Can I Trust God, Even When I Don’t Understand?
I’m leading a Bible study on “Trusting God.” As I was feverishly studying and preparing my notes to wow my class, it dawned on me—do I trust God? Do I actually trust God? I’ve been in a particularly stressful season of life. I’ve found myself anxious about so many things—that nagging debt hanging over my head, a child struggling and my not being able to do anything about it, aging parents that I’m not ready to let go of just yet, insecurity about the future—to name a few things.
As a young man and a fairly new believer, I loved Proverbs 3:5-6 that reminded me to “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.” I had this written on a little plaque above my bed. It was on a bookmark in my Bible. I memorized it and would recite it often.
Then life began to happen—school, work, marriage, parenting…and the joys and TRIALS that generally accompany all of that. My plaque got sold in a garage sale and I lost the bookmark. That passage didn’t seem to come to mind as often. In fact, I leaned more on a meme I saw once that said, “Worry works because 90% of what I worry about never happens.”
As I wrestled with what to say to my class about “trusting God,” my amazing wife said, “Let’s think about times in our life where we’ve learned to trust God.”
As I wrestled with what to say to my class about “trusting God,” my amazing wife said, “Let’s think about times in our life where we’ve learned to trust God.” We spent the next half hour “remembering” all that God had done in our life over the years. There was the job that finally came through only weeks before we were to be married, the envelope of money that showed up in our mailbox that was just enough to cover the cost of our car repair, the border crossing from Canada back to the US with our suspicious U-Haul holding all our belongings. By all rights, we should not have been able to get across. We were in an impossibly long line,and we had all the wrong paperwork. Seemingly out of nowhere, a lane opened up. No cars were getting out of line to race to the open gate, so we ventured forward alone. When the border agent looked at our paperwork, he confirmed that we were not going anywhere. Again, seemingly out of nowhere, he asked what I did for a living. When I mumbled, “I’m a pastor!” he smiled and said, “Be on your way and I’ll be praying for you.”
I’ll never forget the day when our car broke down in the midst of a busy morning…the kind of morning when you don’t have time for a car to break down. There was no envelope with cash for the repair this time. We had three boys attending three different schools. I had appointments to keep, and my wife had to get to her work. When the car refused to come back to life, I found myself singing hymns and praising God. Okay, that last part isn’t true. In fact, I was upset with myself because, in that moment, I wasn’t trusting God at all. I was angry, and that anger poured over into my family that morning.
As I figured out how to beg, borrow and lean on friends, everyone got to where they needed to be that day. God had done it again. Why had I doubted…again? I remember walking back into my house as the phone was ringing. I was still enjoying the residual effects of my grumpiness and chose not to answer the phone. The answering machine kicked on (remember those) and it was my neighbor. She, having no idea about my car, was asking if there was any chance we could use a car that her dad was trying to get rid of. He was upgrading the company cars at his insurance business. Knowing that I was a pastor with a busy family, he thought it might be useful. In my “non-trusting” mind, I imagined a 1978 hatchback Pinto. I could envision three of us sitting inside while two of us pushed to our destination. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I reluctantly accepted the gracious cast-off…er, I mean gift.
I’ll never forget the day the car arrived. To my chagrin, it was a three-year-old, fully loaded GMC Envoy in mint condition. Side note: God had done a similar thing two previous times.
Over and over again, God has done amazing things for us. When we stopped remembering, our eyes were misty and we were grateful. In my personal “time alone with God” I was going through Deuteronomy. It dawned on me that this book is the “retelling” of all that God had done for Israel. The idea being, if God was faithful then, why would I not trust Him now? God had parted the Red Sea, fought battles, and provided food where there was none. The God that showed up for Israel is the same God who shows up for us today. God reminded the people of Israel:
You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:35 NIV)
Before you begin thinking about a prosperity gospel here, it is important to note that each time we entered into our adversity, we had no idea of the outcome. It was when we “looked back” that we saw God’s gracious hand over and over. As we looked back, there were also plenty of times where God seemed like He didn’t come through. We prayed for my wife’s sister when she battled cancer. God didn’t answer it our way. My father-in-law went to be with Jesus after we prayed he’d be healed from ALS. I applied for a job once…in the Caribbean (true story). Needless to say, I didn’t get it. Was God not faithful in those times? He absolutely was and “looking back,” I can see His hand in all of it.
He is worthy of my trust that results in my obedience even when I can’t see where I am going.
I needed to adjust my belief. God is not someone to do my bidding each time I pray. God is sovereign. He has a plan and purpose for my life. He is worthy of my trust that results in my obedience even when I can’t see where I am going. He is that good. I can put the full weight of my trust in God’s purpose even when I can’t make sense of it.
How about you? Perhaps a little look back over the years of your life may be a good exercise. Make a list and thank God…even for the adversity, knowing (aka-trusting) that He has a purpose in all of it. That purpose has to do with making you more like Him, preparing you for the eternal life in the full presence of Jesus, and helping you detach from the temporary nature of this life and attach the eternal joy of the next.
I’ve started going back to Proverbs 3:5-6. I still don’t understand all that He is up to, but these days, I don’t simply want to trust. I have now tasted what it is to trust and the fruit is pretty sweet.