Last week I was all inspired about the idea of placing full trust in God, and I shared a story about a missionary who learned to trust God in all things, down to getting a cake for a Bible study event. In response there were quite a number of corrective comments that raised interesting questions about what trusting God should look like. Some excerpts:
Magnificat said: It’s typical feel-good story and it makes me feel uneasy. Trusting God is something much, much more serious. These sweet stories may help little children; to others, they are almost (maybe it’s to harsh word, but I can’t help myself) idiotic.
Rosemary said: I am very glad there are thoughtful comments on this topic, and that not everyone is being carried away with emotional enthusiasm…I’m uneasy with the way people can subtly pressure one another into greater and greater acts of imprudence, out of a desire to be/feel (seem?) more holy.
One could find oneself starting to make one’s decisions based on what would be a good story for one’s friends or one’s blog readers rather than what would make a better life for oneself and one’s family…It’s making that marshmallow-soft thrill of a “trusting feeling” into an idol.
Honeybee said: Feel-good stories like these leave me feeling uneasy. There are all kinds of problems with this, not the least of which is the slippery slope of the “name it and claim it” bunch. What if the cake hadn’t arrived? I need trust and faith the most for those times, the hard times, the times when I’m feeling desolate and abandoned by God. Cake is nice, but I need to know and learn more deeply how to trust in suffering.
Young Mom said: All this mentality did for me growing up, was to teach me to “shut up and trust God” shut up about abuse, shut up about dreams, shut up about everything and just believe that God will take care of it all. Well, he didn’t. I also have a hard time with the “god sent me a chocolate cake because I trust him so much” when people begging for their baby to survive the NICU get ignored.
Michelle said: God can be bothered to send people cakes for tea parties, but can’t be bothered to stop natural disasters that kill thousands of people?
The discussion got me thinking about what the proper role of trust is in the Christian life. I’ve been mulling over thoughts like:
Surely authentic trust in God doesn’t mean that we should take no action ourselves…but does that mean we should always plan to do everything by our own powers?
When is it appropriate to do the work with our own capacities, and when is the time to sit back and let the Lord provide?
We know it’s inappropriate and insulting to approach the Lord with a “name it and claim it” attitude where we tell him our desires and expect him to jump to attention and make them materialize. But what, then, should we ask him for?
Obviously we’re not supposed to assume that God’s goal is to make us rich and comfortable, but does he never smooth the way to make things a little easier for us?
How could someone believe that the Lord will provide cake for a tea when he didn’t provide shelter and safety for the earthquake/tsunami victims in Japan?
I’ve read enough stories of God providing in near-miraculous ways for people who place radical trust in him that I believe that there’s something going on there. I believe that we can rely on God as a living, active force in our lives and count on him to provide for both large and small needs. I’ve seen it in my own life. But what, then, about all those questions?
I don’t have all the answers, but my initial thought is that appropriate trust in God hinges on having a proper understanding the following three things:
- Who God is
- What God wants
- What the meaning of life is
Who God is:
He’s not a wish-granting genie. He’s not a concierge. He’s not a living magic wand for us to wield to change the world according to our liking. He’s our heavenly Father, and he is perfect and all-knowing — in other words, his ideas are better than ours, and he knows what’s best for us more than we do. We can get way off track of we start to forget this.
What God wants:
I’ve heard many amazing stories of divine providence at work in people’s lives, and one common thread is that people who experience a lot of this crazy miraculous stuff live their lives according to what God wants, not what they want. I wrote about this more here, but these people spend a lot of time asking: “Lord, what do you want me to pray for?”
So, to use the example of the cake for the Bible study tea, I do believe that that was God at work, but I don’t believe that the cake appeared because the missionaries were in the mood for something sweet. Each day they spent hours in prayer seeking the Lord’s guidance. The idea to host the event didn’t come from their personal whims, but rather was an idea the Holy Spirit gave them in prayer — thus it’s no surprise that all the details just so happened to work out.
What the meaning of life is:
I think this is where it’s easiest for us Americans to go wrong, and where many “health and wealth gospel” proponent have gone wrong. Surrounded by incomparable wealth, luxury and access to medical care, it’s easy to start to think of our lives here on earth as our eternal destinations. The natural human inclination is to make the overarching goal of our lives to have the longest, healthiest, most comfortable life here on earth as possible. But that’s not how the saints have seen it, and it’s not how God sees it. Not that God wants us to suffer — suffering and death wasn’t even part of the world he originally planned for us — but, in a heaven-centered worldview, suffering is not the worst evil. Sin is.
And that’s another thing I’ve noticed about people who seem to have radical but healthy trust in God: they accept this. They trust that God will pave the way for them to get themselves and others on a path to heaven, and know that sometimes it will involve sending cake for a tea party…and other times it might involve suffering, or even an early death. But when they compare that prospect to an eternity of ecstatic peace, it doesn’t seem like such a bad proposition.
So when I ponder placing radical trust in God in my own life, I think of deepening my understanding of those three concepts as part of the package, an absolute requirement for striking the balance between prudence and abandonment to God. But what do you think? What is the proper role of trust in the Christian life? Is it possible to trust God too much?