What does it mean to trust somebody? Is it a thought--a belief in their reliability? Is it an emotion--a feeling of safety or lack of fear? Or is it an action--following a person or their directions despite what your mind or emotions may be saying to the contrary?
What does it mean to trust God? It could be argued that the Israelites trusted God to bring them the victory over Jericho because they followed the instructions He had given to Joshua. But do we know whether they trusted God in their hearts? Or were they shaking in their sandals as they marched around the city? Joshua had been told by his spies, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us,” (Joshua 2:24, NIV), but I imagine that not everyone had the same level of buy-in. It certainly seems possible that some doubts and fears could have been present in the assembly. After all, these guys were giants and God’s given “battle plan” was unorthodox, to say the least. So, did they really trust God or were they just hoping it would all turn out? Can a person trust and still have fear, or is that a contradiction?
If you have read my book, Be Strong and Courageous, you know that my family and I followed God’s call to move back to Alaska several years ago. You could say I trusted God because I acted on His leading…but you could also say I didn’t trust God because I had fear (actually, more like anxiety…oh and anger, too). I lacked the confidence that God “had plans to prosper (me) and not to harm (me), plans to give (me) a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) One of my go-to Scriptures during that time was Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV): “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” I rehearsed the verses, but I certainly couldn’t claim perfection. The reality was that I trusted in the LORD with some of my heart, and by God’s grace I didn’t have enough of my own understanding on which to lean, so I had to submit to Him…and resubmit…and resubmit. In fact, now that I consider it, the panic I felt at the time was probably the result of me trying to lean on my own understanding but having nothing solid to hold me up. I was freefalling emotionally. The benefit of that fear, I guess, was to make me more desperate for God--like a child clinging to her father for protection and safety.
Jesus’ brother, James, discusses the relationship between faith and deeds (James 2:14-26). He asserts, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (v. 17) and “a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (v. 24) These verses imply that your actions are the evidence of your faith. They do not, however, address whether actions can be accompanied by fear and still be considered faith. And what is the relationship between faith and trust? Some sources seem to indicate that trust is the demonstration of your faith. By this reasoning, in the example of a trust fall, you first must have faith that the person can--and will--catch you. Then, you demonstrate that faith by falling. To bring it back to topic, I have faith that God can catch me, but I struggle with trusting that He will.
Typically, when we talk about trusting people, it is situational. That is, we trust them for something, some specific result. A child trusts her dad to catch her when she jumps. A wife trusts her husband to be faithful to her. A parent trusts her teenage child to keep them both alive as he or she is learning to drive. (Totally random example!) So what is it that we are expected to trust God for? To keep us from harm in a dangerous situation? To heal a loved one? To prosper a business? To defend us against our accusers or give us victory in our battles, whether political, social, or familial? I don’t think so. And there’s the crux of it. That’s where we get into trouble. We decide to “trust” God for a certain result and when we don’t get what we were praying for, we feel cheated or betrayed. That frustration creates cracks in our heart and opens us up to the lies of the enemy. His goal since the beginning of recorded history is to get God’s created to doubt their Creator. He intentionally baited Eve when he asked, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1, NIV) He was planting doubt and distrust in her mind.
We need to become practiced at recognizing and rejecting Satan’s attempts to deceive us and undermine our trust in God. I tend to be much more proficient at detecting his lies in other people’s lives than I am in my own. Maybe that’s typical. Regardless, it is a good example of how we can help each other within the body of Christ. Like a spiritual Neighborhood Watch Program, we can alert people to the enemy’s lies we hear being disguised as truth in their words. So one way we can build our trust in God is to stop letting the devil steal it! “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10, NIV) Consider enlisting the help of another believer who may be able to identify the lies you have been accepting.
Another step we can take to move ourselves toward trusting in the LORD “with all (our) heart” is to do just that--move! Do something! Take a risk. I know it’s hard. Believe me, I like my comfort zone as much as anyone else. Recently, however, the thought occurred to me that lacking confidence in an endeavor might actually be a good thing. While this seems counterintuitive (and feels uncomfortable), stepping into areas that I perceive as personal weaknesses allows God’s strength to shine. We are told that His “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV) Witnessing this power builds trust in God as it becomes clear that He won the victory, not me. I am less likely to recognize His involvement in areas in which I feel confident of my own abilities.
Finally, my trust in God has grown through heartache. Certain crises have proven pivotal in my relationship with Him. I have clear memories of crying out to God to PLEASE fix a situation, praying so fervently for Him to rescue a relationship, feeling destitute of hope unless He would intervene. And while I didn’t experience the breakthrough on my knees, His fingerprints were later revealed. So now, when I’m in a similar situation, the Holy Spirit has something to refer back to. He reminds me that God has proven before that He really is for me (Romans 8:31) and that, though I can’t see it, the answer just may be in the works. This reminder bolsters my faith and emboldens my prayers. A spark of hope is lit. I begin to envision not a God, but my God in Heaven, hearing my cries and commissioning angels on my behalf. A taste of sweetness begins to invade my sour situation and, though I may still be sad for the present, I have hope for the future.
Yesterday, I heard the same song on the radio twice and, though I’ve heard it many times before, my heart reached out and captured these lyrics anew:
“I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.”
These lyrics in the song, "Whom Shall I Fear,” written by Ed Cash, Scott McTyeire and Chris Tomlin, resonated with me because I believe God is currently calling me to trust Him more. Not to trust Him for a specific result, but to just trust that He loves me as I am, that He is with me and for me, and that I really can release my heart to Him. I think we are used to hearing words like these and may pass over them too lightly. But if we pause to consider how our lives would be different if we fully believed each of these statements, the implications are enormous.
I pray that we would all come to “trust in the LORD with all (our) hearts.” What a difference that would make in our personal lives and in our world!