Trust School

March 21, 2011 | 63 comments

I’m reading the astoundingly good book God’s Smuggler, which is the memoir of a Dutch Protestant missionary who smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. At its core, the book is all about trusting God. On almost every page there is some example of how God comes through when we place 100% of our trust in him and hold nothing back.

One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was when the author, Andrew van der Bijl (a.k.a. Brother Andrew), talks about a unique type of missionary school he attended in Scotland. As Brother Andrew explains, this school didn’t set up traditional church missions: they didn’t wait until they had money or even had sources of funds secured in order to start a mission. “If they thought God wanted a man in a certain place, they sent him there and trusted God to worry about the details, ” he writes.

At the two-year school the students studied theology, homiletics, world religion, linguistics, as well as practical skills that could aid native people in need, like brick laying, plumbing, building huts out of palm fronds and crafting mud jars that can hold water. But here’s where it gets interesting: they were also given a crash course in trust.

Students were sent out on several local missions in which they’d learn to rely on God’s providence in real ways. They were given a one-pound bank note and told to go on a missionary tour through other areas of Scotland. They’d have to pay their own transportation, lodging, and food, as well as any expenses related to mission work such as event refreshments and location rental for meetings. And there’s more: they were not allowed to ask for collections or even mention money at their prayer services or at any other time. Though they were allowed to accept gifts, they could not specifically ask anyone for anything. And they had to pay back the pound note at the end of the trip.

The stories of how God provided for their missionary work are just astounding. Here’s one of my favorites:

Brother Andrew and his friends had had a successful meeting with some young people in Edinburgh, and they suddenly felt prompted to invite them to a tea party the next day, despite the fact that they had none of the materials people would expect for a proper tea (cake, bread, butter, cups…even the tea itself) and they had no money. Without being asked, the invitees volunteered to bring almost all of the ingredients, down to the plates and cups. But Brother Andrew and the other missionaries still didn’t have cake, an absolute requirement for a tea party in Scotland. He recounts what happened next:

That night in our evening prayer time, we put the matter before God. “Lord, we’ve got ourselves into a spot. From somewhere we’ve got to get a cake. Will you help us?” […]

Morning arrived. We half expected a heavenly messenger to come to our door bearing a cake. But no one came. The morning mail arrived. We ripped open the two letters, hoping for money. There was none. A woman from a nearby church came by to see if she could help. “Cake, ” was on the tip of all our tongues, but we swallowed the word and shook our heads.

“Everything, ” we assured her, “is in God’s hands.”

The tea had been announced for four o’clock in the afternoon. At three the tables were set, but we still had no cake. Three-thirty came. We put on water to boil. Three-forty-five.

And then the doorbell rang.

All of us together ran to the big front entrance, and there was the postman. In his hand was a large box.

“Hello, lads, ” said the postman. “Got something for you that feels like a food package.” He handed the box to one of the boys. “The delivery day is over, actually, ” he said, “but I hate to leave a perishable package overnight.”

We thanked him profusely, and the minute he closed the door the boy solemnly handed me the box. “It’s for you, Andrew. From a Mrs. William Hopkins in London.”

I took the package and carefully unwrapped it. Off came the twine. Off came the brown outside paper. Inside, there was no note — only a large white box. Deep in my soul I knew that I could afford the drama of lifting the lid slowly. As I did, there, in perfect condition, to be admired by five sets of wondering eyes, was an enormous, glistening, moist, chocolate cake.

Neat, huh? And that’s one of the less amazing stories at Providence at work for Brother Andrew and the other missionaries — I chose this one because I didn’t want to spoil any of the real jaw droppers for those of you who plan to read the book (which is everyone, I hope!)

While he was still at the missionary school, Brother Andrew had begun to worry about having enough tuition money to get to graduation, and this brought him to a turning point in his relationship with God. While taking a long walk one night, he pondered his stress about where the funds would come from for him to do this work he was sure God wanted him to do. And he realized:

The question was not one of money at all. What I was worried about was a relationship.

At the chocolate factory [where he worked before going to missionary school], I trusted Mr. Ringers to pay me in full and on time. Surely I said to myself, if an ordinary factory worker could be financially secure, so could one of God’s workers.

I turned through the gate at the school. Above me was the reminder “Have Faith in God.”

That was it! It wasn’t that I needed the security of a certain amount of money, it was that I needed the security of a relationship.

I walked up the crunchy pebblewalk feeling more and more certain that I was on the verge of something exciting. The school was asleep and quiet. I tiptoed upstairs and sat by the bedroom window looking out over Glasgow. If I were to give my life as a servant of the King, I had to know that King. What was He like? In what way could I trust him? In the same way I trusted a set of impersonal laws? Or could I trust him as a living leader, as a very present commander in battle? The question was central. Because if He were a King in name only, I would rather go back to the chocolate factory. I would remain a Christian, but I would know that my religion was only a set of principles, excellent and to be followed, but hardly demanding devotion.

