“Ask a Priest: What Does “Giving It to God” Mean?”

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Q: I was born/raised Catholic. I left the Church for a long time and went to other churches for a while. I came back to the Catholic Church because I signed my daughters up with the Catholic school in the area, and it was required to go to church or pay extra money. That being said, I have learned more about the religion and have questions. What exactly is “giving it to God”? And how do I do this? Is it basically like jumping off a cliff without checking to see if there is water below or just a pile of rocks? -K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you have resumed your practice of the faith. It is good, too, to hear that you have questions. The Catholic faith is deep, and God gives us an intellect in order to understand it more profoundly.

“Giving it to God,” if I understand the context correctly, means leaving in his hands those problems that seem insurmountable in the moment. These could be big things, such as the illness of a loved one, as well as little things, such as a rude cashier who annoys us.

Part of the thinking behind this idea is this: God in his wisdom allows certain crosses in our life, not to irritate us, but to help us grow in humility and patience. If life were easy, we wouldn’t progress and our virtues probably wouldn’t grow.

There might be times when we pray to have a difficulty taken away, but God in his wisdom might decide the better thing is for us to struggle with a challenge.

St. Paul had such an experience. “A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

“Giving it to God” doesn’t mean, however, being presumptuous and thinking that he is going to swoop down and save us from our bad decisions. If we jump off a cliff without first seeing what is below, we are recklessly endangering our lives — a grave sin that we will answer for.

Another way of interpreting the phrase is the notion of “offering it up,” of tendering our suffering back to God in reparation for our sins and the sins of others. For more material on this point, see the third part (the Conference) of the online Retreat Guide “A Mother’s Tears”.

On the theme of trusting in divine providence, two Retreat Guides might be helpful for you. One is called “Trouble with Trust” and one is called “Trouble Hearts”.

For weighty reading see “Providence: God’s Loving Care for Man and the Need for Confidence in Almighty God,” by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

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