For children, as you may recall, the world is a very unsettling place. Parents often take the place of God for children, which is one of the reasons I believe God invented them. Parents model God to their children. Parents, though, are all too human (I’m a parent, so I am painfully aware of this fact); sometimes they let us down. However, I understood early on that while parents and other people can and will fail us, God never fails. He is perfectly trustworthy, always, even when it seems He isn’t listening.
Of course, the reality about trusting God is that you don’t need to do it — or at least it’s quite easy — when everything is going well. When we really need to trust God, it’s typically because we’re in some kind of crisis. Either we are fearful of the future, or we are fearful of the present. We find ourselves in some situation where we know we lack control, and distrust our own ability and the abilities of those around us.
The rest of the time, we probably don’t even think about trusting in God; we can take God for granted. Even when we think we are trusting God, often we are merely trusting in something we can see, and imagine that God is standing behind the scenes, pulling strings like some invisible Geppetto. For example, I can trust God for my finances because I happen to have money in the bank. If that were not the case, I’m sure I’d look at life a bit differently.
I do hate when my ability to trust in God is really tested. The first time I can recall really having my faith challenged was the day before my fourteenth birthday. We were having a terrible rainstorm, and I was in our entryway trying to keep rain from pouring under the door, when my aunt came bursting in. Within a few moments we understood that my uncle had been in a terrible car accident at an intersection about a half-mile from my house. Had it not been storming so hard, we probably could have heard the impact and could have seen the crash site (I lived on a country gravel road). Of course, had it not been raining so hard, my uncle may have seen the other car coming.
I recall sitting in our car outside the hospital emergency room, praying harder than I had ever prayed in my life that my uncle would be okay. Eventually, my parents came out to tell me he had been dead at the scene.
At that moment, I was confused. Could we or could we not trust God? Why were my prayers completely ignored? I don’t recall how I eventually worked through the issues, but I do know that my faith in God remained, even if I never understood why God didn’t save my favorite uncle.
Trust is like grace; you aren’t aware of how much you need it until you need it. The whole concept of trusting God would be moot if we didn’t have the need to trust in God. Because we live in an imperfect “world, with devils filled” that “should threaten to undo us,” as Martin Luther wrote (A Mighty Fortress), our ability to trust will be tested. This is not to say that God “tests” our faith to see whether He’ll save us or not. Rather, I think it’s like testing a parachute — you only really know it works after you’ve jumped out of the plane.
I am not claiming any kind of unique ability to trust; in fact, I’ll claim the opposite. I admittedly am a very weak and often undisciplined person. I have never been “religious” simply because I fail at it so miserably. I require loads of grace, even to get through one day. Part of the grace that I have been given is the knowledge that God is there, and that I have to trust Him, no matter what.
I am often unable to put on that strong, “man of faith” persona that some people expect from Christians. I don’t think trust requires us to be brave or strong at all. Trust by definition requires us to be weak, to recognize that we’re completely helpless without God. There are times when I am totally freaking out. I have occasional panic attacks. I have suffered from nearly every stress-related condition you can think of. However, deep down I know without a doubt that God is there, and I have no choice but to trust Him, even — or perhaps especially — in the darkest moments.
- Think back to your childhood; how did you learn to trust?
- When has your ability to trust been really put to the test?