What Does It Mean to Trust God? Maybe Not What You Think

We are often told to trust in God, and many of us have counseled others who are anxious or downcast to do so. But what does that mean?

In some cases, when people give this counsel they mean this: Don’t worry, God will eventually give you what want. God will come around to your way of thinking at some point. Hang in there and wait for God to answer (your way). He’ll take care of things (in a way that pleases you).

This is not trust.

To trust is to move to the stable conviction that whatever God decides to do is the right thing. It means being at peace with what He does, what He decides. It is to accept that God often acts in paradoxical ways, in ways that are different from, or even contrary to, our notions of what is best. God often permits evils for some greater good, even if this greater good is hidden from us.

At the foot of the cross, we realize that even a total disaster can produce immense good. We call that terrible day “Good Friday” for a reason. The apparent “total loss” of that day ushered in the New Covenant and made more than enough grace and mercy available to save the entire human race—if we but ask.

Many of us have experienced difficulties that were quite devastating to us at the time. In some cases, we have subsequently come to understand why God permitted them. We can see how we grew from the experience or how new opportunities were opened to us that, while not our preference at the time, were in fact best. In other cases, however, what went through still make little sense to us. But if we have learned to trust God, we can be at peace with His apparent “No” to our desired outcome. Trust says, “It is well with my soul.”

An old hymn with that title says,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

That is trust: the ability to say, “Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.” It is not wrong to present our wants and wishes to God, but trusting Him means being at peace with His answer, not resenting it.

We are forever asking God to bless what we are doing, but when do we ever seek what God is blessing and then do that?

Trusting God doesn’t mean thinking that He’ll eventually give me what I want. Trusting God means being at peace with whatever He wants; knowing that He wants it is enough for me; there is peace and it is well with my soul.

15 Replies to “What Does It Mean to Trust God? Maybe Not What You Think”

  1. Thank you Monsignor.

    “We are forever asking God to bless what we are doing, but when do we ever seek what God is blessing and then do that?”

  2. Thank you Father. We tend to forget, Gods priority is our salvation and not whether or not we get the jod, the spouse, etc etc.

  3. Thank you so much Msgr Charles. Simple – straightforward – but very much to the point!
    The only time I ever began to experience true peace in my soul was when I finally learned to say – “Well Lord – ‘YOU’ know that I might have liked this or that, or would have preferred that you had done something else – but – ‘YOUR’ WILL BE DONE, is sufficient for me.”
    I used to get so upset and agitated when God did not give me what I wanted and thought I needed. In fact, what I eventually discovered was that what God gave me may not have been what I ‘wanted’ – but it always certainly turned out to be what I ‘needed’!
    Take my word for it. TRUST Him – totally – and don’t ‘argue’ with Him! And , “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him – and He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
    Here’s a couple more that certainly turned me around – and still do:
    “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3.
    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
    Thank you Lord for teaching me, often through personal suffering and pain – mostly of my own making, sadly – to TRULY trust in you!
    I pray that all people will find this peace that comes from true trust.
    God bless all.

  4. “Alone with none but Thee my Lord, I journey on my way. What need I fear when Thou art near…Oh King of night and day.”

    1. Thank you Adam – lovely one! One of my favourite hymns from the Divine Office.
      Here’s a great performance of it in a musical setting – hope you (all) like it!
      That first verse you quote ends with these words:
      ” . . more safe am I within thy hand
      than if a host should round me stand.”
      God bless

  5. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” If we are willing to be taught, God will teach us to trust in Him.

  6. Although I have hopes and dreams I have come to accept that God gives or allows me to have things and experiences as His Will decides. It isn’t always easy to swallow but like a medicine I know it’ll be for my own good. The trouble I experience now is in decerning what it is He would have me do..what things He is bleesing..

  7. Thank you. This article is truly needed today. I have seen this happen a lot recently in my life. The verse that keeps coming to my mind is Romans 8:28. I will keep everyone in my prayers.

  8. Surely the difficulty with this teaching is knowing that what is happening is God’s will. Sometimes his signs are clear and others not ..or is everything His will?

    1. I think we should be careful in attributing everything that happens to “God’s will.” After all, if it is all God’s will, it would be rather superfluous for us to pray that “God’s will be done.”

      The fact is that a LOT of the things and happenings of this world are AGAINST God’s will. And it has been so since the opening pages of scripture. Many things are contrary to the will of God or what He wants for us — and not only the great evils of history, like wars and genocide, but also the everyday mundane things, like being unable to get a job or having few friends or some disappointment we might have or other things that might lead us to sadness, depression or anxiety. God doesn’t want any of that.

      It is because so much is against God’s will that Jesus came among us in the first place. It is why He was on the Cross. It is why God sends us His Holy Spirit, giving us grace and spiritual encouragement. The reason that we have had this whole enterprise of salvation history is because so much is not God’s will.

      True, He allows evil and suffering and bad things to happen to us, but that is not because it is His will that we be miserable. He allows things that are contrary to His will. That is because to not allow them, to stop human beings from doing that bad thing or this bad thing would be to deprive them of their own free will. It would be to turn human persons into puppets. And that would be against both love and truth.

      Yes, we wish that we did not have to go through with all this pain and annoyance. We wish that life was happier and more truly fulfilling. God wants that too. And so He does not leave us lying there in the ditch. He helps us. We have Jesus, we have His Spirit.

      His will is that we have Him. And we do, even in the midst of all the bad.

      And His will for you — which you can accept or not, you can say, “His will be done,” or you can say, “My will be done” — is very simple. It is no secret, nor is it one of the great mysteries of the faith or the universe. God’s will for you is this: love in truth, or if you prefer, truth in love.

      1. Bender, I believe you are missing the truth of God’s passive will. Though sin is not His will, He allows it.

        To deny His passive will is to deny Him. Everything came to be because He made it. Even our sin.

        It is a hard truth to accept until you understand just how merciful this is. Our God is a gentleman. He gave us free will to choose life or death, making us His friends, if that is what we want. The road to perfection is not a smooth ride however. To be with Him in Heaven requires our purification. Suffering has the result of evil can work to our advantage. Though he does not will the suffering or the sin, He does will us to be with Him in Heaven, and suffering can lend to the purification we need to get there.

  9. “We are forever asking God to bless what we are doing, but when do we ever seek what God is blessing and then do that?”

    Great line!

  10. Need a different approach for people with mental illness. Pain of life so much different. We see God and life from another aspect.

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