Practicing Trust

You hear it said a lot. People will relay this advice at funerals, reacting to a friend’s loss of a job or counseling someone through a crisis – “just trust God”. It sounds so spiritual to say, yet it is so nebulous. (Although, that is not the worst funeral advice I have ever overheard. That distinction belongs to a funeral director (you’d think he know better) who told exiting mourners “Make it a good night!”) Usually spoken when someone is either too uncomfortable or simply does not know what to say. We hate so much to plead our ignorance, so instead we dole out the advice that is technically true in all circumstances, just trust God.

But what does it mean to trust God? It is easy to say, but hard to conceptualize. Even the title of this blog is Choosing to Trust. During the most frustrating time of my personal crisis, I can remember reading a book on marriage that made the statement about trusting God. I don’t remember the context, but I do remember tearing the page out of the book in anger after angrily writing all over it “what does this mean” after any sort of exposition was lacking.

Like I said, it is easy to say or even write. Trust God. Well, no kidding, it’s even printed on the back of money. (Funny sign outside a small shop while on vacation “In God we trust, all others pay cash.) In light of the trials that we will inevitably face, HOW do you trust God. My advice for anyone would be to nail this down before the trials hit, or at least the big crisis hits. You’ll need something to fall back on. What does it mean to practice trust?

This took a lot of investigating, and I can honestly say that no matter what you think of this particular blog entry, dear reader, I would have paid a lot of money to read it a lot sooner. My learning, however remedial, has a large price tag attached. Jesus (who else?) really has a lot to say about what it means to trust. Some of his words are “I will be with you always”, “remain in me”, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”, among many similar statements to his disciples and those following him around.

The most impactful of these statements for me is the idea of rest or a carrying of burdens. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest. Peace. Not a promise that everything will get better, nor a promise that everything will work our in our favor. Just a promise of faithfulness and rest. In fact, as I read much of what Jesus said to his followers, it seems mostly to boil down to a promise that he will be there. A promise, by the way, that should be comforting in and of itself.

From heaven to earth, Jesus came to us in the first place. It became painfully obvious through watching the people Israel that we would not be able to obtain righteousness through obeying the law. So He had to come to us. He became our righteousness. And He has been faithfully promising that he would be with us ever since. He’ll give us springs of water flowing within, faithfully bear our burdens, give us an easy yoke, be the bread of life, and be there until the end of the age. That is really the beginning of trust, understanding that basic fact. Jesus is there. Why? Because He said so. He proved it by leaving heaven in the first place, so this is a promise that we can take to the bank.

As a kid learning to ride a bike without training wheels I knew when, on my first ride, my Dad let go of the back of my seat and I was on my own. But Dad kept running along side the bike for the entire ride. And for the second. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to lose my balance and fall (I did on the first run), but it did mean he was right beside me to lean into and catch me. He was behind me, I couldn’t see him, but I trusted that he was there (although, to be fair, he was huffing and puffing so I could hear him well). Same is true with Jesus. He’s there. That should be enough. It is, if we’ve come to him.

What keeps us from going to him? Same thing that always has. The very same thing that caused Adam and Eve to hide in the bush rather than running to God walking in the garden. Hebrews 12 states it well:

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily
entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us
fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…Consider him who
endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and
lose heart.

It is our sin that keeps us from going to him. In trying to become our own gods, solve our own problems, and demonstrating our disobedience, not only are we displaying our lack of trust but it also keeps us from going to Christ. Sin entangles. Like a fly caught in a spider web that it didn’t see. Sadly, the more the fly tries to escape on its own, the more stuck it becomes. Doomed to be consumed by the spider, the fly will struggle until exhaustion, probably thinking the whole time (do flies think? we’ll pretend here they do) I just need another second to get free.

When we are entangled by sin, as the passage above says, we can’t run the race. We get stuck. Our eyes lose focus on Jesus (who is there, like He promised) and we grow weary and lose heart. Bearing the burden on our own, carrying the yoke meant for two, we grow tired and lose heart. Quite the opposite of the rest that we are promised.

I was the fly in the web. Without seeing my own sin of pride, I struggled in my marriage that seemed so one sided. Fighting the cycle of lust, guilt, apology to God. Seeking affirmation from people I worked with and for. Frustrated by unmet expectations. I lost heart. The verses from Hebrews became a sad blue print of my life of entanglement in sin. Mostly ‘acceptable’ sins. Unseen by those around me because I had shut them out.

A friend of mine has a saying that you should never make a decision when your thinkers broke. Out of my weariness and hurt I started thinking badly. Striving to not hurt, rather than go to Christ, my spider became a relationship with another woman. With my broken thinker, I made all kinds of rationalizations (like “God brought us together”, oh wow, that is so pathetic, I can’t even fathom how that seemed reasonable) and decisions (“my wife will leave me if she knew”, how sadly passive is that, rather than continuing to confront my problems in my marriage or leaving myself, I would give her reason to leave me. Ouch. That right there is a new realization.).

While I thought life was tough when my struggle was ‘just’ pride, it became continually worse as I went further and further ‘prodigal’. What I thought was my second chance was really an invitation to chaos. Until the miracle. No other way for me to explain it. Maybe I just got so tired that I stopped resisting God. Whatever it was, I was yelling at God in the car “Why? Why?” and I finally heard…actually saw…like looking at a light bulb then closing your eyes, I saw the words “It’s your sin.” At that moment, all the fight left me and I replied “OK, I get it.”

When the miracle happened, I thought God was simply referring to the affair. That ended immediately. In the almost year since that moment, I have learned that my sin encompassed so much more. My pride had to be addressed. My fears had to be presented to Him and brought out into the light. I had to learn trust rather than wear a mask. God is wise. There is no way I could have handled all that in the car; I’d have hit a literal guardrail. So much to learn.

In relating that, I hope to explain how to go to Jesus and find the place of trust. Repent. Not remorse, I had plenty of that and called it repentance. But a true identifying of my helplessness. No more playing god. Constantly remembering that Jesus came to us and that is enough. Knowing that everything may not work out like the average romantic comedy, and realizing that Jesus is enough. Jesus understands loneliness, disappointment and temptation; He experienced rejection, sadness, and abuse. We truly do have a high priest who has gone before us in all these things.

Accepting His grace and mercy in exchange for my sin. What a great swap. Trust really is that easy, but it has to be explained. It just doesn’t happen. You can’t say you trust God with a particular area, then play god ‘just in case’. That’s the sin you’ll get entangled in. Trust is not denial, saying it’s all good when it really is not. Trust is not an expectation that everything will get better according to your definition. Trust is shining the light on your life by sharing with openly with God and a few others. Trust is acknowledging your own helplessness and having gratitude that Jesus has not left you alone in your circumstance. Rather than being passive, that makes trust very active.

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