I recently found myself in the distressing situation of being stranded in a foreign country. The local airport was shut down temporarily, and even after it reopened there would be no flights back to the United States for a few more days. The details of the situation are not all that important. For me, what arose out of the experience was a reflection on what it means to trust in God.
We all went through a pandemic recently, and I can remember saying much, during that time when so many people felt so helpless, about the importance of trusting in God and surrendering ourselves to his loving providence.
The experience of being stranded made the helplessness of the pandemic echo in my heart. So, once again, I turned to the good Lord with prayers of surrender and trust.
What arose later during my reflection, however, was a weighty question: what’s it going to take for me to turn to God with prayers of surrender and trust even when I am not in a distressing situation or feeling helpless?
It reminds me of the familiar story of the man cruising through a parking lot, praying to God for a spot to become available. As a car begins to back out of a spot, the man says, “Never mind, Lord. I found one!”
The joke lays bare the sobering reality that we often consider ourselves to be self- sufficient and will normally only call upon God for help in cases where we see that we can’t make something happen on our own. In other words, our attitude toward God is: “I’ll just need your help, Lord, when I can’t do it myself.”
Is it so absurd to suggest that we ought to trust God before we get to the point of desperation, or, even better, from the very beginning? How long are we going to keep up this charade of self- sufficiency?
In reality, the absurdity lies in thinking that we can do anything at all without God’s help!
From a metaphysical perspective, we can’t even blink our eyes or take our next breath without God willing it. In this light, the notion of self- sufficiency is actually a self- deception! We tell ourselves (even subconsciously) that we can do so much without needing God, when the truth of the matter is that nothing happens in this universe without God’s intervention
This doesn’t negate the fact, of course, that we are human subjects capable of making choices and accomplishing great things. God’s grace doesn’t rule out our free will; it perfects it. What we are aiming for is the harmonious cooperation of our will with God’s grace so that, in all things, we can be confident of God’s purposes being fulfilled in and through us.
One practice I find helpful is to begin the day with prayers of trust, even when I am not expecting the day to be too much of a challenge. I pray, using words like, “Lord, I thank you for giving me this day. I entrust it to you with all the love of my heart. Support and sustain me in every moment. Lead and guide me in every situation, so that in all things I may glorify you.”
Old habits are very hard to break, so we shouldn’t be too discouraged if we find ourselves struggling in our efforts to turn to God for help even when we don’t think we need it. Sometimes God allows things like pandemics or airport closures (and much more!) to remind us to trust Him in everything. But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need the reminder?