Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight. — Proverbs 3:5
Have you ever been told to “trust God?”
People who believe in God like to say this a lot, to themselves and others, especially when things aren’t going well.
But how do you trust God? Especially when you are afraid and don’t feel like it? What, even, IS trust?
“Trust,” according to Google, is:
Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Trust in God does NOT mean that:
1. You believe everything will go the way you want it to, and it does
If that were true, those who follow God should be the most enviable people on Earth. Everything would go their way.
But obviously, it doesn’t, and they aren’t.
Believers living in some parts of the world are literally murdered for their beliefs. Others lose their jobs or livelihoods for their faith. Still others are mocked and belittled for the same.
Some people think that “believing in” God does entitle them to a problem-free life. If they have problems, they think they either don’t have enough faith or God is “not holding up His end of the bargain.”
But the Bible contradicts that idea.
“In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus once said (John 16:33; emphasis added). And a lot of the most Godly characters in the Bible suffered tremendously.
God did perform many miracles, but he did not miraculously protect all of His people from everything:
- Joseph was wrongly accused of rape and spent years languishing in a prison for nothing.
- Ruth lost her husband and became a poor peasant in a foreign land far from home.
- All but one of Jesus’ closest friends were tortured and murdered for proclaiming the truth about Him, and the one who survived was banished to an isolated island in his old age.
In the end, suffering and pain is something everyone must face, whether you trust in God or not.
2. God will explain everything that is going on in your life
God didn’t answer Job when he asked “Why me?”
God doesn’t owe you an explanation when life is painful and confusing.
When bad things happen — really, really bad things — many of us are tempted to ask why. Some of us get an answer…but many of us never do.
I won’t advise you to stop asking entirely, because maybe your specific situation is one of those that will get an answer. But I am saying that if you don’t get an explanation, don’t be surprised.
Trust in God DOES mean that:
No matter what happens, you will turn TO Him instead of away.
That’s as far as I understand “trust in God.”
- Even if other people laugh at you and say that you believe in a capricious and demanding “flying spaghetti monster”
- Even if, in your darker moments, you sometimes feel like God is a capricious and demanding “flying spaghetti monster”
- Even if life hurts real bad and nothing you asked God for worked out the way you were hoping it would…
Even in spite of those things, trusting God means you continue to turn to Him, and away from the naysayers. You keep praying, even when those prayers seem to have absolutely effect. You keep saying, like Job:
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Does trusting God make you stupid?
That depends on how you define “stupid.”
According to Google, “stupid” is defined as “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.”
If you take the “common sense” part of the definition, then maybe. Trusting God is not common sense for most people. Not in our comfy 21st century Western culture.
People today prefer to think that they are their own gods, bearing total responsibility for their life — which, in the sense that they have the power to choose how they respond to situations, they do.
But in the sense that they have control over all (or even most) situations, they do not.
The thing is, it does NOT look real smart to keep trusting God, especially in the midst of painful, horrible, confusing circumstances.
Anti-theists often mock theists for stupidly clinging to their “blind faith” (theism is actually less blind than atheism, but there isn’t time to go into that now. If you’re curious, check out Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist*)
And even those who DO believe in the existence of God don’t always trust Him.
Job’s wife, for instance, advised him to “curse God and die.”
Why hold on to your comforting delusion of a Good and Omnipotent God when it’s obviously not doing anything?
Why not just accept the idea that the world is a cold, dark, meaningless, cruel place, and you and everything you love will die, and nothing matters unless you create your own meaning, and oh wait — that doesn’t matter either, because whatever meaning you create will die with you.
Actually, come to think of it, since nothing has meaning, whether you die now or later doesn’t matter. Might as well “curse God” and end it now…
That’s interesting. The atheist non-God (aka Fate or Chance) sounds far more capricious and demanding than God. Not to mention depressing.
But when the story concludes, Job is restored to health and receives double of every earthly good he lost. Job’s wife’s advice turned out to be the stupid choice, and Job’s decision to trust God no matter what ended up being the smart one.
