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Trust in a faithful God must supersede reliance on self

As children we are raised to be independent and self-reliant people, so that when the time comes we will be ready to the face the demands of adulthood. This is a necessary lesson for us to learn. Our parents do us a favor when they teach it to us.

It is important for this lesson of trust in self to be tempered with our learning how to trust in God. Unchecked self-reliance can create the delusion that our success is determined by what we do rather than what we allow God to do with us and in us. It can produce a false belief that we have to be perfect in everything. This sets the stage for our living under immense pressure, because living with the belief that everything depends on us can cause every success to be a source of pride and every failure to be a cause of self-condemnation.

The prophet Jeremiah warns the people of Israel against relying too much on their own strength and power in providing for themselves. He encourages them to first and foremost put their trust in the Lord their God, who has proven himself over and over again. His faithfulness in the past is an indicator of his future faithfulness. He remains with his children through thick and thin despite their response to him. God remains faithful to them because he cannot be something other than what he is: patient love.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola takes up the mantle of Jeremiah when he advises his spiritual children to “work as if everything depends upon God and to pray as if it all depends upon you.” When we pray as if everything depends on us, there is a better chance of us recognizing our own inadequacies and realizing the urgent need for us to reach out in prayer to God.

The truth is, we have a benevolent God who does not want us to believe that we have to go through life alone, unaided by his assistance. He desires to help us in all things. He waits for us to invite him. Maybe it’s time for us to ask him for help.

Father Nolte is pastor of St. Patrick Parish and president of Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools, both in Fremont.

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