Dear Father John, I have been grappling a lot lately with spiritual progress, and I think what it boils down to is trust. The whole idea of believing God is with me throughout my day, and even more so, the idea (or need) to turn everything over to Him… But what does that actually look like? How do you get there? I still have to go through the steps/tasks of life as a wife, mother, and other things… What exactly does the giving up of your troubles and the turning over your life to Him look like PRACTICALLY? I want more than anything for His will to be done in my life… this pure wanting is such an answered prayer, but my greatest prayer right now is to be able to hear His voice and know what His will is. So, my struggle is a bit two fold… On the one hand, I think it comes back to my weak faith (getting stronger all the time, but…) and also, the ability to discern and to hear Him. Do you have any advice for me?
Part I: The Role of Trust
Yes, absolutely – “what it boils down to is trust.” That’s the very core of the spiritual life, of redemption, of friendship with Christ and the ever-growing happiness brought by that friendship. First, I want to try and explain a little bit about why trust is so central. Then in a second post I will try to address some of your practical concerns.
The History of the Universe
We have to start with the history of the universe (sorry). The first period was right after Creation. The human family was living in harmony with God, and therefore with nature and each other. Then the second period began: original sin destroyed that harmony and threw the human family into a fallen world, with a fallen human nature. Suffering, evil, betrayal, frustration, angst… It all started to spread after original sin. The original harmony was shattered, barely a memory. In this midst of this second period of the history of the universe, God decided to save us, to redeem us, to lead us back into his friendship, give us hope for everlasting fulfillment, and forge a new path to Heaven. How did he do it? That’s the story of the Bible, culminating in Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, and establishment of the Church. When this second period is over, we will enter into the third period, the New Heavens and the New Earth, in which suffering and evil are banished forever.
So, if you reflect on this a bit, you will see that the key to the drama is original sin. It separated us from God, and that separation is what Jesus came to reverse. In what did original sin consist? If we can understand that, then we will understand ourselves and our fallen nature, and also the path that Jesus set for our spiritual rehabilitation.
The Black Box in Original Sin
Here is what original sin consisted in, as explained by the Catechism, #397:
Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness…
Did you get that? All sin, all rebellion against and alienation from God, originates in a lack of trust in God’s goodness. The meaning, interior peace, and fulfillment we long for can only come from living in friendship with God, which requires rehabilitating our trust in him. I could write an encyclopedia about this, but for now, let’s move on to Jesus and his role in our lives. God knew that he needed to regain our trust, and he chose to do so through the Incarnation. Jesus is the revelation, the definitive revelation, of God’s totally trustworthy goodness. Jesus is the manifestation of God’s limitless mercy, love, and passionate dedication to you.
Jesus Reveals God’s Trustworthiness
Did you ever wonder, for example, why Jesus had to suffer so much in order to save us? (Did you see The Passion of the Christ? His suffering was gargantuan!) It’s because he wanted to show us that there is absolutely no limit to his love for us, his mercy towards us. No matter what we do to him – scourge him, betray him, insult him, abandon him, crucify him, through our sins and selfishness – he still loves us; he will never give up on us. And no matter what other people may have done to us, Jesus understands, because he has been there, and so he can walk with us. That’s just one example of the revelation of God’s trustworthiness in Jesus.
And so, the Christian life consists in walking with Jesus through each day and each season, and letting him win over our hearts, letting him teach us about his wisdom, goodness, and power, so that we gradually exercise more and more trust in him, thus rebuilding our friendship with God and the deep meaning and fulfillment that that friendship brings.
Okay, so that’s why you are absolutely right when you say “what it boils down to is trust.” And I am so grateful to the Holy Spirit for having given you, through your prayer and reflection, that most important insight!!!
In our next post we will talk about growing in trust.
Yours in Christ, Father John Bartunek, LC, ThD