3.17 Learning to Trust in God
Shaar HaBitachon Chapter 7
The following things interfere with a person developing his trust in God (in addition to the various impediments mentioned earlier in Chovos HaLevavos):
· Ignorance of God and His positive traits. If one doesn’t appreciate how God cares for His creations with great compassion, he will lack the confidence necessary to trust in Him;
· Ignorance of the Torah, in which God instructs us to place our trust in Him. Regarding this, Scripture says, “Trust in God forever” (Isaiah 26:4);
· Becoming preoccupied with visible causes, not realizing that the closer a cause is to an effect, the more impotent it truly is. For example, if a king wants to punish a servant, he orders a minister, who orders an advisor, who orders an officer, who orders a soldier, who orders a subordinate, who carries out the king’s wishes using tools designed for this purpose. The tools that punish the servant are the least powerful thing in the entire equation; the further removed each stage is, the more authority it has. The king, who is farthest removed, has the most authority, as only he can cancel the order and forgive the servant’s offense. The same is true when God sets something into motion through a series of spiritual and physical causes. God is the farthest removed from the effect, overseeing the entire process, delegating to a series of subordinates. The more we understand this, the more we can place our trust in God.
There are ten stages of trust: (1) An infant places his trust in his mother’s breasts, which are the source of his sustenance. (2) As the child grows and his perception improves, he transfers his trust to his mother as a person. (3) As he continues to grow and he perceives that his mother relies upon his father, the child transfers his trust to the father. (4) When the child matures physically and starts to support himself, he learns to trust in his own strength. (5) If he earns a living from another person, he comes to place his trust in that person. (6) If he develops intellectually, he will come to see the shortcomings in all these intermediaries and realize how everything ultimately depends on God. When this happens, he can learn to trust in God and rely upon Him for things that are beyond his control, like the weather and epidemics. (7) With further intellectual growth, he will come to trust in God even in areas in which he has some control. For example, if he earns his living in a dangerous occupation, he may give up that trade, trusting that God will provide for him through other means. (8) With even greater intellectual maturity, he will come to rely upon God fully in all ways, and his goal in all things will be to serve God. (9) With greater enlightenment, he will joyfully accept whatever God decrees for him. He will not desire anything that he lacks, desiring only those things that God desires for him. (10) When he reaches the height of intellectual maturity, he will understand why he was created, how passing this world is, and the importance of the Next World. When this happens, he will have no need for this world, dedicating himself completely to God in mind, body and soul. Whether alone or in a crowd, his greatest joy will come from reflecting on God’s greatness.
Anyone who trusts falls into one of these ten levels. The last level is the highest attainable by those who trust in God, including the prophets and the pious, as per Psalms 42:3, “My soul thirsts for God, the living God.”