What Does It Mean to Trust God? Maybe Not What You Think.

blog9-30We are often told to trust in God. And most of us have counseled others who are anxious or downcast to trust in God. But what does it mean?

In too many cases what people mean when they counsel trust is this: “Don’t worry, God will eventually give you what you’re looking for. Just keep praying and trust that He’ll come through for you.” What is meant by “coming through for you” is some answer on your terms; it’s as if to say, “God will eventually come around to your way of thinking. Hang in there and wait for God to answer (your way). He’ll take care of things (in a way that pleases you).”

But this is not trust.

To trust is to move to a stable conviction that whatever God decides to do is all right with me. Trusting God means being at peace with what He does, what He decides. To trust God is to accept that God often acts in paradoxical ways, in ways that are different from, or even contrary to, our notions of what is best. God often permits evils for some greater good, even if this greater good is hidden from us at this moment.

At the foot of the Cross we realize that a total disaster can produce immense good. We call that terrible day “Good Friday” for a reason. The apparent “total loss” of that day ushered in the New Covenant and made more than enough grace and mercy available to save the entire human race—if we but ask.

Many of us have experienced difficulties that were quite devastating to us at the time. In some cases we can look back now and understand why God permitted them. We can see how we grew from the experience, or how new opportunities were opened to us that, while they were not our first choice, were in fact the best choice.

Some other difficulties we went through still make little sense to us. But if we have learned to trust God, we can be at peace with His apparent “No” to our preferred outcome. Trust says, “It is well with my soul.”

An old hymn with that title says,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

And that is trust: the ability to say, “Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.” It is not wrong to present our wants and wishes to God. But trust is being at peace with God’s answer and not resentful of it. Instead, trust says, “It is well.”

We are forever asking God to bless what we are doing. But when do we ever seek what God is blessing and then go do that?

Trusting God doesn’t mean that He’ll eventually give me what I want. Trusting God means I’ll be at peace with whatever He wants; knowing that He wants it is enough for me; there is peace and it is well with my soul.