To the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
In her biography, Before the Living God, the Carmelite Abbess Ruth Burrows writes about the pilgrimage of trust that she and her fellow sisters have long been on. She sees the development of our growing trust in God as the principle agenda of the spiritual life, something that we can only enjoy to the degree that we have put to rest the anxious “work” of trying to manage our relationship with God. She writes,
I want to show people that what really matters is utter trust in God; that this trust cannot be there until we have lost all self-trust and are rooted in poverty; that we must be willing to go to God with empty hands. The whole meaning of our existence and the one consuming desire of the heart of God is that we should trust God enough to let ourselves be loved.
Trusting God’s love for us means doing so also in the context of our sense of personal inadequacy, especially with regards to the spiritual life. To fret over our failures, or to presume that these disqualify us in any way, is to usurp God’s prerogative to love us even in our poverty.
As a young nun observing her fellow sisters, Burrows remembers the many so-called spiritual acts that, in her estimation, betrayed more of a lack of trust among those who had otherwise committed their lives so wholly to God. She writes,
Looking at my dear friends, living for God, I saw in fact that something was yet wanting in them. They had not yet come to perfect trust. They felt they were spiritual failures because this or that had not happened to them. They felt they had missed out on something because their experience carried none of the features they assumed a truly authentic spiritual life should yield.
It is the nagging sense that we are never spiritual enough that reveals our lack of trust in God. As we chase the spiritual life like a carrot at the end of a stick we never get to truly rest in God’s present love for us. Concerning her friends Burrows adds,
They knew they were loved by God and yet there was an indefinable anxiety which inhibited their total surrender to that love. I saw these dear people, self-giving, generous, full of love for God and yet still anxious, still hesitant before the last step which would release them from themselves and open them to God’s love.
Far from criticizing the weakness of human faith, Burrows writes with the compassion of a co-captive who is just beginning to feel the bindings of her own fears giving way. She longs to instill this hope in others as well. She writes,
I long to convince them that, here and now, in their present ‘unsatisfactory’ state, in their so-called ‘failure’, God desires to give himself to them; that this state of poverty is precisely what he wants and that it represents his way into them. He has laboured with love for a long time to open up this way for them. Will they now block it? If they do, they are turning from the straight path of poverty, and choosing instead the winding road of spiritual riches.
Burrows clearly understands the sufficiency of Jesus’ word, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3). She is convinced, as we should be, that if God blesses our poverty, His promises are in no way hindered by our failure to deserve them.
Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.