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“Ask a Priest: How Do I Know I Really Trust God?”
Q: I am currently following Father Bartunek’s daily meditation “The Better Part.” A lot of times, I share a portion of the day’s meditation online … sort of evangelize in my small way. This morning, it is I who needs evangelization. I asked myself, “Do I truly trust in God and know his mercy? Will I trust him, in the future, at the lowest point of my life?” When I am physically hurting, will my pain be minimal because I trust him? How do I know I trust him? Sometimes, our fear becomes bigger than the problem itself that our sufferings come from fear itself. Can you shed me some light about the mystery of suffering? My son is a soldier and has been in three deployments. And in the last one, I felt no fear except occasional loneliness because I missed him. Was that trust? Or was that grace to overcome the fear of my son’s possible death? I would like to give God some consolation and have a deep relationship with him. -J.H.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good that you are looking for ways to evangelize, by sharing the lines of meditation, etc.
Your note seems to touch on the virtue of hope. We can have faith, we can have charity, yet we can lack a bit of hope. The glossary of the Catechism defines hope as: “The theological virtue by which we desire and expect from God both eternal life and the grace we need to attain it.” You worry about facing future trials; here is where hope can help.
With good reason, Jesus exhorted, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Matthew 6:34). In other words, focus on living the moment well. Don’t try to read into the future. That is a recipe for anxiety.
It is good to remember that God loves your son even more than you do. He even loves you more than you do. You are his beloved daughter. That is a truth you want to recall frequently. And following the words of the Our Father, learn to be satisfied with the “daily bread” that God gives.
By cultivating this trust in God, consciously and repeatedly, you will get the grace of confidence in his providence. Your trust will reinforce trust. Trust is a fruit of a mature relationship that weathers any storm. Your lack of fear about your son’s last deployment might be a sign that your trust is deeper than you realize.
Something that can also help is to look for ways to help others — such as shut-ins or single moms. Helping others in turn helps us put our own struggles and concerns in perspective. There are folks out there who suffer terribly, from abuse, despair, you name it. Coming in contact with them and helping them reminds us of all the blessings God has given us. That deeper sense of gratitude brings its own serenity. (Perhaps you could network with other military moms and give encouragement via the Internet.)
Trust is not something that we either have or don’t have, but rather something that we have and that can continue to grow. To go deeper on this point, you might find this post helpful.
For even deeper reading you might find Benedict XVI’s Spe Salvi helpful.
As for suffering in general, we believe it can have meaning because Jesus gave it meaning on the cross. By uniting our sufferings with his on Calvary, we can turn them into something redemptive. Part of God’s plan is to allow us to share in suffering along with Jesus.
For more reading, see Peter Kreeft’s Making Sense Out of Suffering.
I hope this helps. Count on being included in one of my Mass intentions.