What does it mean to trust in God? Christians who call themselves faithful may say they place their uncertainties or difficult decisions in the “hands of God.” But trusting in God does not mean stepping out of the picture.
St. Ignatius tells a story in his autobiography that gives an example of an immature understanding of trust in God. On the road to Montserrat, at the beginning of his new life as a follower (or soldier, as he might say) of Christ, Ignatius encountered a Moor who disagreed with some of his beliefs. According to Ignatius, the man was disrespectful of the Virgin Mary. Ignatius, in a reactive moment, felt that he should kill the Moor to defend Mary’s honor. As the Moor went off, Ignatius decided at a fork in the road that if his donkey went down the path the Moor had taken, he would kill the man, but if the donkey went the other way then he would not. Thankfully the donkey chose the path that did not lead to murder!
While St. Ignatius might have thought that this was a form of discernment that trusted in God’s decision, it was not! (He matured a lot after that experience.) Real trust in God does not shift responsibility away from us. I recently was asked to draw out a “map” of my faith story, where I came from, and what important moments led me to where I am now. I considered my upbringing in the faith, receiving the sacraments of initiation, my time in college and then in the Jesuits, and the relationships I’ve had, finally ending where I am now: engaged and studying theology in graduate school. Looking at my faith map I could see the hand of God. But each step was never outside of the choices I made. There was always some discernment that led me to choose the next path, and then the next.
A mature trust of God is trust in the fruits of discernment and reflection leading us to make one decision or another. We should never carelessly leave it up to chance. Trust in God is not about chance or luck; it’s about collaborating with God on the choices for my life. God guides me, prompts me, and may even push me, but ultimately every choice is up to me.