Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-7
It seems simple, doesn’t it? Trust in God and not in your own abilities, accomplishments, reasoning, and so on. It should be easy and it’s definitely logical; if you’re a Christian and you want to live God’s way, you must give up your own way of doing things and Trust only in Him.
And yet, for many of us, trusting in the Lord does not actually come easily at all. I believe that, even though there’s a multitude of specific reasons for this, if you struggle to trust God there is ultimately only one root cause; the experience of one or more particularly painful experiences in life that changed the way you viewed God and resulted in it becoming difficult, or even impossible, for you to Trust God’s presence in and sovereignty over your life.
As humans, we tend to want to draw meaning from our suffering. It’s not enough for us to be aware of the basic facts of the trying times in our lives; the who, what, where, when, and how. We also want to understand the why. We search for meaning and as we mature we learn from those things that have happened to us, especially the negative experiences. As unfair as it seems, we tend to grow and learn the most from the things that have caused us deep pain.
So it’s not a far leap from our desire to understand our suffering to the conclusion that God, who is sovereign, allows us to suffer in order to teach us things. But a narrow focus on that kind of reasoning can lead us to a picture of God as a cold, distant administrator of “tough love.”
With that as my central understanding of God, I found myself for many years fearful every time things seemed to be going fairly well in my life. If I had no major problems at present than I wasn’t learning anything profound which meant that a new “lesson from God” (meaning, a very bad thing for which I would have to be grateful as an opportunity for growth) could happen at any moment.
This type of mentality is not a great way to live. Not only does it lead to great stress and anxiety but it also doesn’t allow your trust in God to grow. While you’re able to trust that He knows what’s best for you and that all things will eventually work to the glory of those who love God (Romans 8:28), the present moment is lost because you aren’t trusting that God is on your side within the difficulty itself. All of the compassion and love spoken about in the Bible becomes purely theoretical because you live as if life is all about the lesson.
So how do you break free from this negative, pessimistic, stressful way of living?
Here’s what I’ve been learning; sometimes I need to stop thinking so much about myself. I always thought I first needed to change the way I think in order to understand God better. But I had it backwards: If I understand God better, it will change the way I think.
In Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist writes, “It is only when you understand God’s truly unconditional love that you begin to understand the worth of your own soul – not because of anything you’ve done, but because every soul is worthy, every one of us is worthy of love, having been created by and in the image of the God of love….This awareness of love, though, this sense of the soul’s worth, not because of my own doing but because of God’s great love – this changes everything.”
It was only when I stopped worrying so much about my own difficulties and fears and focused on God’s goodness that I was able to let go of the image I had of a distant teacher-God. I could trust God, not just with His ultimate plan of redemption, but in the everyday aspects of my life, because God is good and loving and compassionate. And even though I still don’t completely understand the reasons for suffering, I know that it matters because God Himself chose to suffer for us. He didn’t stand back and toss out pain indiscriminately, saying, “let’s see how you handle that!”
Instead, he is near to the brokenhearted always. He weeps with us and sends the Comforter, (His own Spirit!) to us and he promises that even when we walk through the valley of death we are not alone, because He is right there with us. (Psalm 23)
That’s a God you can trust with your whole heart.