Are We Afraid to Get Too Close to God?

By Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, S.V.

Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, S.V., entered the Sisters of Life in 2009 and professed her final vows in 2018. She wrote the Litany of Trust and serves as the local superior of the Sacred Heart Convent. 


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Although we may have never said it aloud, many of us have likely prayed, in one way or another, “Lord, I want to be close to you, but not too close.” 

Skimming the stories of any number of saints can give the impression that their lives were all about suffering. St. John of the Cross was thrown into a basement cell and banished by his own community. St. Thomas More was put to death for speaking the truth about the sacredness of marriage. St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Padre Pio was given the stigmata, bearing on his body the five wounds of Christ. 

Thinking about these saints and others, we might begin to wonder, “So if I really go out on a limb for You, Lord, and trust You, will I be worse off for it? Does loving You mean I will be left destitute, to face life without even the necessities?” 

St. Thomas More’s friend of thirty-five years, the scholar Erasmus, said of him, “He was one of the happiest men that ever I met.” And Padre Pio would surprisingly say, “I really cannot tell you how grateful I am to so tender a Father for the many benefits He continues to lavish on us.”  

In reality, saints had a joy deeper than passing feelings or external circumstances, because their entire lives were consumed by love. A saint is someone who loves God with their whole heart. The person who has been in love knows that a sacrifice for their beloved is different than a sacrifice for someone they detest. In fact, they would willingly suffer to spare the one they love pain, or simply to be with them. Therefore, in the suffering they endured, the saints could say with Christ, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). Love alone gives meaning to suffering, and the love of Christ turns even the direst circumstances into eternal gain. 

When we become invested in something or someone, it hurts all the more when it is taken from us or we fail to find what we hoped for. We’re tempted to think it would have been better if we never began to walk down this path in the first place, feeling like our trust is broken because we did not agree to this. Yet, God would never pull the rug out from under us. He has only one intention: to never be separated from us. Jesus does allow us to be stripped of things, even good things, that keep us from closer union with Him, so as to clothe us with Himself. We are emptied only to receive more of Him.  

In 1964, on the small island of Okinawa, which is off the coast of Japan, a Navy chaplain found himself entrusted with the spiritual welfare of thousands of men preparing to be sent into Vietnam during the war.  

The island air was heavy with fear and anxiety. Men who were away from their families faced countless temptations. At the same time, this priest who had been assigned to care for these men began to experience a deep interior emptiness. As he started to question his faith, he wondered how this could be happening to him, as he had tried so hard to be a good priest and to faithfully serve God. He wondered if the most fitting thing that could happen to him would be to die with his troops. The words that came to the surface of his heart over and over again were Christ’s words on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Despite the overwhelming emptiness he felt, the chaplain continued night after night to go to the tin-hut chapel on base and sit before the tabernacle. 

Every day he chose again to be a spiritual father to his troops, celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, encouraging his men, and organizing retreats for them. The last of the six retreats at Okinawa in those months had the commanding general and most of the senior officers of the base in attendance. His choice to be faithful to a deeper love—his commitment to Christ—rather than escaping its difficulty bore tremendous fruit. Then one day, the desolation lifted completely. In the months that followed, the priest would volunteer to follow his men into Vietnam, continuing to bring them Christ in the midst of war. The commanding general, Lewis Walt, reported, “No single individual in this command contributed more to the morale of the individual Marine here in Vietnam than Father O’Connor.” 

Chaplain John O’Connor, who would later become Cardinal O’Connor, took the narrow gate of a faithful love which leads to life (Matt 7:13–14). He trusted the path of God in his emptiness, and through him God filled countless hearts. Trust carves out a greater capacity for love within us. 

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We were made for love, and love requires trust. In Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust, Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, S.V., learn what it means to place our trust in Jesus—no matter the circumstances.