Suppose on the other hand that I were to discover God to be a Person, in the sense that He communicated and cared and loved and led. That was something quite different. That was the kind of King I would follow into any battle.

And that, in essence, is what Brother Andrew learned in all these exercises of trust he went through at his missionary school: that God is not a King in name only. He is a present leader, here among us, leading each of us in battle at each moment. Once Brother Andrew internalized this truth, his life was never the same again, and he set off on a mission that would change the lives of countless people across the world.

As I reflect on this idea of trusting God as an active, involved leader rather than a set of impersonal principles, I keep thinking, “I need to go to Trust School!” I think it would be good for someone like me to have an experience like Brother Andrew’s, where I was forced to stop trying to control every single thing and actually put real trust in the Lord. Naturally, I keep fixating on the idea of spending a week at some faraway “trust bootcamp, ” but I know that that’s just me avoiding taking real action again. Something tells me that I’m already in Trust School, but I’ve been sleeping through the classes.

So how do I wake up to a more clear understanding of God as a real leader, whom I can trust with matters both large and small? That’s the question that’s been fascinating me lately, one that I’ll probably be writing about more. But meanwhile, what do you think? How can we transform daily life into Trust School?


  1. Roxy

    Hi Jen!

    That book reminded me of two books that I just read that you NEED to read if you haven’t.

    The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom


    Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

    GREAT books about trusting God even in the worst times 🙂

    • Theresa in Alberta

      The Hiding Place is a FABULOUS book!!! It taught me that Jesus was not a bad guy! (long story)

    • Andrea

      Yes, the Immaculee Ilibagiza book is life-changing.

  2. Lisa V.

    It’s actually a bit terrifying to thing about it. But I have to admit as I’m reading this, I’m thinking, isn’t this like “testing” God? Although I do see the necessity of absolute surrender. I will add this book definitely to my “to read” list.

    • Mary

      I guess I felt the same way, a bit. For me this is very tempting. Having such trouble with faith as I do.

  3. Michelle

    God can be bothered to send people cakes for tea parties, but can’t be bothered to stop natural disasters that kill thousands of people? Why would it be an admirable thing to put all of your trust in someone that capricious?

    • Christy

      You know, Michelle, I’ve seen this question a lot recently (and maybe thought it at the edges of my own mind at moments).

      And it occurs to me in reading your earnest cry for understanding and hope that the answer is really quite simple. (Bear with me, this is a new thought for me too.)

      The missionaries in the story that we all just read about went out to people in need…physically, emotionally, spiritually. Mother Theresa spoke of how immense the need is in modern day…not so much for food in many places of the world, but for love, for a true Knowing of the Almighty.

      So many of these types of suffering are unseen, even well hidden by their bearers.

      In a place like Japan, where the suffering for so many right now is almost unfathomable, that suffering is noticeable. There are SO many affected, and the need is SO great. The people of Japan’s affected areas all have something similar in common going on at a physical level of need. We can see it in pictures. We hear the hourly reports. And our hearts are moved and hopefully softened toward our brother in need.

      I think if we could hear about and begin to see the suffering (emotional or spiritual) of the individual today, say in your own town or mine, we would be shocked, appalled, overwhelmed, heartbroken. We would (hopefully) be moved to act with mercy and love. We would work to do whatever we could to lessen that suffering one little bit, all the while being acutely aware of how little our efforts were doing on the LARGE scale, yet also knowing how much God was able to do on the scale of the individual human heart, simply because we were willing to be His hands or His mouth to a brother or sister in need.

      The pain, the suffering are around us all every day, in every face. God, in his mercy, just allowing us or inviting to ‘wake up’ (as someone else aptly said in these comments). He is giving us the chance to unite our labors or our own suffering with that of His Own Son upon the Cross. He is helping us to stretch our compassion muscles…today…even in the midst of our busy, contemporary lives.

      I hope, Michelle, that (long-winded) thought might help you.
      It actually assisted me.

      Thanks for letting me share it today. 🙂

      • Mary Beth

        That was beautiful, Christy-and right on the mark, as far as I can tell with my own little mind.

        If I am physically healed, but remain broken in spirit, I am wandering around in the desert of a wounded soul with a perfect body which does me no good.

  4. Penny

    I love, love, LOVE this post! Daily life for us IS trust school. We are on one income which is variable in both amount and frequency. We can budget till the cows come home, but can never predict our cashflow. Over the past 4 years, we have been through times so hard that I thought we might lose our home, and/or not be able to buy food or other basics. But God has always provided. Not always on my schedule, and certainly not in the vast amounts I would like, but we have never missed a mortgage payment, a bill payment, or a meal. He is faithful. I, on the other hand, am still in the beginner’s class at trust school, where the lesson I am still learning is to pray and not be anxious. 🙂

  5. Cathleen

    “Something tells me that I’m already in Trust School, but I’ve been sleeping through the classes.”

    Oh what perfection!!!!!!!! Thank you Jennifer!

