Risking that God is Good
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a discernment retreat. Throughout the weekend, the facilitator drew us to new and deeper reflections, but I found myself continuously going back to one of the first things she said – “Discernment involves risking that God is truly good.”
Of course, I know that God is good, but the deeper I thought about it, the more I realized that I may not always make decisions based on this premise. More often, I want to trust God’s plan for my life, but feel the need to create safety nets along the way – just in case I make the incorrect decision or take a step in the wrong direction. I always want to have a solid backup plan, as if I’m planning for things to go wrong. For some unknown reason, I tend think my plans are better than God’s. If I sincerely believe in God’s goodness, why does it feel like a risk to say ‘yes’ to that small voice inside of me?
Trusting God’s will for my life seemed a little easier before I had a spouse, an apartment, and a steady income. The freedom I felt as a recent college graduate, packing my bags to spend three years walking with the poor in Zambia, seems far from me now. Even though the decision to answer God’s call to service was the best decision I’ve ever made, and the reason I have this life I love so deeply; I still hesitate to say ‘yes’ when I feel God tugging at my heart. These days it seems that my decisions are based on fear of the unknown more than trust. And that’s why reflecting on the ‘risk’ of trusting that God is good touched me so profoundly.
I continued to wrestle with these ideas over the course of the weekend. The retreat concluded with Palm Sunday Mass. Throughout the reading of the Passion, I kept putting myself in Peter’s shoes. At the Last Supper, Peter proclaimed his abiding devotion to Jesus one day and denied him the next. Yeah, I’ve done that a time or two. Later that night, Jesus asked Peter, along with James and John, to be attentive and patient as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. During the long silence of the night, they fell asleep, rather than keeping watch. How many times have I given up when the waiting seemed to carry on too long? During the crucifixion, Peter was nowhere to be seen. How often have I been too afraid to speak up for justice? I think Peter was having a hard time risking that God is good too.
Fortunately, that is not the last we learn about Peter. On Easter morning, the women who found the empty tomb ran to him to share the news. It seems that the news of Jesus’ resurrection pulled him out of the rut of doubt and fear. Peter saw that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross revealed how much we are loved, and his resurrection revealed that we can put our full trust in God. Peter stepped up, risking that God is truly good, and went on to become a brave and committed leader in the early Church.
This Easter, I’m hoping to respond to the resurrection more like Peter did. I would like to learn to trust God more thoroughly, so that I can put the gifts that God has given me to better use. I desire to step away from the need to weave safety nets and live more freely in the embrace of God’s love. So, this is my Easter prayer, that I have the faith to risk more. Thomas Merton said it well:
“All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself to be used by God's love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.”
And, by the way, Catholic Volunteer Network is offering more discernment retreats like the one I attended – click here for more details.