Last week I talked about trusting God during challenging times, which may be easier said than done. Or is it? Let’s unpack that a bit.
How do we get ourselves to the point where we will trust someone? Whether consciously or subconsciously, we assess whether that person is likely to live up to our hopes and expectations for their behavior. Is their character strong enough to live up to their commitments, regardless of what it may cost them personally? Are they physically (or emotionally or spiritually) capable of doing what they promise?
Once we’ve answered these questions, though, you ultimately have to just do it. Trust them. Make that faith leap into the unknown. You might be rewarded, learning that you can count on that person. Or you might get burned. We all have deep, lasting relationships from the former category and probably more than our fair share of “Kick me” signs on our back from the latter.
So how do we trust God? We just do it. Trust Him. More on this later.
The first question is, how do we know we can trust God?
The Bible is full of examples of people trusting God and Him coming through for them. The prophet Elijah was so sure that God would deliver against the pagan gods that he doused his wood with water before asking God to set fire to it. The apostle Peter was so confident that Jesus would keep him safe that he stepped out of the boat during a storm and took a few steps on the water! Until he began to fear that the waves and wind were more powerful than the God who created them, but we’ll come back to this also. Anyway, there are plenty of other examples as well (email me if you need more). God gave us the Bible so we could taste and see that He is good. And know that He is trustworthy.
But, you might say, that was then and this is now. God doesn’t do miracles anymore. (Oh really?) As this isn’t really the topic for the day, let me just say this: I am confident that everyone has someone within no more than 2 or 3 degrees of separation who has experienced a miracle (and I don’t mean just our sports “miracles”, like the “Miracle on Ice”).
So since there are so many people who have trusted God that have happy endings to their stories, your assessment should be, minimally, that it doesn’t hurt to try trusting Him and see what happens.
Well, how am I supposed to do that? you might ask, maybe with more edge to your voice than you intended.
This comes back to my earlier point: just do it. This is as easy as a simple prayer. Picture in your mind something that has you scared right now, something keeping you up nights, and hand it to God with the prayer, “Jesus, I trust you.” Picture yourself handing Him that thing, whatever it is. He will take it. He promised us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 and 30).
But here’s the thing: handing it over to Him is probably the easy part, if you’re anything like me. After I dump my problem in his lap, I always feel this great sense of peace. So you think I’d walk away and leave it with Him, right? Wrong. Like a grabby, petulant child, sometime after I’ve handed over this thing to Jesus, I’ll march right back up to Him and yank it back out of His hands. “Mine!” I don’t usually think of it this way, but I might as well. The effect is the same. This stinky problem is back in my hands, causing me to worry, keeping me awake at night. Why do I do this?
Maybe I’m afraid God doesn’t care enough to solve my problem. Or maybe I’m concerned He won’t resolve it in the way I want it fixed. Or the timing in which I want it fixed (which is usually, “I want it now!”). The last two seem legitimate to us, but since I’m getting long-winded here, I’ll leave that as a topic for another day. For now, I’ll point out that Jesus knew this would be something we’d all struggle with, so He commanded us not to worry: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27).
And this is where we wrestle with God over trusting Him. We give Him a problem, then yank it back out of His hands. When we realize what we’ve done, “Oh wait, sorry, Jesus. Here you go, I didn’t mean to grab it away from you. I don’t know what came over me. You can have it back now.” But then how long until we take it away again. And so on.
But here’s the thing: this is OK with God. He can take it. When He made us, He knew it would be a conscious choice for us to trust Him. He also knew this wouldn’t be easy for us. We shouldn’t feel bad about this wrestling match.
In fact, Jesus modeled this for us. This being Holy Week, on Thursday, not long after He had finished His last meal with His best friends, He wrestled with the Father in Gethsamane garden. He knew the plan, but He didn’t like it, so He prayed feverishly that the Father would find another way. Since the story recounts Jesus having to wake up Peter, James, and John multiple times, it’s possible that He would reach a resolution, handing over His anguish to the Father, only to find it troubling Him again.
But in the end, He left it in the Father’s hands: “Abba, Father,” he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).
If Jesus wrestled with the Father, then it must be OK for us, too. Especially if that’s what it takes for us to land in a place of confident trust, which is where He wants us to be.
What’s troubling you today? Trying handing it over to God. And then every time you take it back, remember to hand it over to Him again.
May God bless you on your journey through this Holy Week.
P.S. I’ve written a very short book about wrestling with God, which I’ve made available for free here, if you’re interested in giving it a read.