  6. Christy

    That book sounds amazing. Trust in God is SUCH an issue with me, and I can definitely take any chance I get to enroll in “Trust School,” haha.

  7. Sandy C.

    @Michelle, in the book “The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?”, David Bentley Hart ponders that question regarding the 2007 Tsunami. It’s dense, difficult reading but fascinating.

    About daily trust school, we learned to trust God in the little things about 12 years ago during a very difficult financial time. The lessons learned deepened my faith and trust in life-changing ways. Still, I must remind myself often when I tend to worry about something that God is ABLE and I can trust Him.

  8. honeybee

    I hate to be a killjoy, but —

    That was indeed, a lovely tale, but as a Christian, feel-good stories like these leave me feeling uneasy. There are all kinds of problems with this, not the least of which is the slippery slope of the “name it and claim it” bunch.

    What if the cake hadn’t arrived? I need trust and faith the most for those times, the hard times, the times when I’m feeling desolate and abandoned by God.

    Cake is nice, but I need to know and learn more deeply how to trust in suffering.

    • Louise

      I actually have to agree. I can totally get on board with the idea that God will provide, and will not abandon us, but isn’t it most likely that he will provide what he thinks, not what we think, we need? I love intercessory prayer as much as the next girl, but I too feel uneasy about expecting to get exactly what I ask for. If the cake hadn’t turned up, well, they still got tea, cakes, biscuits, etc. Isn’t that a prime time for some ‘aren’t I lucky I got anything’ type gratitude?

      It doesn’t surprise me too much that the author of that story was a Protestant, rather than Catholic, missionary as it strongly reminds me of many of the Protestants I encountered growing up – where there was a serious expectation that anything you asked for would be provided as you asked for it. So not just ‘enough money to get by’ but a specific amount, etc. And this thinking seems to me to stem from the same line of thought as the ‘God helps those who help themselves’ stream. If God literally gave everybody ‘exactly’ what they requested, then we wouldn’t have any suffering to offer up, or crosses to bear. Obviously, I don’t see it in the same way as Michelle, but as a convert from a strongly atheistic family, I can easily see why stories like this put people off Christianity, rather than persuade them to trust God as we should.

      • honeybee

        Louise, you are so right about not being surprised that the writer/subject was a Protestant. That had occurred to me as well.

        One thing we Catholics do not shy away from is a theology of the cross and suffering. We have a corpus on our crosses.

        We also have the example of our blessed saints, who with their dark nights of the soul, show us how to trust God when He seems to hide His face.

        I, for one, need to be more deeply schooled in that!

        • Louise

          It’s Catholicism’s teaching about suffering that keep me going many a time – if all you had to do to get exactly what you wanted in life is send God your wish list, then why are there things in my life that are difficult? Why do I not make more money, why have my family not converted, why do I have to live so far from my family, why can’t I get married tomorrow and start having babies next month? They aren’t huge things to suffer, granted, but it would sure make me wonder why Andrew got a cake, and I can’t have a bigger salary/Concorde jet/engagement ring. I think if you set yourself up thinking God is going to shop off your gift registry, you’re also setting yourself up to be disappointed with his grace and the many gifts he gives, just because they didn’t come in the package you expected.

          I think it’s healthy to trust God completely, and I totally fail at it all the time, but I also think we have to accept that what we want might not happen and be prepared to suffer without the things we think we want/need. Unless, of course, I’m just doing intercessory prayer wrong 😉

        • Meika

          honeybee, I had to smile when you said, “we have a corpus on our crosses.” As a Protestant growing up in a Catholic area, I remember as a young child asking my mom why Catholics were different than us (probably wondering why I couldn’t have a First Communion like all my friends!). Her answer was something about Catholics keeping Jesus on the cross, while we thought it was more important that he’d risen from the dead. I mean no offense – I just thought it was funny that you mentioned that specifically! Catholics certainly do have a stronger theology of suffering than most Protestants do (although that may have as much to do with the death of Protestant theology as anything else, but that’s another post…), but I never made the connection between that theology and the visual of Jesus on the cross. Thanks for this!

          • honeybee

            No offense taken or given, I hope!

            On the other hand, when I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Jesus wasn’t on crosses in Protestant churches!

            I love Protestants and what they have contributed to my understanding of Christ, grace and justification. I also listen to several very orthodox Protestant preachers ( I’m a regular listener to the White Horse Inn, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, and Fighting For The Faith).

            I’m not thinking of swimming the Tiber in the opposite direction, but I sure do like to visit!

          • honeybee

            Meika: No offense taken (or given, I hope!).

            I had the same reaction when I was a kid to crosses worn by non-Catholics.

            I love Protestants and am a regular listener to podcasts from The White Horse Inn, Fighting For The Faith, Tim Keller sermons and Pastor Jonathan Fisk. While not ready to cross the Tiber in the opposite direction, I sure do like to visit with the other side!

          • honeybee

            Sorry for the double post!

