A close cousin to the truth that “God loves me” is the belief that God is absolutely trustworthy. When I was a child, I was taught that we could trust God, no matter what. As Psalm 55:22 says,
Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
This simple truth – what some would call an over-simple truth, or even a fairy tale – was taught in Sunday School and also reinforced in the “grown-up” Sunday morning sermons, with topic verses such as “Remember the lilies of the field… (Matt. 6:28)” and “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? (Matt. 10:29)”
The “rugged individualism” of American culture would tell us to be self-reliant, trusting in our own abilities and hard work to succeed. Trusting in God is seen by many as merely a cop-out. However, trusting in God’s provision was a way of life in northwestern Minnesota, which was a completely agrarian culture and full of hard-working folk who expected very little in the form of hand-outs. When I was growing up, the area consisted mainly of small family-owned wheat farms. There was no pretense that we could control much of anything. We tilled the soil, planted and fertilized; the rest was out of our control.
I lived about four miles from the Red River, which boasts some of the best farm land in the world. What that meant was that about half of our land could be flooded every spring. Eventually it would be dry enough to cultivate and plant. And with one 3-month growing season, we didn’t have much time to spare. As the grain would grow and ripen, hail storms were our greatest fear – one good storm could wipe out the majority of a crop. Storms, it seemed, could come out of nowhere. It could be clear in the morning, then all of a sudden the air would change; in an hour, it could be pouring rain.
If we made it to late summer without losing any crops, we battled the rains which always seemed to show up the week of harvest. After the grain was cut and laid into swaths to dry, every rain diminished the value of the crop by washing away color and nutrients, and delaying the harvest for another couple of days. It was like watching your money washing down the drain.
Until the grain was sold or put into storage, nothing was for certain. Even then, there were risks. Grain is a commodity, sold on the open market similar to how stocks are traded. With one shot for a year’s income, sometimes farmers would take out loans with the crops as collateral; other times, grain would be sold short if the prices were high enough, with a guaranteed future delivery. Will the price drop, or go up? We were always subject to the whims of the grain markets.
We trusted in God’s providence. We could control nothing; all we could do was to be faithful and plant the seed. (All this was much too stressful for me, which is why I finally gave up farming.)
Living a lifestyle in which we knew the world was out of our control, trusting God was a logical decision. As Peter put it so well, “Where else would we go? (John 6:68)” Of course, many of us know that even in a culture of semi-monthly paychecks and 401(k)s, nothing is guaranteed. In the last couple of years, millions have learned this the hard way. Jobs disappear, as do investment portfolios, homes and retirement plans.
The myth of self-sufficiency dies hard. But when you’re a child growing up around people who are wise enough to see “from whence our help comes,” it’s perhaps easier to learn trust.
- Have you ever stopped to think about the culture in which you grew up?
- What did your culture as you were growing up teach you about trust?
Wow. I knew that there are many outside forces that affect farmers, but you painted a much clearer picture for me.
I don’t think I could live that way, either.
As it is, I have a very hard time trusting in the Lord. That theologian of glory dies hard.
Thanks very much, Alden!