I recently listened to a sermon from the late Brennon Manning which told a story of John Kavanaugh and Mother Teresa. John Kavanaugh was a Jesuit who in 1975 served in Calcutta for about a month.
Kavanaugh wasn’t sure if he should return to America to become a university professor or if he should stay abroad and work with the poor. During his stay, he asked Mother Teresa to pray for him. Mother Teresa said, “For what?” John pleaded, “For clarity.”
Her immediate response to Kavanaugh’s request was a resounding no. Mother Teresa would not pray for that.
Kavanaugh was completely shocked. He responded to Mother Teresa by saying that he assumed she had always had clarity and had known what she was supposed to do.
Mother Teresa said, “I have never had clarity. I only have trust. I’ll pray that you have trust.”
Changing My Prayer
As I heard this story, I immediately realized that I have been praying the wrong prayer. I have prayed and prayed, asking God to give me clarity during a transitional season of my life.
However, I no longer pray for clarity, I now pray for trust.
Trust vs Clarity
The Complete Jewish Bible conveys the importance of trusting God by translating Hebrews 11:6, “And without trusting, it is impossible to be well pleasing to God, because whoever approaches him must trust that he does exist and that he becomes a Rewarder to those who seek him out.”
I am not saying it is wrong to desire clarity in our lives.
All of us want to know God’s will for different areas of our lives; however, clarity must not be our primary pursuit.
Seeking clarity in our lives, allows us to avoid the risk of trusting God.
The Scriptures also tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV). From this passage we learn the following:
- Our response to every situation in life is to trust God.
We do not walk by sight but by faith. As we journey through life, we need to choose a God-confidence and put our assurance in God’s word and character.
- We must not rely on our understanding, perceptions, and expectations.
It is easy to default to worry, fear, and anxiety when trials, challenges, and darkness come against us. Also, it is so easy to allow our minds to go crazy and to develop false narratives and stories about our situations.
- We acknowledge God by trusting him.
The Hebrew word for acknowledge means “know him.” To know God does not mean to know facts about him. To know God is to live relationally with him by trusting him.
- God will make our path in life straight.
Rather than seeking clarity to know the exact path to take, we can choose to put our trust in God and obey his directions.
The solution to a troubled heart is not having clarity in life but trusting God.
One Last Thought: Trust Comes From Relationship – Not Trying Harder
As we read the Scriptures, faith is a dominant topic. I understand that we receive God’s gift of eternal life not by religious performance but by our faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8). I am also aware that the Scriptures encouraged me to “walk not by sight but by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
However, looking back on my journey with God, I believe I had a distorted view of what living by faith truly meant. At times I thought to myself:
- If I could just produce enough faith, then I knew my life could please God.
- If I could just “muster” up enough faith, then I could move mountains.
- If I could level-up my faith meter, then God would do the things I wanted him to do.
However, over the last several years I have come to view faith as something entirely different. In reading J. P. Moreland’s book “In Search of a Confident Faith,” I realized that a better concept of biblical faith could be captured by the words: confidence, trust, and reliance.
- Confidence – having faith in God is not merely believing theological facts about God, but also making a commitment to follow and obey God. We are to live our lives with a God-confidence.
- Trust – having faith in God emphasizes that we have personal trust in him because we believe him to be true and good. Even when our circumstances are dark, or we do not understand what is going on, we still can choose to put our trust in the heart of God because we believe him to be trustworthy.
- Reliance – putting our faith in God requires us throughout our lives to step out and take risks to follow Jesus. We can walk by faith rather than sight, not blindly but by relying on God.
Faith is not some internal, willingness that I convince myself (over and over) is real. Faith is not something I try to pump up in my life. Faith is not merely repeating something over and over. Faith is not just choosing to believe someone or something they say.
Faith is trust, and trust is a relational word.
As Wayne Jacobson states, “Trust is the fruit of a relationship. The more I know someone, the more I know they love me.”
Trusting God comes from walking in a relationship with him. Out of our relationship with God, we come to believe God’s loyal and fierce love for us, and that God is entirely for us. In responses to his affection to me, I choose to trust him.