  9. Lucinda

    Really enjoyed reading this post AND the comments. I,too, get frustrated when I hear these stories because – on the one hand – I feel I’m trusting God for much more significant things than cake and he’s not coming through. Is that because he’s providing what he knows I need and not what I think I need? Almost always I end up feeling like if I could just get something right enough…things would work out/be provided etc.

    So on the one hand I’m encouraged to trust God more and maybe I rush in and meet my needs the best way I know how istead of waiting on God… and on the other – sometimes I feel forgotten.

    • Louise

      I know how you feel; there are a couple of things that I continally ask God for, and they haven’t happened yet/at all. It’s hard not to be discouraged, plus I’m naturally an organisational control freak, so I have a hard enough time trusting God to provide anyways. I don’t know if it helps, but at least know you’re not alone. And I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  10. Magnificat

    As Honeybee said, it’s typical feel-good story and it makes me feel uneasy.
    Trusting God is something much, much more serious.
    These sweet stories may help little children; to others, they are almost (maybe it’s to harsh word, but I can’t help myself) idiotic.

    • TomaBlizanac

      I don’t like this story. This is something quite different from what many saints experienced when they had no food to feed the hungry brethren or children, but God provided.

      Also, why did they not ask the woman who came specifically to inquire if they needed any help. Was she not sent by God? No, they wanted an obvious miracle. They should have kept the story for themselves and thanked God. When they tell it like this it does sound as if they were testing God.

      • honeybee

        I totally agree with you.

        Told as it is, it reads like a cheap parlor trick or on the par of just opening your Bible and sticking your finger on a verse to tell you what to do.

        I don’t doubt the sincerity of Brother Andrew and the missionaries, just their methods and theology.

        • Catherine

          Yeah, I agree. Not asking the lady who wanted to help is a bit ridiculous. It’s like that old story of the drowning man who refuses help from the passing boat because he thinks “God will save him” and when he drowns he meets God and asks why He didn’t save him and God says “Well I sent you a boat!”

          I thought the lady who wanted to help was like the boat. Is there some cultural difference I’m missing that would have made it rude to ask her for cake?

          • Jen G

            Well, the story did say that they were not allowed to ask for what they needed. I recently heard of a community like that, where they cannot ask for specific wants and needs, but just accept whatever is given.

          • MStar

            I don’t think it’s like the man drowning. Keep in mind, they were not allowed to ask for anything. The fact that they restrained themselves from asking the woman for what they needed showed how highly they esteemed obedience to the authority placed over them, and obedience like that is something we admire in the saints.

            I don’t think the matter of the cake was as trivial as it may sound. Yes, trusting in God is much more than just expecting Him to give you what you want. But they didn’t expect God to just give them what they wanted. They didn’t just think, “Hey, let’s invite these people to tea. If we do that God ought to give us what we need.” Trusting God means being in such a close relationship with Him that you are following Him and in so doing you are relying on Him. The missionaries were led by the Spirit, led by God, to ask those people to tea, and they knew God well enough to trust that, if He really wanted them to have a true Scottish tea with those people, then He would bring them everything they needed, including cake. They were *led* by God to have the tea, so they thought, “Well, we don’t have anything for tea, but since God wants us to offer them tea, I guess we’d better do that and trust God to provide what we’ll need to carry out His wishes.” They knew God was worth following. They knew God wouldn’t ask them for something without making it possible. The key is that they were not acting on their own, but they were following His lead and trusting Him as they followed.

            Magnificat, I have to disagree with you. I don’t think it’s a “feel good story” at all. I think it’s a challenging story and that’s why Andrew wrote it in his book. The challenge and the question for me is: Do I have a strong enough relationship with God that I can follow His lead even through the tiny, seemingly insignificant things? Will I be able to see His lead, follow it, and trust Him as I’m led?

            I hope that my thoughts make some sense. Sorry if the reply is overly long 😛

  11. Kaitlyn

    How to make each day one in Trust School? Simple, yet so difficult.

    Pray to be dependent on God. Ask to trust Him more. Ask Him to test you, to show you the state of your heart in this matter.

    Pray, in each circumstance. “God, how can I trust You more in this?”

    It’s a dangerous set of prayers. It’ll probably rock your world, turn it upside down. It might get very scary and very hard to trust God.

    But He will never, ever fail to come through with exactly what we need according to His perfect will & timing.

    Just a few thoughts from my own personal experiences in daily “Trust School”.

    Also, in the interest of giving full honor and glory to the King, here’s a little story.

    Last year, I lost my job. I up and quit it and didn’t have the means to pay my bills. They’d asked me to please “tone down my Christianity” and I simply could not. (Did I mention I live in Michigan, the land of no-jobs-for-people-without-degrees?)

    Then I walked away from my side income. My spirit was deeply concerned about what the men in the company (who are leaders in the church I used to be involved in!) were doing to earn money.

