Do you ever feel like you are grappling with God? As if you have a clear idea of how you want things to go, and all you need to do is to get God on board with you and your ideas?
God, I want that job–help me get it! God, I want you to solve this problem for me–in the way I want! God, I don’t want that person to die from this disease–heal them!
It’s funny how we try ordering around the God of the universe to meet our personal demands.
The past few years have brought along many trials and tests in trust for me. I have watched as many aspects of my professional and personal life fell apart, piece by piece–in a most unusual and mysterious way. How was it possible that everything seemed to crumble at once, in big and desperate ways?
I decided that it must mean God was trying to get my attention. I turned to Him in desperate prayer, often. “Lord, why is this happening? What are you trying to show me? What do you want?”
A friend who I confided in amidst my trials urged me to, “Trust God.” I humbly and shamefully replied, “I can’t.”
But why, I asked myself. Why couldn’t I trust the God who created the universe out of nothing, who holds the world in the palm of His hands, who conquered death, who performs miracles?
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”Matthew 7:24-29
I’d built my life on sand. And when the floods came and the winds blew, the house started to collapse. God was showing me that it was time to rebuild the foundation of my house, on rock instead of sand. The sand had been the idols I’d adopted over the years of self-protection, control, achievement, vanity, materialism. The foundation of rock that I needed was simpler but infinitely sturdier: my identity as beloved daughter of God.
God wants us to let Him be the sturdy foundation we build our lives on. When we trust Him in doing this, we communicate that we believe in His goodness, that He is our good and loving Father who will always care for us.
And trusting God is not only of benefit to Him. Jesus shared powerful things about the importance of trust with St. Faustina. He said, “graces of my mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is – trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.” Jesus makes it clear: we are depriving ourselves of blessing when we don’t trust Him.
The beautiful thing about trusting God is that He makes the first move. I learned this in a most beautiful way last year during a silent retreat. A priest who I received spiritual direction from wanted to teach me a lesson about vulnerability in the spiritual life. My assignment was to reflect on the birth of Jesus in the infancy narrative in Luke’s Gospel.
The priest asked me to do something kind of weird. He told me during my reflection and prayer to take a pillow, and hold, embrace, and coddle it, pretending it was the baby Jesus in my arms. He told me to let myself imagine the child Jesus being born for me, and given to me in my arms, as a total and vulnerable gift, just for me.
I did this, and I bawled.
I was mystified. This experience was so profound, so deep, and so freeing. How did that priest know this trick!? And I realized that it made perfect sense.
Babies are completely helpless and vulnerable creatures that we are drawn to. When they are in our arms in a total state of vulnerability, we are disarmed. Totally loving, vulnerable, innocent, and free in our arms, they make it safe for us to be totally vulnerable, open, and free in theirs.
So, Jesus made the first move in trusting us! He came into our arms as a loving and helpless baby. In doing this, He whispers to us, “I love you, here I am, you are safe with Me in your arms. Now open yourself and your heart up to Me. Nothing bad will happen to you.”
Jesus does this again on the cross, completely beaten and emptied. He surrenders His life for us in a vulnerable act of trust and love.
While I understand it is very important to God that I work on trusting Him more, I also desire this myself. I want to grow in relationship with Jesus, to find deeper intimacy. Like any relationship, to grow in love and intimacy, I must offer deeper trust.
When I was on retreat, I heard something from another priest that I shall never forget: “Learning to trust God is the principal artwork of our lives.” Mouth drop. It was a powerful insight, and so true.
If learning to trust God is the most important thing we will do in our lives, why are we so preoccupied trying to do everything on our own? It might be because we don’t quite understand and live out the words St. Paul tells the Romans,
None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord’s.”Romans 14:7-8
Our struggles in trusting Jesus go back to the struggles of Adam and Eve in the garden. Tempted by the serpent, they found themselves unable to trust their master in obedience, to believe in His goodness and be subject and vulnerable to His authority.
We don’t belong to ourselves, and we just don’t get that. We didn’t create ourselves. We are the product of someone else’s creation. It wasn’t us who “called [ourselves] by name” or “knitted [ourselves] in [our] mother’s womb.” Only God can take credit for our life and being.
So, friends–if we are not our own maker, if we are a product of someone else’s handiwork and material, it might be time to loosen our grip a little. To give some slack in the reins of our life, which we cling to so fiercely.
God tells us over and over again, “I’ve got you. Don’t worry. Trust me.” But it’s not easy. Most of us grapple with what we don’t want or like. We complain, resist, reject. I’ve learned, and am still learning, that wrestling with life and with God is useless and wasted energy. If instead of grappling I learn to trust and surrender more, then Jesus will be faithful to the promise of offering more grace to my soul who trusts Him.
So, let’s throw in our white flags of surrender to Jesus, to the God of the universe.
The battle was always His, and He is the only one who will ever win it.