Book review: God Will Provide by Patricia Treece

I don’t think of myself as someone with trust issues.   Having faith in other people is something that, overall, comes naturally to me.

But trusting in God: well, that tends to be a bit more challenging.

It’s not that I don’t believe in a kind and loving God.  I do, more and more deeply all the time.  But when life throws a monkey wrench into my plans, my first response is not to sit back and breathe deeply and believe that Divine Providence has it all under control.  It’s to spin in mental circles, trying desperately to figure out Exactly What I Need To Do to make it all right (emphasis on the “I”).  And don’t even get me started on medical issues.  If I discover some rogue pain or physical symptom I’ve never had before, I Google it and scan website after website, mentally diagnosing myself with everything from deep-vein thrombosis to  cancer, while my husband puts his hands around his mouth like a megaphone and intones “STEP. AWAY. FROM. THE. COMPUTER.”

Trusting that all is going to be fine?  Not my default position.

So when I received a review copy of Patricia Treece’s book God Will Provide: How God’s Bounty Opened to Saints — and Nine Ways It Can Open for You, Too, I was somewhat intrigued.   First of all, I have a thing for the saints.   Second, I was curious to see how their stories could, perhaps, give me a little boost in the trust department.

And it’s quite a thought-provoking read.  Treece offers multiple examples of saints (both those who have been formally canonized, and those who haven’t) who surrendered control to God — who believed that God would provide what they need, and lived accordingly.   And it’s fascinating to read these stories.  Some of them are well-known figures, like Mother Theresa or St. Frances Cabrini.  Others are some I’d never heard of before, or about whom I knew very little.  Solanus Casey, for example, was a Capuchin priest in Michigan in the 1930s whose generosity to the poor was centered on a tremendous faith that God would always give him food to give to those in need.    Admittedly, it’s tempting for me to read the stories in the book and to think, “Oh, it’s just coincidence that a man showed up with a truckload of bread to donate at the precise moment when Father Casey had nothing to give the men waiting in the food line.”   Treece offers the argument that the precision of the gifts is what proves that they are a gift from God: the gift matches the need.   And  she argues that believing that God will cover you is, ultimately, a more fruitful and enriching way to live than the opposite.   From the times in my life when I have been able to manage that kind of faith in adversity, I can definitely agree with that philosophy.

I especially enjoyed Treece’s chapters on how to cultivate gratitude, retool our minds, and listen for the “negative scripts” that are often operating underneath our conscious awareness, scripts which can be characterized by  a critical view of ourselves or others.   She encourages the reader to confront these and grow beyond them, learning to trust and believe that God wants what is best for us and that we can trust that the best will come … even if it’s not in a form we may have envisioned at first.

All in all, it’s a book that challenges me to realize that I don’t have to try to fix or control everything myself.   As Anne Lamott once wrote, it’s about learning to take our own sticky little hands off of the wheel.   And though that’s hard to do — really hard, for some of us — we have lots of great models in our faith, models of people who have done exactly that.  On Monday, for example, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, when a teenage girl from Galilee took her own hands off the wheel and agreed to be taken on a ride she could never have imagined.  And that kind of faith — as we know — can forever change the world.

Review copy courtesy of Paraclete Press.

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