    Next, I lost my apartment. The week I got evicted, my best friend’s older brother (age 25) died of a drug overdose. So on Friday I packed my things, on Saturday I attended his funeral, and on Sunday I left for a mission trip to Peru.

    I was devastated. I’d lost my financial security, I didn’t have a place to stay, and I was stuck in a foreign country for 8 days pouring into the lost when I felt broken and empty and useless. (God did amazing things through me while I was there of course!)

    It didn’t get better when I got home. I took care of what God had pressed upon me in Peru and walked away from the beginning of a relationship (thank God, that boy was a loser). I stayed with a friend for a month but I couldn’t get on my feet fast enough. So I moved home– with seven dogs, a seriously dysfunctional family, miles away from my church family and friends that were so dear to me.

    It got worse. I remember the night that I gave into the despair and begged God to just MOVE in my life already. I wailed in grief that I thought could not end.

    It got worse. We moved to another house, further away. My Mom’s boyfriend wound up being a crack addict. My mentally ill family moved in with her.

    Through it all, God drew me close. I’ve learned to trust in God. I’ve never been hungry, always had a place to sleep at night, paid my car payment each month (somehow! with no income!) and grew closer and more involved in my church than ever. I’ve been given the gift of joy beyond circumstance, and peace beyond understanding.

    On January 10th I started my new job– part time, not full. It’s been a trust-factor with God to pay my bills each day. And when I asked Him if I should get a second job to help make ends meet, he told me to volunteer at my church after work instead. On Thanksgiving day I went on my first date with my now-boyfriend… but he isn’t yet prepared (financially, mostly) to get married and I’m trusting God with our future.

    Each day is about trust! I’ve asked myself many of the same questions Brother Andrew asked himself. At this point, this quote speaks closest to what I’ve come to believe:

    ‎”The goal of life isn’t to make it to a point where we can breathe easy. It’s to get to heaven breathless. Tired because we’ve been faithfully and passionately following God – through valleys and mountains.” -Pastor Steven Furtick

    I apologize for my extra-long comment!

  12. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    There’s a difference between trusting in God and trusting that God will do what you want. In the Brother Andrew story, it all hinges on their understanding that having the tea was something *God asked them to do*.

    The hard part is listening enough and being open enough to hear what God wants. I’ve been re-reading Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray this Lent, and I’m stuck in the first chapter because he talks about how when we pray fervently about a situation (e.g, for me, pregnant mothers exposed to radiation in Japan) that doesn’t mean that we are closer to God, but that we care deeply about what we’re praying about. Ouch. So often we think trust is about moving mountains, when really it’s about moving our hearts.

    Trust is an abstract concept that is grounded in concrete relationships. To build trust you have to build the relationship. As anyone who’s been married a long time knows, that’s real work.

  13. Young Mom

    It’s stuff like this that has been pushing me away from the faith. All this mentality did for me growing up, was to teach me to “shut up and trust God” shut up about abuse, shut up about dreams, shut up about everything and just believe that God will take care of it all. Well, he didn’t. I also have a hard time with the “god sent me a chocolate cake because I trust him so much” when people begging for their baby to survive the NICU get ignored. Oh I forgot, maybe it’s because they didn’t have “enough” faith, or perhaps god was “teaching” them something through this situation.

    • Sue from Buffalo

      Jesus trusted God even though he got nailed to a cross. He trusted him even though he was brutally beaten, stripped and killed.

      What are we to take away from that? What are we supposed to learn? They told us in the Bible that life would not be easy and that the good would suffer along with the bad.

      This is a hard concept to take. I mean…how much worse can it get than to die like he did? Abandoned by his friends. And yet he trusted God the Father. He asked God to have the “cup” removed from him and still he trusted God when he said, “no.” What was he trusting about? Perhaps that God saw everything and knew what had to be done…knew what had to be endured. Not that God wants someone’s baby to suffer or for another to be abused. I really don’t think that’s the case. As hard as it is to accept, this is part of life in a sin filled Earth. God helps us get through this life, grow in it, reach out to him in preparation for the next life. This is a really difficult concept but I think this is the case.

      What we all want is the belief that if we trust then we will get what we want and yet that seems very childish to me. Maybe the whole idea is not that he is going to save us from the here and now but more for the hereafter. We’re thinking too small.

      Perhaps a better question for us to ask is “Why do we have to suffer?”
      Can I trust God even as I’m suffering?
      Can I trust God to be with me as I’m suffering and to take me to that beautiful heaven once I die?

      Can I trust him with the bigger picture? Can I expand my vision of what life is really about?

      (Just a couple of thoughts)

    • Julia at LotsaLaundry

      I hear you loud and clear on this. There are mothers who cry out to God for daily bread for their children, only to have their babies die of malnutrition. I spent many years in a heart-wrenching situation, wondering how one trusts God when one doesn’t know for sure if he’ll say yes or no. I finally realized that he’s not a superhero or magician whose role is to miraculously solve our problems. Realizing that left room to grasp that trusting in God is different than trusting in an outcome.

