I have decided to base this writing on trust as this is my word for the year. I felt God gave it to me at the start of this year and oh how applicable it has been!
My first realisation this year has been that I have not fully known what it means to trust God. I was surprised by this realisation – having been brought up in a Christian family and having had a very close relationship with God since very young. I would hear people around me say to others going through hard times: ‘trust in God’ ‘He knows what he’s doing’ ‘He is in control’ and I probably even said this to people on numerous occasions.
Perhaps like so many of you I would have said I did trust God – that is, until things started to happen in my life that were tough. It started after the birth of my first son. It was an incredibly traumatic experience and potentially life threatening. It was certainly life altering. Not just in the sense that you have a new baby, but my whole world was rocked. Everything I believed in and everything I held dear, my relationship with God and who I thought he was, was suddenly in doubt.
I then found out in January that I have a problem with my heart – not serious, but it affects my energy levels, which has the knock on effect of altering so many other things in life. I have not doubted God this time round – but I have questioned what it means to trust him in all of this.
I realised that I thought trusting God meant that nothing too bad would ever happen to me – nothing too scary, nothing too horrible, nothing that felt too overwhelming – because he’s God, right? He loves me, he’s in control, he’s good, he’s sovereign, right? So surely he wouldn’t want me to have difficulty? and if bad did happen, I would trust, and that would mean he’d take it away, right? Because I’m trusting him it will go……
It was a surprise to me that I believed I would always be protected in this world from very bad things. I had heard people saying being a christian doesn’t protect us from bad things…..yet above this I had heard ‘God is good’, ‘God is healer,’ ‘God will be your shield, your protection, your shelter, your deliverer, your refuge’ ‘God is sovereign, in control’. I believe these are true, yet I wonder if they are not ‘alone’ statements? I wonder if in our churches, when people are struggling around us, we use these truths too much in isolation, too easily – they only capture part of the truth and I wonder if focussing on these truths alone produces a ‘surface’ trust in God which we only realise once our comfort is tested. Just a thought I am still mulling over….. I wonder if these truths need to be seen in the context of trust – because without this trust in God, these phrases can feel so meaningless from my experience.
As I began to feel as though I couldn’t trust God anymore, I began to explore what it actually means, practically, to trust God – not just to say it – as I was at a point where I couldn’t say it or mean it…….
One of the first realisations I had was that Trust = Love. It is impossible to trust someone you think doesn’t love you. You need to know God loves you to trust him. When bad things happen and you are aware of the sovereignty of God, it can be difficult to not feel like God is partly responsible for the pain you are currently going through and this in turn can make us feel less loved by God than we used to.
There may be a way to see these 2 things together (sovereignty and difficult times) but at the moment of hard times I wonder if it is easier just to focus on God and his love and almost forget about his sovereignty in relation to the difficult situation. This may sound wrong and again it is just an idea at the moment, but until I trust God and know his love for me I will struggle with his sovereignty.
Part of separating the 2 characteristics of God (in my mind) helps me to understand more of God as our shelter and refuge, it’s like a picture of you in a battle – a bloody, sword slashing, gut wrenching battle with you in the centre and the enemy all around…….but just outside the circle of enemies is God who we can run to at any point for a cuddle, comfort, security, love, rest….I believe God is also with us in the very centre, but when it does not feel like this, don’t worry – remember he is also outside of the fight for you to run to. We mustn’t forget to sometimes come out of the battle, either physically or in our minds to have a security cuddle with our Father God. Words of Jenn Johnson’s song are amazing in this…
The wind and waves surround me
And I’m tossed, Feel like I’m drowning
I am tired, I am weak
I need You here with me
‘Cause I can feel the rising tide
But I don’t have the strength to fight
I feel clouded and confused
I need You here with me
In the chaos of the storm
I have drifted far; far away
But I call out Your name
‘Cause You are just a breath
A breath away
Then through the shadows
Your light appears
I’ve known You’re with me
But now it is clear
I can feel You
Jesus All around
Like sun on my skin
Warm to the touch
Here You surround me
I am held by love
I can feel You
Jesus all around
Now hope is rushing through my veins
With everything You’ve rearranged
I am peaceful; I am brave
When You’re here with me
All my questions find their answers here
When You come You change the atmosphere
I am focused; I am clear
When You’re here with me
Tied in with this is the second realisation – trust comes as you remember his character. Psalm 9v10 – ‘Those who know your name will trust in you’. For me, this was looking back over the years at my relationship with God and all the great times we’d had hanging out and chatting – remembering again who I knew him to be – as I remembered this I saw again who he was – SO good and someone who loves me beyond my comprehension. Remember those times when you’ve been with God and known who he is – you can rely on them. You may be tempted to believe they were all a lie – but they weren’t. Reading the bible helps masses with this too!
Thirdly, trusting God is choosing to move towards him (This is from David Macgregor’s latest talk). Choose to spend a little time going to God for refuge and rest from the storm – choose to let him show you who he truly is. You don’t need to completely know someone before you walk towards them – but if you choose to walk towards them you get to see what they look like a little better – then if you choose to share a few words you get to know them just that little bit better again…………….
Whatever your pain right now, whatever your storm I would encourage you to keep talking to God – this can be the toughest thing when you feel unloved by God and like he is against you – but tell him this and ask people around you for prayer even if in your heart you are disagreeing with that they say. That’s ok! Be real with God – but try and keep your heart open to him, even though everything within you wants to shut down from the pain and disappointment you feel God is responsible for….. keep telling him this…….
But finally, something my granny showed me recently sums up what I believe trust in God looks like:
Lord, help me to remember that nothing will happen that you and I can’t handle together