The Struggle to Trust God


“It’s hard to believe in our hearts that He can be trusted because we have been hurt when we trusted others.”


Happy the one who trusts in the Lord… It’s a phrase repeated throughout the Scriptures- in Psalms and Proverbs and Jeremiah. But perhaps at times it’s hard to believe and practice. Can I really trust the Lord? When asked out loud, it seems like a ridiculous, faithless question. But in our everyday life, lived out… do I trust Him?

Actually, while the question spoken out loud seems to have an obvious answer – of course you can trust God! – I think our struggle goes hand and hand with our fallen human nature. From the very beginning, our first parents doubted that they could trust Him. A priest once pointed out to me that the entire story of Sacred Scripture is God the Father trying to convince us that He loves us, cares for us, and can be trusted.

Patiently and lovingly, He continues to do this. It’s not just the story of the Old Testament. It’s the story of our lives as well. Do we really believe He is a Father who loves us? We so often live our lives with guards up, not wanting to be duped. But we can let our guard down with our Lord.

Primarily I think it’s because we make God in our own image. We have a hard time imagining Someone so other than ourselves. When we imagine how He acts, we frame it in our human experience. How can we believe He loves us after we sin? Can we honestly think He loves us in the midst of sin? How can we trust Him?

Yes, it’s hard for us to trust that we can trust Him! This is especially true when we have been hurt. In our brokenness, we have seen what fallen human nature is capable of, and we are fooled into thinking God is like us. It’s hard to believe in our hearts that He can be trusted because we have been hurt when we trusted others.

But He is not like the others.

It’s hard to imagine He loves us after we sin because we have a hard time loving those who hurt us. We struggle to love those who betray us. How can He possibly love us when we hurt Him or betray Him? But He does. Again and again.

Really trusting in His mercy is not an easy task. We limit His mercy because it’s easier to wrap our minds around it that way. But He is the prodigal Father who is willing to take the repentant son back at all costs. We must trust in that, even in the darkness.

Trusting in His plan for us can be just as difficult as trusting in His mercy. Do we honestly believe that He wants what is best for us? Sometimes it’s tempting to doubt that. When life takes turns we don’t expect, when we find ourselves in situations we never imagined – do we trust that He is there?  Our fallen human nature wants to take matters into our own hands. Again, we are back in the Garden, grasping at what we think is best for us. We know ourselves and know what is best. We can’t trust anyone else to look out for us. We’ve got this.

He knows us better than we know ourselves. (And frankly, He knows we don’t “got this” at all!) Who knows what is not only going to happen tomorrow, but in five and ten and fifty years? Who is already there, in that moment that we can’t imagine, around that corner in life we don’t even know will come? He is.

Despite our lack of trust, God remains patient. Looking back at the times I was afraid to trust, I can see that He was there all along. He had me in His hands, even when I felt so alone. He was in control, even when I felt like nothing was right. I can picture Him laughing at me – not a belittling laugh of someone who has proven me wrong, but the gentle laugh of a Father who finds my childish ways amusing. He knows me. And He is in control the entire time.

After this life, we will see our lives in their entirety. We will see the Father’s careful hand, always there to guide us, to support us, to discipline us, to hold us. We will see the times we ignored the hand and tried to do things our own way. We will see the times we didn’t trust He was there.

You and I both know that it’s easy to write these things. It’s hard to live them. It’s hard not to make God in our own image. In our brokenness, how can we believe that God is any different from that person that hurt us? How can we believe that He is any different from us? What are ways we can increase our trust?

  • Jog your memory. Even in the dark memories, there were blessings, right? The more we recognize – with the benefit of that 20/20 hindsight – the gifts He has given us in the past, the more we will be able to recognize them in the present, even when darkness and doubt threaten our trust.
  • Immerse your prayer life with reminders. We need to be reminded we can trust God. Spiritual reading is key. When our emotions and heart are telling us one thing, the saints, spiritual writers, and Scripture can bring us back to reality. (I’d recommend anything Fr. Jacques Philippe writes for this!)
  • Lastly, but most importantly, we can make an act of faith each day. Even when our heart feels weak and unable, our lips can repeat a simple act of faith. Ask Him to increase your faith and trust in Him. He will happily answer that prayer.

Lord, I know I need to trust you more. Even when Your plans are confusing, the road seems dark, or I want to be in control, I can have faith that you are my Father. Even when I sin, You are waiting for me. If only I allow myself to be loved…Lord, I do trust. Help my distrust.

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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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