      If you want someone to talk to about this, feel free to contact me off-list at


    • MyFeminineMind

      This is a question that I have pondered a lot. For me, it is the Paschal Mystery, that is the mystery that after Death comes the Resurrection, and you’re better in the Resurrection than you ever were before the Death, in Life. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that went on for 7 years, I have wondered ‘why’ and ‘where was God’. But now that I have traveled through the stages of healing, I ask a different question. ‘Could someone who has never known daily fear be moved to joyful tears for the simple fact of having a husband who is so gentle and kind as I have?’ ‘Could someone who has never known the utter dehumanization of a sexual assault ever fully know, could she ever really have such an unshakeable conviction of her inherent and undefiable dignity as is my conviction?’ ‘Could a person who has never known these things live in radical gratitude, could she live a truly joyous life experiencing the simple blessings of everyday life?’ Maybe. But I doubt it. It seems more likely that such a person would be like the rich kids who get everything they ask for. They take it all for granted, and because they don’t have gratitude they don’t have real joy.

      I have had three miscarriages. Some might think that my children’s lives were such a waste, only having lived long enough to make me sad at their passing. And even though I still cry for myself, I am so happy for my three children who are in heaven contemplating the face of God. Furthermore, I am humbled that God has given me such a profound a gift as having not one, not two, but THREE saints in heaven who all have a special and vested interest in praying for the needs of this family, and in a special way me, who am their mother.

      I don’t think God desires that we suffer, but God always and everywhere desires our highest good, and thus he permits suffering, because without it there is no true joy.

  14. Liesl

    I always get so torn about things like this – because trusting God would be so much easier if humans weren’t such failures. But I feel like a lot of times when people tell you to just trust God, they expect you to just sit around and wait for something to happen… So I have a hard time deciding where I need to be proactive and discover God’s lead through my actions vs. sitting around waiting for the cake to arrive at my doorstep.

  15. Kristen @ St Monica's Brdige

    I, too, am bothered by the idea that faith means God will give us what we ask for/desire/want vs God will give us what we need regardless of our human and imperfect definitions of “fair” and “just” may be. Today I am on my knees (as I am every day) in a desparate situation that has been on-going but reaching a boiling point with this prayer only, “If it be your will Father…only Your will.”

    • Jessica

      Kristen, may God bless you, give you strength, and mercifully bring you through your trials. I pray it is over soon and that you He graces you with peace and hope.

  16. Diane

    I often wonder what truly trusting God means for my American lifestyle. Does it mean not having insurance? A retirement account? A savings account? A job?

    • Catherine

      Oooh, I agree. I was just wondering if stockpiling food in case of an emergency was on par with not trusting God. I was reading Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Grrr. . . so confusing

    • Magnificat

      Not having insurance, a retirement account or job? To continue this list, why having a house, education, loving friends and family, doctors and dentists? Let all Christians be uneducated, unemployed, homeless and without a living soul who cares … in order to learn to trust God? I don’t think so.
      It’s true that you can really learn truly trusting God in helpless situations – war, grave illness, prison, etc. But to voluntarily seek these situtions is not only silly, it’s sinful (except for rare, indeed very rare souls).
      So do your job, buy a house if you can afford it, love your friends and family, regularly visit your doctor and dentist, and be grateful. Be very grateful, and help less fortunate ones.
      And don’t be afraid, you’ll be in plenty of situations for learning to trust God.

  17. Mary Beth

    I love this book, but until I read your post, I did not realize that i need to give a copy to the president of our kids’ (Catholic) high school. He is a very good man, and is really trying to do the right things, but is beholden to the biggest donors to the school, who are not interested in a solid formation in the faith, but a shiny school with superior athletics.

    Going to buy him a copy today. Thanks, Jen!

  18. Nichole

    Such a timely post for me! I am struggling with a situation in my life right now and the story of Brother Andrew trusting God to provide a cake (right up to the last minute!) really hit home. I felt a peace come over me as it hit me that all I need to do is trust God to provide. I don’t need to worry about the details because that’s God’s specialty. I definitely feel enrolled in “Trust School” right now and to me, that is truly exciting because I know it is a time for me to grow. I have added the book to my ever-growing list of must-reads!

  19. priest's wife

    TRUST- hmm….something I needed to read today…even though my reality is the same, I feel a bit better 🙂

  20. Sr Anne

    There are tons of stories like these in the lives of the saints. Our Founder, Bl. James Alberione, would send people across the ocean without funds, telling them that everything begins at Bethlehem, but he also knew from experience what it was to have bills mounting and suddenly to receive the exact amount needed to pay them from a “random” stranger. (The same sort of thing has happened about 20 years ago to a family I know.) When my uncle, a Jesuit brother, was in novitiate, he was sent out with one or two companions on a mission trip with a nickle. It was worth more than it is today, but a nickle still wasn’t exactly enough to provide for a single day’s needs. The Jesuits then (and still now) know that their men will learn how little they really do need, and how amazingly God will provide it, only if they are “forced” to rely on the Lord. (An article in America magazine a couple of years ago has a young Jesuit’s story, and it reads very much like Brother Andrew’s.)
    Once in a while, God may provide the chocolate cake, but it’s really a lesson to get his servants to trust him with total abandonment when the hour of the cross comes, as it always does. (Why would we even want to avoid the cross, if we desire communion with Jesus?)

