What Does It Mean to Trust God?

What Does It Mean to Trust God?

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

When I read this passage recently I kept coming back to the line about trusting God. I finally had to pull out my journal and do some writing and reflecting on this. What follows is a paraphrase of what I wrote in my journal on this particular night:

I struggle with with what it means to trust in God. It can’t mean letting go of things completely and trusting that they will be okay—taken care of by God. The death, sickness, and disease that plague faithful followers of God testify that this is not the case. Terrible things happen to both people who trust in God as well as those who live as though he doesn’t exist.

Trusting in God also cannot be the implication that everything happens for a reason or that our lives are merely mapped out—as if we are just living out the motions of a pre-defined plan. The idea that God would plan for someone’s child to die of a miserable bone cancer or that he would plan for the rape of a women is an atrocious mischaracterization of God and his character. The notion that miscarriages, horrific deaths, and painful disease are part of God’s divine plan is completely erroneous—and disgusting.

The opposite extreme would be to say that everything is just up to us and the work of our own hands. This completely removes God from the equation altogether.

So what does it mean to trust God?

To trust God is not to trust in a particular result or outcome—it is to trust in the relationship. It is to trust that God is there wanting to communicate and co-create—that when I turn to Him in prayer He is there listening and speaking.

If I put my trust in God it doesn’t mean that I will be rich and without trial or hardship; it means that I enter into relationship and dialogue with God. The blessing that follows isn’t a checklist of material provisions. The blessing is the relationship. It is the blessing of being in relationship and communion with a God who loves justice, peace, healing, mercy, and unconditional love. The blessing of the relationship comes to those who trust in God and initiate that relationship by sharing and listening.

If I say I trust in God I don’t mean that I believe everything happens for a reason—that God is somehow controlling everything. I mean that I trust that he cares. That he suffers with me.  That he listens. That he speaks. That he creates. I trust that he is true to his word and character. I trust that he is more than an impersonal cosmic energy or force in the world. I trust that he is warm, personal, loving, thoughtful, engaging, and benevolent. I trust that he works though people who are attentive to his still small voice.

I don’t always understand God or how he works, but I trust in the collective work of the church and activity of God in the world as witnessed by the priesthood of believers and the testimony of Scripture. The Bible is a collection of signposts. Those signpost may point into the fog of mystery where we can’t make out things in their entirety, but the Biblical Scriptures get at the heart and character of God more reliably and accurately than anything else we have.

There is so much that I do not understand about God—honestly. But what I do know is that it is a blessing to speak to God and to press in—using whatever language or means we know. It is a blessing to be able communicate with God and to trust that he communicates back.

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