Do not be afraid: learning to trust in God

Trust in God

“…Fear no one…do not be afraid…so do not be afraid…”

We get it Jesus! He tells us not to fear 3 times in 7 verses and this is just a small taste of how many times some version of “do not by afraid” appears in scripture.

Why? What are we so afraid of?

The same thing Adam and Eve were afraid of when they ate the apple: that God wouldn’t provide for them and that he was holding out on them.

Adam blaming Eve
Classic…

“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.” CCC  397 

Resurrecting Trust

What is the answer?  Like most things with God, I have to keep relearning what causes me to be overwhelmed by fear and how to trust him again.  While pondering this gospel it hit me: “…you are worth more than many sparrows”.

You are worth more than sparrows

Unlike the similar verse a few chapters earlier (Are you not much more valuable than they?), this is not a question.  It is a firm statement of the truth: you ARE worth more than many sparrows.

 

Now how in the world do we get ourselves to believe this???

The root of our fear is mistrust in God’s love for us.  We have a hard time believing that he sees us as precious and worth caring for, let alone worth dying for.

I thought I was doing pretty good with learning to trust the Lord and not letting fear keep me from abandoning myself to him. Then he asked me to leave the convent.  This is something I had been deathly afraid of.  Whenever someone left in a state of peace and joy, I couldn’t understand how they could be so happy about leaving.

The moment I got my fears out in the light by talking to my superior, they all magically disappeared.  A burden was lifted off my shoulders and freedom like I have never experienced flooded my soul.  In that moment I knew what God wanted and I was freed to say yes wholeheartedly.

Now that I am back to dealing with “worldly” matters, my trust is being put to the test. This past week, I was almost panicky with stress over money, finding a job, going to school. I felt out of control. And this is precisely why I am so afraid: I want to be in control and I certainly don’t want to give it to God.

 I have to look out for number one, because no one else is going to.

Trust takes time

I think we forget sometimes that God wants a deeply personal relationship with us and that relationships take time.  Due to the fall, we have a hard time trusting God, and it takes our whole lives to repair that trust.

Since leaving the convent, I have definitely not been living the life of a nun.  It’s so easy to abandon prayer and the spiritual life when I don’t have structure provided for me.  One day, I was feeling ashamed and apologizing to God for being so lazy and basically ignoring him.  His response blew me away: “it’s okay.  This is a relationship and I’ve just done something that makes it hard for you to trust in me.  I knew what would happen when I asked you to leave.  I knew it would take time for you to trust me again.”

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

I used to think this meant that if I loved God perfectly then I wouldn’t be afraid. But, in the words of St. John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…”

“But how is it possible to live fearlessly?  Saint John tells us that perfect love casts our fear.  The love that Jesus Christ offers us is so perfect and total that even all the hairs of your head are counted.’  Through our embrace of the overflowing, ‘gracious gift of Jesus Christ,’ we can live unafraid.” – Magnificat

Knowing that God loves me perfectly is what casts out fear.

What keeps you from trusting God?  Alternatively, what helps you trust in his goodness? These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really want to hear from you!



More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

RaisingofLazarusI love, love, love the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  The Lord often reminds me of it when I’m trying to pretend that everything is okay (like he doesn’t know everything!).  I can’t tell you how many times in prayer I’ve felt the gentle nudging to be honest with Him but insist that I’m “fine”.  In these times I’m invited to have the honesty of Mary and Martha – to get angry, because God can handle it!  Martha and Mary didn’t meekly say, “oh it’s okay Jesus, we know this is for the best and we trust you.”  No, they were not afraid  to show that they were angry and confused: “what the heck Jesus!  You go around doing all these great miracles but you can’t stop our brother, who you claimed to love, from dying.  Some Messiah you are!”

I think the key to understanding this story is the fact that Mary and Martha never lost their faith.  They believed with their whole hearts that he could have healed their brother and Martha even says, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

These two sisters believed that Jesus could do anything, they just didn’t realize “anything” included raising men from the dead.  This is something they couldn’t imagine.  Our God does more than we can ask or imagine.

But the part that we still struggle with is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place.   Because he loved them.  Logically speaking, this is completely insane.  Let’s talk about my ways are not your ways.  Jesus even goes so far as to say, “for your sake I am glad I was not there”.  Can you imagine the disciples shock and confusion over this?

Jesus allows Lazarus to die because in the end, it is better for everyone.  I’ve wondered if this was to give them all hope during Jesus’s crucifixion.  They must have thought:  He raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps He will rise also.  God allows a brief period of pain and mourning, to make the new day that much more brilliant.

One thing I learned in convent was that I hate suffering (okay who really likes it?).  But I really struggle to see the value in it, which I think is true to most of us.  We believe in a God whose plan to save us involved letting His Son die in utter agony by being crucified.  I know we’ve all struggled with the questions “why suffering?” and “why do good things happen to bad people?”  Maybe you’ve even tried to explain redemptive suffering to others and think you really get it.  But deep in each of our hearts we all ask, “why?”

Why does God allow so much evil?  Why do little children get shot, abused and horribly mistreated?  Free will, we like to throw around.   Is that a satisfactory answer?  God could just stop it all if He wanted.  And then what would draw us close to Him?

 

The Well is Deep

Jesus the Bridegroom.  The very words send a thrill through my heart.  The sisters heard me go on and on about the topic, but you, my lucky readers, are a whole new audience!

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Thanks to my time in the convent, I’ve been given a love for scripture and new eyes to see its depth.  The top two things that have opened up scripture for me are:

  1. Reading scripture with Jewish eyes.
  2. Seeing that Jesus is always the Bridegroom.

Today’s Gospel is the perfect example of this.  In the Old Testament, whenever a man and woman met at a well, they ended up getting married.  Another key piece of information is that the Jews and Samaritans were “divorced” from one another.  The Israelites had split into the Northern and Southern kingdoms, with Samaria in the North and Jerusalem in the South.  So when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and asks her, “give me a drink”, what He’s really saying is, “give me your hand.”

What really turned me on to all this is Dr. Brant Pitre and his book Jesus the Bridegroom.  I strongly recommend it to all.  The most important thing I want to convey is that Jesus is a personal bridegroom to each one of us, not just of the Church in general, and we experience this best through prayer.  When I learned how to pray according to the Ignatian method of prayer I felt like I had never prayed before.  This involves imagining the scene with all your senses and placing yourself in it.  Imagine yourself as the Samaritan woman.  Jesus asks you for a drink, you ask him for living water.  What are your “husbands”, those things that you are ashamed of, that you think make you unworthy? He already knows and He is “the one”, the Christ, the Bridegroom.