior darkness, where there will be perpetual weeping and gnashing of teeth. They will be gathered like weeds, and cast into the fire, where they will remain for all eternity.” — The Sinner’s Guide
2. Spend time with God in prayerful spiritual reading.
You can’t trust someone you don’t know. And how will you know how to live without following the One who defines true living? Many say, yes, I will spend more time in prayer this lent. But pick up a book as well, for prayer and spiritual reading go hand in hand. If you haven’t yet begun to read along with us here, now is the perfect time! According to St. Jerome:
When we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us. – St. Jerome
And Saint Isaac the Syrian Says:
“From reading the soul is enlightened in prayer.”
3. Complete a general confession.
Trust begins with a blank slate, so to speak. Begin a new chapter in your life with a soul that has been thoroughly cleansed. Saint Francis de Sales offers advice on the subject:
Seek the best confessor that you can, take some one of the books prepared for the aid of conscience, read it carefully, and observe minutely wherein you have sinned from the earliest period up to the present time, and if you distrust your memory, write down what you discover. Having thus examined and collected the sinful wounds of your conscience, detest them, and with your whole heart reject and abhor them by contrition; remembering these four things, viz., that by sin you have lost God’s grace, forfeited heaven, merited hell, and renounced the eternal love of God. You see…that I a now speaking of a general confession of the whole past life, which although not always absolutely necessary, I still hold to be a post profitable beginning, and recommend it strongly. The ordinary confessions of those who live a commonplace material life are full of faults. Frequently, they make little or no preparation, and come without the requisite contrition; and therefore confess with a tacit intention of repeating their sins, since they will neither avoid the occasions of falling, nor take the needful steps for amending their lives; to all such a general confession is requisite to assure the soul. Furthermore, it increases our self-knowledge, incites a healthy sorrow for our past sins, fills us with admiration of the patience and mercy of God, calms our heart, relieves our mind, excites in us good resolutions, enables our spiritual Father to guide us with more certainty and opens our heart to speak fully and with confidence in our future confessions. – Introduction to the Devout Life
4. Sanctify the Moment.
Not only in the great things in life, but in the small, also, are we called to conform to God’s Holy Will. Begin to recognize small moments as opportunities to trust God. If you do, you’ll be so much more ready when great opportunities come. Archbishop Fulton Sheen explains it this way:
…many good souls are hungry to do great things for God. They complain that they have no opportunities for heroic virtue, no chance at the apostolate. They would be martyrs; but when a meal is late, or a bus is crowded, when the theater is filled, or the dance postponed, or the bacon overdone, they are upset for a whole day. They miss their opportunities for loving God in the little things He asks of them. Our Lord said: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). — From the Angel’s Blackboard
5. Accept suffering as a gift.
Suffering can be a tough one. We look at our crosses and ask “Why?” Why this cross? Why me?” In times of prosperity, we sometimes fool ourselves into believing that we are invincible. But suffering is the blessing that, if approached in humility, offers us an opportunity to turn back to God, acknowledging His divine providence, His personal interest in our lives. Like a doctor who gives shots to a wailing babe, our Loving Father sometimes provides us with medicine that tastes bitter, but which will serve only our good. According to St. Claude de la Columbière,
It is then a truth of our faith that God is responsible for all the happenings we complain of in the world and, furthermore, we cannot doubt that all the misfortunes God sends us have a very useful purpose…
Let us imagine our confusion when we appear before God and understand the reasons why He sent us the crosses we accept so unwillingly. The death of a child will then be seen as its rescue from some great evil had it lived, separation from the woman you love the means saving you from an unhappy marriage, a severe illness the reason for many years of life afterwards, loss of money the means of saving your soul from eternal loss. So what are we worried about? God is looking after us and ye we are full of anxiety! We trust ourselves to a doctor because we suppose he knows his business. He orders an operation which involves cutting away part of our body and we accept it. We are grateful to him and pay him a large fee because we judge he wouldn’t act as he does unless the remedy were necessary, and we must rely on his skill. Yet we are unwilling to treat God in the same way! – Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence
May this Lent help you to turn from sin and embrace your Loving Father in great humility with absolute trust.
1. Have you built barriers against trusting God? Are there some small, measurable steps you have taken or can take during Lent that will begin to tear down that wall?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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