Friday, July 7, 2017

Trusting God

We speak very often of trusting God, but all too often, as I know from bitter experience, this is nothing more than a facile collection of words. We "trust God" to give us what we desire; and when he does not, we feel our trust has been betrayed, or misplaced. This is the trust of the consumer, or, at best, the trust of the distant, distrustful child.
This is not the sort of trust God desires of us. Here, it is helpful to consider the root meaning of the word "trust," in all the languages I know (Greek, Latin, English): to entrust something to someone. In this sense, trust is not vague and sentimental; it is quite practical and concrete: I have entrusted this valuable thing to you, and in doing so, I have given up whatever power I might have over it. It is now in your control, rather than mine, and you have the power to do with it whatever you wish. Yet in giving it, I *trust* that you will preserve it, that you will do well by it and me; and most of all, I trust in the pledges you have offered me, that you will keep the promises you have made. I trust you to love me.
This is what God desires of us: that we should entrust every thing we possess, every thing we are, from the lowest to the highest, to him. In this, it is far from sufficient merely to entrust to God our highest and best thoughts and desires and ideas, the "religious" or "moral" or "successful" side of ourselves. Inn fact, as Christ on the Cross, God desires far more to receive our sins, our wounds, our sufferings, and our terrible humiliations, all our lack of control and understanding and dignity. Not only this, though--for do our lives in this world not consist just as much of innumerable tiny things--indifferent, trivial things--things hardly worthy of our own or other's considerations? Christ desires these as well.
In this life, we will have, necessarily, many desires. Most of them will be for good things; some of them, inevitably, will be disordered in some way. Much prayer, though by no means all, consists in the expression of our desires to God--and this is right and proper. Still, all too often, we pray, and ask, in way that is fundamentally without faith. We ask God to grant our desires, yet at the same time we keep our desires, our fears, our hopes, entirely under our own control and power--and in doing so, we center our prayer in ourselves. We do not truly entrust our desires to God: that is, put them under his power, give them to him in such a way that they become his rather than ours. And for good reason--for the alienation of the self from its own desires is a terrifying and painful thing. Yet if we do this, we will find, in all things, a peace that is denied those who trust in themselves.
Then, too, we will have sufferings, torments, pains, things that overwhelm and humiliate us. Often, we pray to ask God to take them away--and this, in itself, is right and good, as Christ prayed in the garden. Still, here, too, we pray very often without trust. We do not entrust our sufferings and pains to God, in such a way that they become his; that is, in such a way that he may choose not to take them away at once, that they might become in fact, a participation in the Cross of Christ, of infinite love for human beings and for God. Often, too, we are ashamed to entrust to God our own human weaknessess, our natural desires for health and happiness and peace. We feel they are a discredit to us; that we should be stronger, better, able to bear sufferings and humiliations with perfect composure and resignation; this is madness, since even Christ cried out on the Cross. All our human and natural weakness, all our desire for release and relief and escape from suffering, is Christ's as well--and we must give him what is his. Even what is most imperfect in us must become his, to do with as he pleases.
All of this is, and should be, absolutely terrifying--for it is the real and tangible giving of our deepest selves, of all in which we repose our confidence and from which we draw our sense of control and assurance, into the total power of another.
In this giving, though, we trust, quite rightly, in the love of God for each one of us. For we have two real and tangible pledges of this love from God, to which we can always turn. In the first place, there is the love of God present and manifest in our creation and preservation at each moment, in love; the love by which he entrusted to us, and continues to entrust to us, the great and terrible gift of existence, to do with as we please. In the second place, though, and far greater, is the eternal pledge of God's love made manifest in the Incarnation and Cross of Christ. If God loves us so much as to seek to give to us his very self, to entrust himself and his divinity to a weak human body and soul, and then to entrust that body and soul to Mary and Joseph and the sinful Apostles, and finally to Pilate and the priests and the soldiers and each and every one of us to torture and crucify and crown with thorns: then how can any of us fear to entrust ourselves to him? If this is not a love worthy of trust, there can be no such thing.
This is the challenge of the Christian life; to trust God, and in doing so, to entrust everything to him. It is not easy, by any means--but I speak from experience in saying it is far easier, and far more blessed, than any other path we can follow. For in this path, we will be led and guided by God himself--and in all others, we will be led and guided only, in the end, by ourselves: and God is far greater, and far kinder, than ourselves.
God be with you all.

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