Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California
Years ago there was a song, first broadcast and published in 1956 and subsequently republished by different artists right up to the present time. The song title was: "Que Sera, Sera." The second stanza gives the message of the songwriter:
"Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be.
The future's not ours to see,
Que Sera, Sera,
What will be, will be."
Unfortunately, the message underlying this song is not at all consistent with the spiritual message underlying the teachings of Christ. Nor with many of the other world religions.
Blessed Augustine writes: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”i Some see a hypocritical contradiction in the adage. If we really had trust in God, we would sit back and let God do all.
Conversely, if we see ourselves as masters of our own ships, so to speak, we would just do all we can and attribute any accomplishment to our own efforts. However, mankind does not work in either/or dimensions. Some years ago, psychologist Hannah Levenson (1981) found our actions are simultaneously influenced by what she termed "multidimensional factors:" a generalized expectancy to perceive outcomes dependent on one's own behavior, along with the influence of chance, fate and powerful others [God-my emphasis].
The synergy between trust in God, but taking responsibility for right action, is well illustrated by King Solomon when he writes "He who trusts in his own mind is a fool; but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered." (Pv. 28: 26). Likewise an encounter with Mohammed and a Bedouin. Mohamed observed a Bedouin walking away from his camel without tying it down. The Bedouin answered Mohamed's inquiry to explain his action by saying he put his trust in Allah. Mohammad pointedly answered: "Tie your camel and place your trust in Allah."ii
There is another way our actions or lack of actions influence our future. Our Eastern Church Father, Evagrius the Solitary tells us: "Provide yourself with such work for your hands a can be done ...so that you are not a burden to anyone, and indeed can give to others, as St. Paul the Apostle advises. (cf. 1Th 2:9; Eph 4: 28).
In this manner you will ...drive away all the desires suggested by the enemy [Satan]." But the advice is even much stronger than this. Isaiah (50: 10) lays down the foundation for trust in God "...tell us Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God?"
But St. Paul in no unclear terms tells us what activates, such trust: "If any one will not work, let him not eat." (2 Th 3: 10). St. Isaac the Syrian brings this all together. "[A man may say] I trust in God, He will deliver me [from folly], and although he has never thought of God before, he says now: I trust in God, He will deliver me. Err not, thou fool.
Trust in God has to be preceded by works for the sake of God and by the sweat of his service....confidence in Him requires the testimony of the heart which is born of toils (for the sake) of excellence." (Wensinck, 1923).
Levenson, H. (1981). Differentiating among internality, powerful others, and chance. In Lefcourt H. (Ed.),Research with the Locus of Control Construct (Vol. 1), NY: Academic Press.
Wensinck, A. J. (ed., trans.) (1923). Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh. Amsterdam, Holland: Koninklijke Akademie Van Wetenschappen.