As our season of Advent comes to a close we start to focus on the birth of Christ. Today our attention is focused on St. Joseph. He is a wonderful model and inspiration for trusting in God’s will. Very often in my life as a priest people will share with me a similar struggle: Father, I am finding it difficult to trust God. What does it mean to trust in God?
As I was reflecting on this theme I remembered a little story I once heard. There was a good-hearted man who trusted in God. One day there was a very bad storm and floods started to sweep through his area. As the water was rising, someone in a big pickup truck drove up to his house and told him: there is a flood coming, quick come with us. No, the man said, I trust in God, he will take care of me. The waters continued to rise. He had to climb up to the second floor of his house. A small family from down the street paddled up to him in their boat, they said: quick come with us. No, the man said, I trust in God, he will take care of me, and the waters continued to rise. The man then proceeded to climb on top of the roof of his house. The coast guard came with a helicopter: quick come with us, they said. No, the man replied, I trust in God and he will take care of me. Then the man died (ok, sorry it is kind of a sad story). So he comes face to face with God and he is a little bit angry. Hey God, what’s the deal. I have always trusted in you to take care of me, but now I died in a flood… God said, I was trying to take care of you, I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter, and each time you turned me away.
I think that we often believe that “trusting in God” means that we sit back and wait for God to pull the strings in our life. But, that is not how God works. God never intrudes in our life, he never takes away our freedom. God guides the events of the cosmos, but he does so in a way that always respects our freedom. Like the man in the story, we sometimes sit back saying that we are trusting in God, but then we miss all the opportunities God gives us in our life.
So, how to trust in God? St. Joseph is truly our model. First, we hear that St. Joseph was a righteous man. That is the first place to begin. In order to truly trust in God, we have to move away from our sinfulness. We have to make a commitment to do God’s will first of all by following the commandments and seeking to live upright lives. So much of the stress and turmoil of our lives is often caused not by outside forces, but by our own sinful choices. So, if we want to trust in God, the first lesson is to be righteous and upright people.
Second, we hear that Joseph was able to hear God’s voice. Now, for Joseph this happens when an angel appears to him in a dream. But, that is not the normal way that God speaks to his people. Normally, God speaks to his people through his revelation and through our life of prayer. This is why we need to remain faithful to prayer and to the reading of scripture. God never acts in such a way as to take away our freedom, but he does give us indications of our path if we are open to hearing his word.
Finally, Joseph shows us that if we hear God’s word in our lives, we then need to carry it out. Joseph took Mary into his home. Joseph trusted in God and then he took that step in faith. Sometimes it is not enough to simply know what God wants from us, but we also need the courage to take that step.
Trusting in God means that we recognize that God is with us always. He gives us the strength we need to live each day. He will bless us with guidance and wisdom if we draw close to him and listen to his voice. Trusting in God does not mean that we simply sit back and expect God to do everything that I want him to do; rather, it means that we acknowledge his presence in our lives, we listen to him, lean on him, and then have the courage to take the next step in faith.