Tuesday, December 24, 2013

TRUST, Part 1

Do you love God? I think many of you reading this blog would answer that question with a resounding "Yes!" So let me ask you a more pointed question, do you trust God? Before you answer that, here's a story.

A man was hiking in the mountains, alone. After hours of hiking, he reached the summit. Before making his way back down, he decided to take a few moments to take in the view. Thinking he could get a better view of the scenery below, the man walked right to the edge of the cliff. The closer to the edge he got, the more fragile the ground became. Then it happened! The ground crumbled beneath his feet and he fell down the cliff. It just so happens there was a tree branch jutting out from the face of the rock where he fell. In desperation, he extended his hand and grabbed hold of the branch. As he hung there reviewing his options, he began yelling, “Is anyone up there?” He was surprised to hear a voice respond, “Yes, this is God.” The man was greatly relieved, and quickly stuttered, “God, can you save me?” “Of course I can," responded God. The man, excited now, shouted out, “Great! What should I do?” The answer from above was not what he was expecting: “Let go of the branch.” After a long period of silence, the man replied faintly, “Is there anyone else up there?”

More often than not, we are that man! Or at least I am. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I have asked God for help, only to reject the hand he extends. I seek his counsel, but fail to implement his advice. I turn to him for guidance, but walk away confused. Why? I'm glad you asked. Allow me to be brutally honest. I have a difficult time trusting God!

I know this, because I have a difficult time trusting people. To be quite honest, a lot of the time it's easier for me to place my trust in things. Things do exactly what they were created to do--for the most part. Except technology. I trust technology less and less. And I have this suspicion we are heading toward a world that looks eerily familiar to the world in the movie i-Robot. But that's another discussion altogether. As I sit here, I trust that the chair will continue to support my weight. Pressing the keys on this keyboard, I trust that the computer will display the characters I am typing. I trust that the bottle of water on my desk will quench my thirst. All of these things I do based on trust. All without even giving it a second thought. But people are different.

People don't always do what they were created to do. They lie, they cheat, and they steal (which, in case you were wondering, isn't what they were created to do). That reason, in and of itself, is enough for me to second guess my trust in them. I lend something of value to a colleague and it gets returned in pieces. My trust begins to waver. I confide in a friend, only to discover those personal details are being shared with others, behind my back. My trust diminishes. I give someone my heart and they rip it out of my chest, toss it on the ground, stomp all over it, dig their heel into it, pick it up, and place it back in my hand, smile and walk away. The trust I had left quickly evaporates. The result is that I become jaded and trust no one.

If it's this difficult for me to trust the people around me--the people I see--how much more difficult is it for me to trust a God I cannot see? The answer to that is exponentially. It is exponentially more difficult for me to trust a God I cannot see. A being I have never met in person. Which brings me to an important thing about trust. It has to be earned; which is pretty tough when you can't see someone. Fortunately for us, God knows this. He knows that we will never trust him without proving himself faithful. That is why God doesn't just part the skies, and in a booming voice tell us to trust him. That is why he doesn't lead with the 10 commandments. He knows that won't work. Instead, he earns the trust of his creation. We see this play out in the Old Testament when he walks with Adam and Eve in the garden. He earns the trust of Abraham by making a covenant of blessing with him. God delivers his people from slavery, earning their trust again. All of this leads to the biggest demonstration of God's trustworthiness by offering his only son as an atoning sacrifice, doing away with the bloody sacrificial system once and for all.

Unfortunately, that isn't enough for many of us today. In theory, it's great; but in reality, we want to know if God is still worthy of our trust today. So, we look to him for personal demonstrations in our lives. Since the only tangible experience we have of God is the people created in his image--which just so happens to be everyone--this proves to be quite difficult. Friends and family let us down, and that reflects on God and affects our ability to trust him. The people who claim to follow God sway our trust one way or another by the way they portray him. The institutions that claim to represent him help us decide whether or not he is, in fact, trustworthy. As you see, our trust in God has far less to do with his faithfulness and more to do with our unfortunate perceptions. He's got his work cut out for him.

To think, we haven't even begun to address the fact that our lack of trust is motivated by fear. Fear that brings up questions about my self-preservation. Will God come through? I know he did last time, but what about this time? Can I count on him? Will he provide? Does he have my best interest at heart? Or is he just trying to get me to obey and fall in line? What will all of this mean for me, my loved ones, my hopes, and my dreams?

So, I ask again, do you trust God? And I’m not just talking about when things are going well. Do you trust him when it seems he's not even there? When everything isn't going as planned? When your marriage is falling apart? When your health is failing? When the finances come up short? When life isn't how you pictured it? How we answer this question is very telling. Because, according to Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, “It means more to God when we say I trust you, than when we say I love you; because trust is the preeminent expression of love.”

So, the big question that needs to be answered: Can I trust God?