“The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.” – Diary of Saint Faustina, 1578.
In the years leading up to World War Two, a young Polish nun began to experience extraordinary revelations. These revelations included long and detailed conversations with Jesus. During one such encounter, Jesus requested Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska to record her experiences in several notebooks. These notebooks would eventually become “The Diary of Saint Faustina.” The diary provides remarkable insights into the mercy of God.
Access to Divine mercy seems to require a complete trust in God. Christ Himself informs Saint Faustina that the amount one trusts in Him correlates directly to the amount of Divine mercy one experiences. Since Divine mercy is necessary for our salvation, its importance cannot be understated. As such, trust in God is foundational to the spiritual life.
To illustrate the significance of trust, it should be seen as analogous to faith. Analogous because while trust and faith are similar, there are also differences. Several events depicted in the Bible underscore the importance of trusting God unconditionally.
Genesis 12:1 recounts the story of God commanding Abram (God would later change his name to Abraham) to “Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” An even greater demonstration of trust occurs when God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son Jacob. This demand turns out to be a test of Abraham’s trust, and God (by way of an angel) protects Jacob. A similar example of trust involves Saint Joseph.
At the behest of an angel, Joseph uproots his family and leaves Israel for Egypt. While Joseph did not know God’s plan for him, by trusting God, he became the foster father of Jesus Christ and the husband of the Virgin Mary.
Both Abraham and Joseph exhibit a remarkable level of trust in God, even to the point of submitting their will to the will of God. This was not a theoretical practice either. Both Abraham and Joseph’s trust in God involved the disruption of the lives of not only themselves but their families.
These examples illuminate the slight difference between faith and trust. Where faith is having a good reason to believe in God, trust is acting on that faith. For Saint Faustina, trust is the correct attitude we should have in relation to God. This attitude of trust is made manifest in the Divine Mercy painting. As dictated by Christ, the painting includes the signature, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
As the examples of Abraham and Joseph illustrate, trust in God is not an abstract or intellectual posture. Rather, trust in God is expressed by one’s willingness to keep God’s commandments and to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
In turn, this requires that one be familiar with the two aspects of God’s will. The providential will of God creates, cares for, and upholds all of creation. God’s permissive will includes those things that God is willing to allow, even though they may contradict His providential will. The permissive will allows for the free will of human beings. Because God – in His providential will – created human beings with free will, He – in His permissive will – allows human beings to use that free will even if it includes sin.
For Saint Faustina, the fulfillment of God’s will is the measure of one’s spiritual perfection in the attitude of trust. As such, she mentions three degrees of trust regarding accomplishing the will of God.
The first degree in the accomplishment of God’s will consists in fulfilling everything embodied in the commandments, rules, and regulations. At this level, the individual complies with biblical commandments such as the Ten Commandments and the Sheema, as it is stated in Mark 12:29–31.
The second degree consists of faithfulness to the inspirations imparted by the Holy Spirit. This degree can take various forms, such as knowledge drawn from Lectio Divina to being convicted of our sins which moves us to repentance.
Finally, the third degree is complete abandonment to the will of God. This level is usually the most difficult to obtain and sustain. Jesus sums it up when He tells us, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Luke 17:33). This statement especially goes to the heart of trust and surrender. If we try to direct our lives and future by our own efforts, we will not succeed. Instead, we are to “lose” our life by abdicating our will to the will of God. In this abandoning of self-will, we save it for eternal life. Saint Faustina notes that trust in God frequently evolves and develops. It is a process that requires time and cooperation with God’s grace.
The older one gets, the less one trusts other people. This distrust is born of experience and betrayal. However, this experience must not be allowed to infiltrate our spiritual lives. Indeed, if we are to be followers of Christ, we must learn to “Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).