    • Aimee

      I love this post, especially the final line! And i think there’ something to the notion of those who are specifically doing missionary work receiving (sometimes) this kind of help. It makes me think of the story of the young rich man, and the special demands that are placed on some people.

  21. Lisa Nicholas

    Well, Jen, if you really want some lessons in trusting the Lord, believe me, He will give you some! Just remember that He is more generous than we can ask or imagine — and sometimes the lessons are more generously-sized than we expect. A few years ago, I began to realize that, of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity), Hope was the one I needed the most work on. I was in a stressful job, one that I knew couldn’t be permanent (a contract teaching position at a university in the Midwest) and so I began to pray that God would increase in me the virtue of Hope. And he has done so, but not in the way I expected or desired.

    My job became more and more stressful and my health began to suffer. I knew I should be looking for the next job, but I was so exhausted I had trouble finding the time or energy to do so; as my anxiety rose, I prayed ever more urgently for greater trust in God’s providence to supply the things I felt increasingly unable to provide for myself. I think I was hoping for the equivalent of a cake in the mail, but God had other ideas.

    The more I prayed for Hope, the worse my situation became. I discovered my teaching contract would not be renewed, just as the country was sinking into the current recession; teaching opportunities were drying up along with the rest of the job market, and the few good prospects I pursued looked promising for awhile but finally went bust. The day after I turned in my last set of grades, with no more job and no new job prospects, I had an episode that was probably an anxiety attack, but felt like a heart attack. I kept thinking that any day God would bring a job my way, but it didn’t happen. I just didn’t understand why God’s providence was not kicking in. I called my parents and told them I didn’t see any option but to return to Texas and move in with them (this, after I’d been on my own for more than 30 years!). I barely had the strength to pack and move, and was on the point of physical collapse when I finally loaded the car and headed south. While I worked at giving my old home a final clean-out, I shouted at God as Job did, demanding to know why life had to be so hard, and why I, a good person, had to suffer. (Yes, even then, I realized I was casting myself in the role of Job. I got the same reply he did.) I felt like an utter failure, but I continued to trust that God had something in store for me.

    All that happened nearly two years ago. I’m still looking for a job, and I’m paying my bills by liquidating my retirement accounts. Sounds bad, right? And yet, in His own inscrutable way, God has provided (is providing, will provide) for me. What had seemed like a great fall has turned out to be a great blessing. I’m happier and more at peace than I’ve been in years; moving in with my elderly parents — which I thought was a sign of failure — has allowed me to become reacquainted with them, to be a part of a family for the first time since I graduated from college, to be a help to them in their old age (both have health problems), and to feel loved and appreciated in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. I’m slowly recovering from my own stress-related health problems. Although my unemployment benefit soon expired, I have been able to pay my bills (mostly), sometimes with the help of unexpected gifts of case from family and friends. I’m back in my “home” parish, surrounded with dear friends who are glad to have me back, and I realize now that I had desperately missed that intimate circle of friends. Some of them are unemployed or in stressful jobs with difficult people, and I’m able to give them moral support and understanding. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been tutoring Latin and loving it, and as the academic (higher ed) job market remains bleak, I’m thinking that maybe God wants me to teach in some other environment (maybe a Catholic high school, something I never seriously considered before).

    Although I still don’t know what grand plan God has for me (as God said to Job, why should I?), I realize that my “bad” situation has been the occasion of many blessings, none of which I had foreseen when I was still struggling to “make it on my own.” I’ve learned that I *can’t* do it on my own, and never could; I’ve learned to trust God when I cannot see the way forward, nor even the next step (as a fortune cookie recently told me, “Just because you don’t know where you’re going doesn’t mean you’re not headed in the right direction.”). I’ve learned that God permits suffering so that we will acknowledge our own helplessness and rely to Him. I’m still learning that, but the lessons I’ve learned so far are sweeter and more satisfying than any cake in the mail.

  22. Lisa

    Thanks for this post. I needed a reminder to trust. I’ve been working in Thailand for 8 years now and God has always provided abundantly for me. But now things have changed, I’m married and expecting our first baby and expenses are rising drastically. I’ve started to worry. Looks like I need to read Brother Andrew again. I haven’t read his book since high school.

  23. Denise

    This sort of book is exactly what I need to read right now. Thank you. “Sleeping during class” – heh. I don’t *think* I’ve been sleeping (I feel God’s pointed out pretty clearly the areas in which I need to build trust, and how), but I know for a fact I’ve not done my homework…

  24. Gail F

    I read this book when I was the only Catholic in a Christian book club. I was prepared to dislike it intensely (as I had other “missionary” fare) but I really enjoyed it. I would encourage those who think it is too much like tempting God or reducing God to a parlor trick or refusing suffering to actually read it for yourselves.

