Have Confidence in God
by Fr. Paolo Segneri, 1892
Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy prudence.
In all thy ways think on Him, and He will direct thy steps (Prov. iii. 5, 6).
I. Consider first, that when the Wise Man tells thee to have confidence in God with all thy heart, he does not mean that thou shouldst not make use also of the prudence which God has bestowed on thee; he does not say "use not," but only "lean not upon thy own prudence;" indeed, by bidding thee not to lean upon it, he takes for granted that thou art to make some use of it; otherwise, thou wouldst display not confidence, but rashness; and both those who are rash and those who are over-prudent are equally displeasing to God;. the former, because they act as though they would oblige Him, the latter, because they act as though they scorned to be obliged to Him. Therefore St. Peter said, "Be prudent," but added immediately, "and watch in prayers (1 St. Peter iv. 7.)." It might seem as though there were no connection between these two things, prudence and prayer, yet they are to be always united. If thou act with prudence, foreseeing and preparing for everything as far as is in thy power, thou showest that thou hast no idea of obliging God to work miracles, as is the case with the rash man when, for example, he "goes out unadvisedly to fight (1 Mach. v. 67)." And if, at the same time, thou art diligent in invoking. Him, thou showest that thou art not too proud to be indebted to Him, as the over-prudent man is, who thinks that he has need of no one but himself: "Our hand hath done all these things (Deut. xxxii. 27.)."
II. Consider secondly, why it is that thou shouldst not rely upon thy prudence: "Lean not upon thy own prudence." For the very reason that it is thy own, and consequently fallacious--"The staff of a reed"--for thou canst not foresee everything that will happen, and even if thou couldst foresee, thou canst not alter it. What, then, must thou do? Thou must form a resolution according to what prudence dictates, that is, right reason; but having done this, thou canst not rest in it, but have recourse to God, and place in Him all thy confidence as to success: "Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart." This is to act wisely, not to trust to ourselves, to our own wisdom, reason, or courage, but to trust in God alone: "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord (Jerem. xvii. 7)."
III. Consider thirdly, that the Wise Man does not think it enough that thou shouldst hope in God, but he requires also that thou shouldst trust in Him. Therefore he says "have confidence," not "have hope in the Lord." All confidence is hope, but all hope is not confidence. Hope admits of there being in the heart some fear of the contrary of that which it hopes for; confidence does not. And therefore confidence is indeed hope, but a firm and strong hope such as was in Christ, according to those words, "I will put My trust in Him (Hebrews ii. 13)," for hope, strictly speaking, was not in Christ. It is this confidence which the Wise Man desires in thee. He would have thee trust in God, and moderate that excessive solicitude into which prudence is sometimes apt to degenerate: "Set bounds to thy prudence (Prov. xxiii. 4)." Dost thou fear that He will not give success to thy affairs if it is for thy good? What is it that thou fearest? "Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart"--yes, "with all thy heart." Let hope so fill thy heart that there may be no room left for fear, and thus thy hope will become confidence.
IV. Consider fourthly, that in order that God should protect thee in this manner, there is one thing that He requires. It is, that thou shouldst always keep Him clearly before thy mind: "In all thy ways think on Him." Thou must think that He loves thee, that He helps thee, that He watches thee; but above all thou canst, in every action of the day, renew the pure intention of pleasing Him alone in it, so that He alone may be the end for which thou doest it. For the words which are translated "think of Him," are cogita ilium, not de illo, to show that thou must set God before thee as the object of thy action, and so keep thy eyes constantly fixed on Him. When thou dost this "in all thy ways," thinking of Him in this sense, cogitare ilium, then thou needest fear nothing, because He will be bound to direct every step thou takest: "He will direct thy steps." Dost thou know what these daily actions of thine are? It is an awful thought. They are so many paths, which may gradually lead thee either to Heaven or Hell: "The way of life and the way of death (Jerem. xxi. 18)." How great, then, is thy need that the Lord should "direct thy steps," lest, without thinking, thou shouldst be travelling, not to Heaven, but to Hell! And this is the only way of being safe in so great a danger, to be continually renewing thy intention, turning to God, commending thyself to God, keeping Him ever before thee, "thinking of Him." Do this, and thou art sure not to be lost.
V. Consider fifthly, that it seems to thee a matter of great difficulty to do this constantly "in all thy ways." And I admit that it is difficult. But why? Because thou dost not "have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart." I mean, that thou mayest "have confidence in the Lord," that is, thou mayest put thy trust in Him, but not "with all thy heart," that is, thou dost not trust only in Him, thou trustest in thyself too; thou "leanest upon thy own prudence." If thou didst understand this great truth, that of thyself thou canst do nothing, but that at every moment of thy life, in spite of all thy prudence, thou art lost unless God takes thee by the hand and guides thee, dost thou think that thou wouldst find it so difficult to think of Him even at every moment? If thou walkest at night in a strange road, in imminent danger of falling over a precipice at every step, dost thou find the slightest difficulty in thinking at every step of the guide who conducts thee and who knows the road? So far from it, it would be difficult for thee not to think of Him even if thou hadst to travel all night. And so it will be when thou art thoroughly imbued with the need thou hast of God in all thy ways, that is to say, in every action, which may easily lead thee to perdition if thou leavest off thinking of Him. But thou art not thus imbued with this need of Him, because thou still trustest a little to thyself: "Thou leanest upon thy own prudence." Thou knowest that thou hast acquired a certain habit of doing right, and so thou trustest to thyself; but what arrogance this is! This habit, however long thou mayest have formed it, with all thy virtues whether infused or acquired, does not obviate thy need of fresh grace for every fresh action that thou performest, especially if it be one of some consequence. Thou needest God's concurrence to strengthen thy will by a fresh supply of actual grace; for thou art like a little child who, because he has had the support of his mother's hand one hour, does not need it less during the next, for, if left to himself, he is sure to fall. So, if thou understandest that thou art every instant so greatly in need of God, how is it possible that thou art satisfied with merely praying to Him at the beginning of the day, as though to do so more frequently were too difficult for thee? Do, then, as I advise: "Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart;" place all thy confidence in God alone, and understand clearly that, left to thyself, thou wilt infallibly be lost. "Lean not upon thy prudence," and then I promise thee that thou wilt no longer find it so difficult to think of Him, and that too "in all thy ways."