The grace we are asking of God: A deep confidence and a consistent trust in God’s care for us and his nearness to us in every moment.
Horizons of the Heart is inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, the retreat guide Until Christ Be Formed in You by Blessed James Alberione, and my own notes from my thirty-day Ignatian retreat in 2022.
The most difficult thing about being a follower of Jesus Christ is not climbing mountains of virtue or even walking through the valleys of incomprehensible sorrow. No. As difficult as these things may be, there is one thing more difficult still. Strangely, it is something even a child can do. Something we were created to do. Yet we, caught in the complex web of adulthood, we, more sophisticated Christians so far from the simple childlike faith that pleases so much the heart of God, we find this one thing, I dare say, almost impossible. We can talk about it, pray about it, preach about it, encourage others to do it. However, to totally and completely do this ourselves is the most difficult. Though it is the deepest desire of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus to see this in us, we’d rather do everything else but this.
The first thing to which we are invited—nay rather pushed to risk everything we have in order to do—is this: to trust.
To trust that God knows my name. That God cares about me. That Jesus is speaking the truth when he says, “I love a single soul as much as I love all souls together.” To trust that God reveals himself to me daily, even in each moment, in every situation without exception. That I am loved as I am. This love that flows to us from God’s heart is the most basic and secure fact of my life.
Wrestling with trust like Job
At the beginning of my retreat, I wrestled with this one thing. I read the book of Job, chapters 38 to 40. After having suffered a number of serious injuries to life and livelihood, Job struggled with trust. He becomes impatient with his friends who frustrate him with their long speeches in which they attempt to explain to him why he was being punished. He cries out at the beginning of the book, “May the day of my birth perish…” (Job 3:3a), and makes his demand of God near the end: “I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me!” (Job 31:35a).
Then in chapters 38 to 40, God does answer Job from the whirlwind. Having entered upon retreat with a bit of a Job-like experience just behind me, I spent several hours meditating upon God’s words to his servant Job.
If you haven’t read these three chapters recently, I highly encourage you to do so. Reading them in one sitting is like being surrounded by a whirlwind of God’s power and activity, God’s attentiveness to the details, every last detail of his creation. Here are a few verses:
39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return….
13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.
“Kathryn,” God said to me as I walked along Tampa Bay later that day. “Kathryn, do you see the details that I take care of for each creature I have made. I count the months till the mountain goats give birth. I see when their labor pains have ended. I know the day on which their young leave and do not return. I made the ostrich and see how she lays her eggs on the ground, for she was not endowed with wisdom. Yet I gave her great speed. When she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider who even as they race fall far behind her. A whole world of creatures and I know every detail of each one of them. I care for every detail of their existence. I do all these things every day. I can certainly take care of your life, Kathryn.”
O God of the details. A myriad of details. Endless details. It is in the details that subtle beauty is found, amazing uniqueness.
I asked God, “What is my detail?”
“You, Kathryn, are my compassion.” It is my unique way in which I mirror and manifest God’s love in the world. God has given me to be his compassion. Compassion is the detail of God’s own heart that he has given to me. It is to be the calling card of my personality, of my discipleship.
What is your detail?
Read Job 38 to 40. Notice the details God has planned into the lives of his creatures, the details he knows about, cares about, the details that make each unique. Then very simply, very tenderly, ask God to reveal to you the specific and special detail that he has planted in you. The unique way in which you manifest God’s love to the world.
You can trust God because he knows and concerns himself with every detail of your life. In a certain way, we each manifest to others some detail of God. He has entrusted this detail to us, he develops it in us, he rejoices to see it in us.
Say a strong yes to your existence. Say yes to the detail of God’s character you bear inscribed on your heart and display through your actions.
Grieve and worship even if you can’t yet trust
At the end of the book of Job, we find a beautiful verse (42:5).
My ears had heard of you before,
but now my eyes have seen you.
Remarkably it doesn’t say that now Job “trusted” God in spite of all his sufferings. It says that Job in his grief, now recognizes God and worships him. Job says:
“I know that you can do all things
and that no plan of yours can be ruined….
I will change my heart and life.
I will sit in the dust and ashes” (Job 42:2, 5).
Job can grieve and worship at the same time. If you cannot yet trust, truly trust, with a “deep down nothing can shake me” trust, if pain and loss and confusion sear your soul with sorrow so that you are afraid to trust again, do as Job: grieve and worship. As you take as your own, develop and become the detail of God that he has given you and you alone, you will find that slowly, ever so slowly, the solid heart of God will wrap itself around your shaky soul and shore up trust within you.