AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
If God is not faithful to us, then we have no hope at all. If He should turn away from us, we would have no way of getting Him to turn back. We cannot control God in any way. We cannot make Him love us or convince Him to pay attention to us. If He should leave us, we have no way of traveling to His realm to try and talk Him into coming back. This relationship we have with our Creator is completely controlled by Him. He is in the driver’s seat. He has all the power. He alone decides what our eternal fate will be. These are uncomfortable facts which we try to avoid facing. Yet if we are to pursue intimacy with God, these are things we need to understand, for then we can begin to understand what God is talking about when He tells us to trust Him with all that we are.
When we speak about trusting God, what we usually mean is trusting in certain behavioral patterns. When we say, “I trust that God loves me,” what we really mean is “I trust that He will show up when I really need Him to.” When we say “I trust that God will take care of me,” what we actually mean is “I trust that He will keep giving me everything that I need.” The problem with this kind of trust is that God’s behavior changes. He makes patterns and then breaks them. He acts in ways that do not make logical sense to us. If we attach characteristics about God to certain behaviors, then when those behaviors don’t happen, we think the characteristic has ceased to exist. When God doesn’t show up when we really need Him to, then we think He has stopped loving us. When He doesn’t provide an essential need, then we think He has turned away from us.
As we mature in the faith, the Holy Spirit will work on dismantling the many false associations we have made between God’s Character and certain behavior patterns. This is one of the things that makes the spiritual valley so frightening: God shatters many of our most important formulas at the same time. He suddenly stops talking to us, and we naturally conclude that He is upset with us. He replaces a sense of His closeness with a strong sense of distance and we naturally conclude that He has abandoned us. He fills our lives with pain and suffering and we naturally conclude that He is punishing us in anger. The Christian going through an intense valley experience often ends up very depressed and despaired, fearing that God has turned out to be Someone very opposite to who they thought He was. All of the upsetting conclusions we draw about God in the valley are extremely real to us because they are being backed by the hard evidence of wrong associations we are hanging onto. If God doesn’t talk to us, then He must have negative feelings towards us. If God hurts us, then He must be punishing us.
When God urges us to trust Him, He means for us to trust in His Character, not His behavior. This means we must throw out all of the expectations we have about God expressing His love for us through specific actions. We must graduate to a firm confidence that God’s love for us is a fixed, unshakable thing, regardless of how He behaves. God’s Character is unchanging, but His behavior is totally wild. His interactions with us are far more intricate than we realize. His methods are far too complex for us to comprehend. It is because God is so much greater than we are that we need to let go of resting our security in Him on predictable behavior patterns. As long as our confidence rests on God doing certain things, our confidence will be vulnerable to crumbling whenever God acts mysteriously. God does not want us to live constantly plagued by fear and panic. He wants us to know a peace that surpasses understanding—but this means we must be willing to let go of our need to understand His behavior.
When a mother takes her child in to receive a vaccine shot, she is acting out of love. She is trying to protect him. Yet when the child sees a large, scary looking needle coming at his soft, sensitive skin, he feels confused and upset. He thought his mother could be counted on to protect him, but now she is just standing there while some stranger in a white coat does him harm. The child is too young to have the concepts of disease and medicine explained to him. He doesn’t even understand words yet, so there was no way that the mother could have prepared him. The only chance he has at remaining calm is if he can know without a doubt that his mother is committed to doing what is best for him at all times. If the child had absolute trust in his mother’s good character and positive motivations towards him, then he would not be terrified by needles. He would not panic if she left the room for a moment because he would be certain that she would return. He would not allow one intensely negative experience to cast doubt on their entire relationship.
This is the kind of security and confidence God wants us to experience with Him. Most children only have a few vaccinations in their lives, but in this world we will endure countless trials. We have soul problems that are far more complicated than physical diseases. The things God needs to do to correct these problems are very disturbing. Yes, He could have made things different. Yes, He could snap His fingers and make the world a perfect place, but He’s not going to. God has chosen to start all of us in a context of pain before moving us on to eternity. For Christians, this world is the really negative introduction to a wonderful book. This is the brief part—Paradise is forever. God has intentionally limited our experience of pain to be only a brief flash in the pan, but it feels very long to us as we’re slogging through it. Instead of just shrugging indifferently and offering us no help in the moment, God says there is a way that we can escape being constantly thrown about in storms of fear and doubt. Absolute trust in His good Character is that way.
Learning to trust God is a lifetime process. Absolute trust is perfect trust—that is a rather distant star. Yet with every step that we take towards it, we will notice fear’s grip becoming weaker. Trusting God is extremely powerful. It is the foundation of our relationship with Him—the thing on which every other attribute stands. We need to have some measure of trust in God before we can start exercising faith in the things He says. For example, God says that He atoned for all of our sins on the cross. Why should we put our faith in this? Because we trust that He loves us and wants to be with us. We know that He delights in being merciful. How can we draw comfort from the idea that we will go to Heaven when we die? What makes us think Heaven is real and not just our own wishful thinking? Because we trust that God loves us and wants to be with us. We trust that He is generous and kind and delights in blessing the things that He has made. Trust in God’s Character is the backbone of faith. The moment we begin to doubt who God is, or question His motivations towards us, faith falls apart and all the promises in the Bible become totally meaningless.
Trust that is anchored in God’s Character instead of His actions is an unshakable trust. It remains confident in who God is regardless of what He does. As a result, we find ourselves acquiring a much more positive view of the world around us. When bad things happen to other people, we don’t panic and start pleading with God to fix it. Instead we remain calm and joyful—certain that what we are seeing is just one part of a wonderfully good plan.
On earth, we talk about giving people “the benefit of the doubt.” This means that when there is some question about their behavior or motivations, we try to lean towards the most positive possibility. If a wife sees her husband kissing another woman in public, instead of leaping to the conclusion that he’s having an affair, the wife chooses to believe that his actions were appropriate and upstanding until she has a chance to hear his explanation. She assumes the best about him even when her own insecurities encourage her to assume the worst. She does this because her husband has always been faithful to her in the past, and she is trusting his character. Later on, when she finds out that the woman was his sister who he hadn’t seen in years, her confidence is justified. This is the same approach we learn to take with God. The more we trust Him, the more we realize that everything He does is truly good, no matter how bad it might look in the moment. When our emotions scream at us that God is evil-hearted or indifferent to our pain, we reject their conclusions and instead remain confident that everything God does to us He does with our spiritual best in mind. The more we trust God, the more we find that our trust in Him is always justified. God is good. He is faithful to us. He is Someone we can absolutely count on to always take the best possible care of us. God never leaves us, forgets us, or loses interest in us. He is for us. He is on our side. He is our loving, kind, devoted Creator. We will never find a more dedicated Friend, a more faithful Guardian or a safer Refuge than Him. If we are willing to let Him shake up our beliefs and tear out the many false assumptions that we have woven throughout our theology, we will end up with a firm foundation of peace, joy, and confidence that nothing in this world or the next can ever damage.
God wants us to experience His perfect peace—a peace which is totally unaffected by what is happening around us, how we feel, or how God is behaving. We get this kind of peace by allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us how to transfer all of our trust onto certain unchanging truths about His Character. It is a process that He walks us through one step at a time. Invite Him to start this process in your life today.