In the end, it’s better to make smart choices even if you look stupid, than to make stupid choices that make you look smart.
Trust in God vs. Amor Fati
Here’s the thing. Even non-theistic philosophers have stumbled onto the fact that, in the end, you have to accept life as it is.
The stoics coined the term “amor fati,” which means “love of fate.”
The basic concept is that, no matter what happens in your life, it is good — or at least necessary. Even if that thing happens to be great suffering and loss. So whatever fate hands you, you must love it. You must accept it.
Now, that sounds a lot like trusting God…without the God part.
You can either choose to accept things as coming from a source with a big fat question mark on it…or you choose to accept things as coming from the hand of God.
And, based on my research, the choice that makes the most sense is to trust God — the God who allows us to suffer, yes, for sometimes unfathomable reasons, but who at least knows what it feels like and can empathize in ways that a big-question-mark-Non-God-or-fate-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it cannot.
A God who does care, even when it sometimes feels like He doesn’t.
Trusting in God means that whatever we suffer, in the end, can be used for our — all of our — ultimate good.
In the end, you only have 3 options
There’s an interesting sort of phenomenon:
A lot of the people who have only suffered a little (relatively), and choose to turn against God use those who have suffered much in life as Exhibit A for their anti-theism argument:
How could a loving God allow [rape, dying babies, the Holocaust] to happen?
But a funny thing happens when you talk to the people who have actually gone through rape, lost children, or survived the Holocaust. Many of them, especially in the darkest of times, turned to God in their desperation. And some of them, after the worst was over, continued in their newfound trust.
In other words, many of the most ardent God-trusters are those who are going through or who have been through the most hellish of fires.
Not all, of course. This pattern is not perfect. There are Holocaust/rape/loss survivors who have chosen not to trust God.
All this shows us is that suffering a little or a lot does not determine or even predict who chooses to trust God and who turns bitter.
There are materially rich and well-off people who are humble, God-fearing folks, and there are plenty of Godless people who suffer greatly.
In the end, it’s up to you. You must choose to…
- Trust God: If God is a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent being who is in total control and will one day wipe all evil from the face of the universe and restore humanity to harmony, peace, and joy, then this is definitely the choice to go for.
- Or trust Fate: This choice will help you live with less stress in daily life, for the most part. But it has its limitations. It doesn’t provide you with much hope in the dark times, for instance — Fate does not guarantee that the pain will end someday. Fate does not personally care about you. Fate is just fate.
- Or trust ONLY yourself: In my opinion, this is the worst of the three choices. Human beings are notoriously unreliable, and we can’t control the weather, much less our past/present/future. Trusting yourself too much can lead to mental unwell-ness.
Those who trust vs. those who don’t
From my personal experience, those who are the best at trusting God tend to be the most content, forgiving, kind, generous, and loving.
Those who do not want to and do not choose to trust God tend to be anxious, cynical, bitter, mean, and unhappy.
Not all the time…just a lot of the time. And they don’t always show it in public, but hang out with them long enough and it will come out eventually. How do I know this? Because I am often more of the second type than the first, myself.
Life is hard enough on its own. Personally, I’d prefer not to add to my own suffering and that of others with more anxiety, cynicism, bitterness, and unkindness. I’ve got to learn to trust God.
Easier said than done
Talking about trust is a whole lot easier than doing it. (Although talking about it is hard enough already — that’s part of the reason I wrote this article. To clarify the concept in my mind a little).
I have to confess I am notoriously horrible at trusting God. It’s all well and good to write and talk and think about it, but living it out?
I struggle all the time with trusting God. Some days are better than others. Some days I am fairly content and productive and can see the silver lining in my situation. Some days I cry. Some days I raise my metaphorical fist to the sky and shout “Why?”
So far, no clear answer.
One thing I’ve learned from this experience so far, is that trusting God isn’t a one-time thing. Every time I am attacked by another bout of evil/pain is like another Trust Test.
(I usually fail, by the way)
But occasionally I do get it right. Not totally sure how. If anyone out there has some wise, practical advice for me on how to trust God better, I’d love to hear it 🙂