What Does It Mean to Trust in God?

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.

9 Replies to “What Does It Mean to Trust in God?”

  1. This idea that trusting God meaning whatever happens was God’s will has always made a Catholic concept of God indecipherable from a God that is not there. It has been a sad development over the course of my life.

    1. I too sometimes wonder what it means that everything that occurs is God’s will. Evil and good all permitted by God.

  2. I only learned to trust in God when my first wife died. I thought I knew what it meant but I did not. I thought I did trust in the Lord but I did not. After the death of my first wife I finally made a decision that what ever the Lord had in store for me it was fine with me. That morning I went to Mass and met my second wife. It was through her that I finally found what Catholism was truly about even though I had studied my religion for years. It was through my new wife that I came to understand the meaning of matrimony, the sacrements, the Mass, and the Eucharist. What a blessed man I have been all of my life and what a blessing these last 8 years have been.

  3. Chas; I think you meant
    ‘ indistinguishable’ . Anyway, to say that everything is God’s will is a simplistic fatalism.

    That he permits bad things to happen does not mean that they are actively his will, although he permits them.
    These things however can be transforming to bring about a greater good, IF we cooperate with his grace in the circumstance. Going through the tough thing can bring about greater virtue in us (or discouragement and resentment if we don’t work through it with his help).
    In this phase of our existence, God is about transforming us, not making us comfy. (My flesh dislikes that just as much as any one else!) It’s a tough road to take up our crosses daily. But by doing it with HIM we can somehow become greater than what we now are and united to him in love.

  4. One thing that has helped me is to remember is that my spirit is immortal and cannot die. Thus all circumstances will eventually pass, whatever they are, but my soul will ever remain. But what kinds of soul will I be?

    In my wiser moments, i realize that God is far more interested in my character development than the pleasantness of my current circumstance. He is playing the long game and invites me, in love, to do the same for my own benefit.

  5. Chas,

    I hear you. Not everything that happens is God’s will. He will hold is in his hands as we struggle with the evil events in our lives.

  6. Not true. Have you ever read St. Thomas on this? Do you know the difference between His active will and His passive will?

  7. Hi there,
    I too have finally come to this same space….the understanding and acceptance that God is far more interested in “my character development”. And, I have also accepted God’s invitation to play the long game because it is indeed for my benefit to do so. Bless you

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