Hey there and welcome to the third post in the Approach the Throne series! If you’re new to the series, we’re doing a study on who God is and who we are – i.e., the two things we are confronted with when we come before His throne. We’ve been talking about who God is first, and the last two posts were about the greatness of God. Today we’re going to talk about our great God deserving our trust.
(All credit for this image goes to the Full of Eyes ministry. Many thanks to them for providing these visual resources. I found this particular image on the ministry’s Facebook page, in a post from July 11th).
Since our God is so great, as we’ve reflected in the last two posts, surely He deserves our trust. He’s the Ancient of Days who holds the universe in His hands, and He’s the God who loved us even when we were sinners. What’s not to trust, right?
The problem every Christian eventually runs into is that trusting God isn’t “safe,” in the sense that He doesn’t follow our rules or bend to our expectations. He is infinitely great and eternally good, but when you put your life in His hands, He may in fact take it in a different direction than you wanted (think Jonah). We don’t get to surrender to Him and then give Him instructions on how He’s supposed to write our story.
And that can be really scary.
I think I’m safe in assuming that every Christian has had a moment (or will have one) when they felt betrayed by God because the one thing they desperately didn’t want to happen, happened. How on earth are we supposed to handle that? What do we do when we put something precious into God’s hands and He lets our worst nightmares come true? How can we call Him trustworthy then?
These are questions that humans have wrestled with for millennia: the age-old paradox of a loving God who allows pain, of a trustworthy God who doesn’t always do things our way. It’s also a paradox I’ve been personally struggling with lately, with a great deal of confusion, frustration, and pain.
I think one of the first problems we must face is our definition of “trustworthy.” When we call a person trustworthy, generally we mean that they handle things the way we would. If we leave a “trustworthy” person in charge of our house while we go on vacation, we know they’ll take care of it in a way similar to our own.
That’s not what trustworthy means when it comes to God. If you ask God to watch your house while you go on vacation (to continue the same analogy), God might rearrange your furniture. He might deep-clean your garage and leave some of its contents on the curb for the garbage truck. He might even find you a roommate.
It’s important to note that God will never do those things unless invited – He never forces Himself on anyone. But once you do invite Him in and invite Him to have His way, He will do so. Scary though it might be, once you get over the initial discomfort of God’s renovation, you will find that it has all been for the best – “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
That’s not always an easy verse to accept. Lately, I’ve struggled with high stress, uncertain circumstances, and worry about those I care for. I’ve watched family members mourn a deeply-felt death. I’ve suffered through more than a month of illness. And in all these circumstances, I find myself asking God, “why?” Why, in His love, can’t He just give me a break?
The answer is a hard one, because the answer is that He won’t “give me a break” precisely because of His love. My life goal has always been for this life to be straightforward and easy. I’ve inadvertently considered this life my end-all, when really it’s only the beginning of the Life God wants for me – for all of us. This life, this world, are marred by sin and pain, neither of which originated with God. We, as humans, chose them.
God’s mission is not to redeem this life and make it perfect. His mission is to redeem us in this life, using every bit of our pain, our weakness, and our struggles to turn us into a glorious being like Himself (see 1 John 3:2).
Learning to trust God more than you trust yourself is a process, and only God can bring you successfully down that road. He knows, I still have a long way to go. You cannot make yourself trust Him, though you can choose to say yes to Him when He asks, “will you come?”
Imagine you’re swimming in a stormy sea, struggling to stay afloat. Nearby, within your reach, is a rock, standing strong in the middle of the sea. The rock looks sturdy, but you don’t really know until you give up your swimming and take hold of it.You might even be inclined to keep swimming, because at least then you can exert some control on the situation. If you grasp the rock, you can only rest on its sufficiency. Trusting God is like this. Giving up all of your own effort and control can be scary, but ultimately, the rock is a much safer and sweeter place to be.
It’s also important to note that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV). He knew rejection, weariness, the pain of losing a close friend (Lazarus), extreme physical pain, and so on – everything that comes with being a human, and more.
Beloved, when the Son of God was human, He did not spare Himself from suffering, though He had every right to. Moreover, He never refused to enter into the suffering of those around Him and bear their burdens (think Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha). You have a Savior who knows what you’re going through, and even if His love and wisdom declare that you must go through it, He will always go ahead of you, lead you through, and bear your burdens with you. If you let Him.
I still have a lot of growth to do in the area of trusting God. I struggle to believe His ways are better than mine. But there are two truths I am certain of. First, God does not delight in causing – or even allowing – pain. Yet in this imperfect life, sometimes pain plays a part, even as it did in Jesus’s life on earth. Christ was already and is always perfect, but we are still being refined. Only broken houses can be rebuilt. Only beaten metal can become a sword.
Second, God will never ask us to endure pain that He will not bear along with us. In Isaiah, the prophet spoke of God’s care of Israel, saying, “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9, ESV). He does the same for us today.
I hope this post does not sound glib or cliched; it is always easy to speak about what we know even if it is hard to put into practice. Sometimes, it’s best just to hear another Christian’s struggles with the same problem, so I’d like to share one of my recent challenges with trusting God.
There are many things I’m afraid of, but one of my deepest fears is getting lost. Whenever I drive somewhere new, I study a map before I go so I don’t leave anything to chance. Well, several months ago, I went to a big event in a huge (and I mean huge) building. Even after being there for two days, I was next to clueless regarding the building’s layout. This became a huge problem when it came time to meet my ride home – just as I had feared. As I stood there nearing panic and trying to figure out what to do, I saw some people I knew and ran over to them. With their help, I was able to find a meeting place and get home.
All’s well that ends well, right? Not so much. Even months after it happened, this event haunts me. I couldn’t understand why God let my worst fear come true when I had tried so hard to trust that He would work everything out smoothly. Even though it ended well, it was an extremely scary and painful mishap. Yet, as I reflect on it, I know that it could have ended much worse. At this point, all I can conclude is that God allowed the situation to “go wrong” so that He could show me His sufficiency even in the middle of my nightmare. I mean, what are the chances that the people who could help came walking by at that moment – and that I happened to see them?
May God grant us the grace to continue walking with Him and trusting Him even when we don’t understand. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV).