We can’t get too far in the spiritual life without trust.
We might have faith—we might believe all the tenets of the Church. Wanting to avoid hell, we might eschew mortal sin. But in the long run, faith alone will likely not be enough.
Without trust, we can get into a fair amount of trouble.
When you think about it, how many little sins do we commit because we don’t trust enough in God’s grace or His plan? Scads.
When we’re tempted in our weaknesses, we may “know” theoretically that God has promised “My grace is sufficient for you,” but we don’t agree. We don’t think it is, and we give in. We may put up a little fight, but countless times we crumble before putting that verse to the test.
Quite often we don’t trust the promptings of the Holy Spirit. How often do we turn a deaf ear to His whispered suggestions—not wanting to leave our comfort zone or do something “weird” or too “extreme”? How often do we fail to reach out to someone because we distrust such intimations?
Not trusting in His plan is another common pitfall. When He asks us to do something truly unworldly or give up something to which we’re really attached, we don’t want to trust that His plan is worth it. I wonder how many apostolates and vocations have fallen to the wayside as a result.
Hardest of all, of course, is what I touched on in my last post: trusting Him in the face of suffering. Trusting when things are going from bad to worse, when dreams are crushed, when pain takes over, when tragedy strikes. That’s when it’s really hard to trust in God’s love, in the wisdom of His plan, sometimes in His very existence.
Without trust, then, it’s very hard to grow in virtue. We can't overcome our habitual sins, and habitual sin can lead to mortal sin. And without trust, it’s almost impossible to make it through a period of real suffering with one’s faith intact.
Yet how do we grow in trust?
Like almost everything worthwhile, it takes time. First of all, we have to ask God for it, for the grace to trust Him.
Next we need to spend time with Him, getting to know Him and His promises. Reading and reflecting on His Word is critical to this. You can’t trust someone you don’t know.
Then we need to realize how trustworthy He is. This is not merely theoretical. There are plenty of examples in Scripture and the lives of the saints demonstrating His faithfulness, His wisdom, His love. In the long run, His plan is always best, because He sees the big picture: He sees the greater good, He sees not only what we want now, but also what we need—and what our neighbor needs—to be eternally happy.
We can deepen our realization of this not only by studying Scripture and the lives of the saints, but also recalling His providence in our own lives. Taking time to be grateful yields huge benefits.
Finally, we can grow in trust by trying to trust. Talk to Him about it:
Okay, Lord, you said to come to you when I’m weary and that you’d make my burden light and sweet. Boy, do I need that now. I’m coming to you; please help me, please strengthen me. Increase my love so that serving you and others becomes a joy for me…
Okay, Lord, you said your grace would be sufficient for me. I’m feeling really tempted right now. Please help me not to give in. Strengthen me so that I don’t want to give in, so that what I want most is to please you. Help me, Lord! Tell me what I should do…
Trust is like a muscle: it grows stronger the more you use it.
Try it, see what happens.