Fear, Faith, and Surrender

divine mercy, jesus, mercy

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

This summer I was overcome with fear when I had a routine screening for cancer. It was a screening for the kind of cancer my mom suffered from. I panicked, y’all. I was afraid I had cancer. I fought the fear but it escalated. Being that I pray everyday, I was mad at myself for the fear and berated myself for being afraid. When the procedure was over, and the screening came back totally clear, I felt guilty and ashamed that I had been afraid. I took it to prayer.

If I could describe the thoughts I had in prayer as a conversation with God, it would look something like this;

Why are you so ashamed Susan?

Lord, I was afraid. I should not be afraid. I should never be afraid because I know you love me.

Susan, what makes you think you should not feel fear?

You said perfect love casts out all fear. I want to be like you.

Susan, read the verse again.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

Susan, what is fear?

An emotion.

Susan, who gave you human emotion?

You did.

Susan, is what I gave you bad?

Then two scripture verses came to me.  One of Mary and one of Jesus Himself. When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You” (Luke 2:48). Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39)

I realized both Jesus and Mary had felt fear. A human emotion that is a response to a real or perceived danger and is a natural thing. Being that they did not sin, and Jesus is perfect love, God was trying to show me that fear is okay to feel, it is what we do with the emotion that can cause our issues. The Lord wants us to turn to Him about the fear instead of fighting it on our own and trying to save ourselves from it. I spent so much time berating myself for being afraid that the fear actually rose to the level of panic. Instead of acknowledging the fear and handing it to God who is the only one who can save me.

The Father was also trying to teach me about the difference between faith and trust; this difference is very important because it is our trust that He needs so very much in these times. It is why he told a Mystic Saint to have a devotion painted with the words, Jesus I trust in you. It is this trust, this total surrender, that forms us in perfect love. A person formed in perfect love does not fear punishment of any kind.  Perfect love does not fear punishment. And this is where trust in the Father and the Son that the Spirit will work in you comes into view.

Faith

People often use the terms faith and trust interchangeably, but they are actually not the same thing. The catechism tells us of faith;

By his Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company.” The adequate response to this invitation is faith (CCC 142).

This lets us know that faith is a gift from God. It is a grace because it is His invitation and our response to it. Faith is believing in something we cannot see at the prompting of the God who loves us.

Trust

However, trust is something formed from tangible experience. It is only through a life a prayer that we actually can tangibly experience the one who we cannot see – through the grace poured upon us when we pray. When we are a child we trust everyone until experience tells us not to. It is why Christ wants us to be like little children;

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

Little children still have trust, the world has not yet tangibly wounded them. Unlike faith, which is believing in the unseen thing and is a gift of God, trust is actually what happens when we make the decision to engage the gift of faith we have been given. It is through this prayer life that we can trust because our Spiritual gifts increase and we can see what is happening spiritually even as the physical world tells us something different. It is why someone can actually have faith in God but still act in a way that seems like they don’t have faith – because they are not talking to Him. They can cling to God, while still questioning everything that happens without taking their questions to Him. Trust, or rather distrust is borne out of wounds often perceived to be from God Himself. When we trust by actively engaging in our relationship with God, our faith, by the grace of God, grows and bears much fruit.

The Importance of Prayer

This is why prayer is so vitally important. A person can have faith, but if they are not talking to God daily they can be blinded to the spiritual world and where their wounds are actually coming from. They won’t understand the chains of sin. They won’t see that it is the devil who tries to steal, kill and destroy. They will think that God has done this and their faith can be damaged. They can often conclude that God must not love them because suffering has come their way. They will seek to be healed but actually shy away from knowing the healer because of fear that He willed their suffering.

Often times they experience physical suffering, but it is their soul where healing is needed the most. And they hide their soul from God because experience seems to tell them they don’t deserve His love. They miss out on the healing of their soul hiding from the God who loves them. At its worst, without prayer, faith can be lost because someone can conclude God doesn’t even exist because they cannot reconcile a God, who is supposed to be love, with the suffering they see around them. They are blind to who the enemy actually is.

Contrast this with the person in  a relationship with God  who knows God loves them. They not only have faith but it is developed when they choose to engage in daily prayer and conversation with God. They trust that He wills their good because they experience Him through the grace God gifts and increases in prayer. It is always a journey for the human soul to get to this point of surrender; it is the path the Church Fathers spoke of, a path to union with the Will of God through faith, total surrender and trust in His will. Our understanding of good is often formed by the world, but God’s good is growth in virtue because virtue helps purify you.

When we really realize God is good all the time in our soul we give up total control and hand all of it to God. Many of our Saints died at young ages from physical ailments, but no one would ever accuse them of being sick because of not having faith. On the contrary, their faith is edifying to all of us because they grasped something beyond what most of us do.

Saint Faustina

Saint Faustina stands out as the example. Throughout her diary she took all of her fears straight to God. She knew that God willed her good, so much so that she was obedient to all he told her despite every obstacle she encountered. Faustina knew the goodness of God did not consist of her physical well being, but instead in the growth of her virtue, and she trusted that this was better because God assured her that it was;

My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety. These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue. All temptations united together ought not disturb your interior peace, not even momentarily. Sensitiveness and discouragement are the fruits of self-love. Have confidence, My child. Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you. As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy (Diary, 1488).

Everything in the economy of Salvation is a movement towards union with the will of God; like it was before the fall but mankind seems no where near this kind of union. We turn away from God all the time. Nations rise up against him. The faithful feel out of control. The Church appears to be crumbling but the answer lies in the words Jesus told this Mystic Saint from Glogoweic, Poland. Jesus, I trust in you, I trust that you love me.

This kind of surrender teaches us that this world is of no consequence when in comes to our eternal salvation. It is why a Saint can be dying at the age of 33 and still say, Jesus I trust in you. I believe in my heart that God did not will Faustina to suffer, or any of us to suffer, but because of the fall of man, it is a consequence we all have to deal with. Those who understand God’s perfection accept this.

Acceptance allows God to do amazing and miraculous things. It perfects us. Faustina was able not to despair in her illness because she rested securely in God’s love for her. She knew God alone was far more satisfying than even healing and she was willing to offer herself for others because of it. This kind of confidence in God can make one Saint offer themselves and their sickness to God, one Saint offer their life for another like Maximilian Kolbe and make one Saint into a great and miraculous healer like Padre Pio, each taking part in different ways in the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Father sent His only Son to deal with the fall by sending Him to the cross and the Saints, having an understanding of the Mystical Body and the Economy of Salvation knew that their suffering united to Christ’s would be used by God to purify us all, and bring us closer to that union with His will that we lost from the beginning. Faustina’s death didn’t just perfect her in love, it moved the rest of us closer to that perfection as well. When we trust God wants our goodness, and we have faith in things like the Resurrection of the Body, then our earthly body can become of no consequence and we can hand it all over to him.

Abraham was saved through faith. He responded to God’s invitation by praying, trusting in God with the gift of faith he had been given. This faith coupled with trust made him the Father of Nations. Just imagine what He can do for you if you totally surrender.

 

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