    Sometimes, I think, Protestant groups emphasize some things to the detriment of others. But many of them are GOOD things. Trust in God is good, and the stories in the book (I take Brother Andrew at his word) are really something! I think anyone can learn something about trusting God to provide by reading this book. There is much more to the Church that absolute trust in God, but it is a good start and it is something many people never try for, much less achieve.

    We also read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, and it is a wonderful Protestant witness to forgiveness and trust in God. I originally read it in high school, and got much more out of it as an adult.

  25. Rosemary

    I am very glad there are thoughtful comments on this topic, and that not everyone is being carried away with emotional enthusiasm.

    This sentiment is indeed Protestant, and as someone suggested, very close to the “name it and claim it” school of thought. I’ve known people who’ve used it, for well and ill. I’ve known fervent Christians who started a business, and “trusted God to worry about the details.” Their business failed.

    One of the things I dearly love about Catholicism, and was such a help and antidote when I converted, is that it calls “prudence” a cardinal virtue.

    I’m uneasy with the way people can subtly pressure one another into greater and greater acts of imprudence, out of a desire to be/feel (seem?) more holy. I would suggest it’s a romantic notion, without much reality behind it.

    One could find oneself starting to make one’s decisions based on what would be a good story for one’s friends or one’s blog readers rather than what would make a better life for oneself and one’s family.

    Having recently read the heartbreaking letters of devastated family to a pedophile priest’s religious superiors, letters that were ignored, I’m reminded of how unwise, and possibly even sinful, excessive trust can be.

    Some might argue that “that’s trusting man, not God”. My concern is that trusting God in that sentimental way (rather than a more solid sort some posters are discussing) leads to suspending rightful caution.

    It’s making that marshmallow-soft thrill of a “trusting feeling” into an idol.

    • Kris

      Well said Rosemary!

    • Lisa R.

      “One could find oneself starting to make one’s decisions based on what would be a good story for one’s friends or one’s blog readers rather than what would make a better life for oneself and one’s family.”

      Wow. That was rude. Is that really what you think Jen is doing here? Perhaps you should reread Matthew 7:3-5. Is this how you normally treat kind, well-meaning people? That’s really kind of sad.

    • Mary

      Rosemary, I have always had trouble with the obedience part of Catholicism. I really hear you. I think it was well, said, but was also confused by the blog part. I don’t think you meant to be rude.

  26. Jessica Snell

    Thank you for posting this. It came right on a day where I knew what God had asked me to do and I was scared to do it. It was exactly what I needed to hear. (And yes, I did the thing, and yes, it was just fine! He was there and helped me through it.)

  27. Kris

    Amen to that! Well said.

  28. Ten Boom

    Thanks for recommending The Hiding Place Roxy,its definitely an amazing book that one should not miss.

  29. MyFeminineMind

    I think I went through trust school when I was 8 months pregnant, was the breadwinner, and lost my job when I was put on bedrest. Such a stressful time. I brought Felicia into the world having no idea how we were going to provide for her. We were so dirt poor. Government assistance helped and some how or another money always came when we needed it. We never got behind on bills and we always had enough to eat and we were fine in our little apartment, and a job fell into my lap the Monday after my 6-week post partum checkup. Since then, I guess I don’t stress about money so much. I just assume things will be fine, that I can count on God to take care of us. And recently, even though we still don’t have much money (though a lot more thqn we had at that time) I tell myself that we’ll have as much money as God wants us to have, or worded differently, that we’ll have enough money to do and give to the things that God wants us to. And I hope that if great challenges come, that I will be able to trust in God’s care for us. But I suppose that’s the real question, will I trust still when I am being crucified? I hope so.

  30. Amy

    Just found this at a yard sale for ten cents a few days ago – what an amazing read! I’ve passed it on to a friend already, but I think it will linger in my mind – thanks for mentioning it! Had I not read this entry I’d have passed the book by!


    Really good article, Interesting and useful, apart from this I am an engineer & yesterday I was reading an article about Jason Halek . I really feel to share with you guys. I read about him. He was only 10 years old when he started working small jobs in his community and then he started business of soft drink and now he is the successful business man. He owns several oil and gas production companies. Jason Halek is not only the successful business man but also a philanthropist. He established Halek Charities & nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance to various humanitarian causes. I really got inspired by him.

  32. Eva

    So so so so late to the party here, but I just waned to say…
    I’ve had this book on my must read list ever since you mentioned it, but just couldn’t find it- not in any library that I could find and not available on kindle ( and as amazon postage is $15 to Australia that wasn’t an option). Anyway, at church today I was bouncing the baby,marrying to listen to the sermon and scanning the bookshelves at the same time ( as you do) when- there it was! Waiting for me, as it probably had been all along 🙂

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates