I’ll just say it.
I have a hard time trusting God.
Now, I have said many times, “If you have trusted God with your eternity, then you can trust Him with the next 24 hours.” Even though that is completely true, it’s easier said than lived. My worry, anxiety and fear stem from the simple fact that trust here and now is harder for me to maintain than trust in the “there and then.”
God has put me in some situations lately where I have been forced to confront those nagging doubts about trusting Him.
What follows is what I have learned. This won’t be every person’s journey or match how every individual processes things. I don’t offer this with that in mind. This is my own personal walk. But since we are to comfort others “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,” perhaps something can be gleaned for your own struggle or for a loved one’s struggle. Maybe you’ll need this later. Whatever the case, take this for what it is: one guy sharing his search for how to trust God daily.
First, consider the brutal honesty of the Psalms: “O God, How long?”
Or the prophets crying, “Where are You?”
Or Job’s complaints of “Why?”
God is big enough to handle our complaints. The first step must be honesty with yourself about what’s going on inside your heart. You will never get where you need to be if you don’t know where you are.
I had to ask myself, “What are those that I have a hard time relinquishing to Him?” That was pretty simple. I knew what those things were. They are usually easy to recognize. These are the things I think about most often and worry about how I can change them. Identifying them was easy. Admitting that I wouldn’t leave them on the altar because I didn’t trust Him with them was harder. I told myself I worried about those things because I cared about them so much. This led me to consider how I attempt to excuse or avoid my worry.
Usually there are two main, wrong approaches to worry. One is to immerse oneself in it. It sets you up for a never-ending recirculation of hurt and fear. It sounds something like this:
“I’m worried. I don’t know what to do. How can I fix this? I need a plan. This depends on me. I know what needs to happen. God, why don’t You fix this? No? Ok, maybe You want me to do it. I got it. But what if this fails? God, you’ll bail me out? Right? But what if I fail and then You don’t ride to the rescue? I need a plan if my first plan fails…”
And so it goes. Exhaustingly so.
We who engage in this thinking tend to wear our worry like a badge of wisdom. After all, “He who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Our worry shows we have more responsibility, more things to handle and more that God has entrusted to us (probably because we were faithful with a little, so He gave more). I mean, it’s noble to stay up for hours during the night dwelling on those things. It means we are very spiritual.
It means I am very dense.
Knowledge increases sorrow, yes. But awarding myself a Purple Heart for worry is not an act of wisdom. It is, quite bluntly, sin. If anything, more responsibility should mean a deeper trust and humble dependence upon Him.
The second approach seems spiritual as well. It’s the “ignore/distract/entertain” method of dealing with worry.
It sounds like this:
“I’m worried. There are some really heavy issues I am facing. Oh well, God’s in control. I don’t need to worry about anything. I’m going to take all these problems and just forget about them. I don’t want to think about them. So don’t mention them to me. In fact, thinking stresses me. I’m going to turn the music up a little louder now. Eat a little more. Sleep a little while longer. Dance harder. Talk louder. Go to more parties. Shop often. Meet more people. Run to this, no, wait, that, for some comfort. Ok, I’ll take a little of everything, after all, what’s life for except to enjoy it? Let’s not talk about the problems, let’s just have fun. After all, that’s what God wants: my happiness.”
The major problem with this approach is that it is equally as dense as the first one.
Some might argue, “But wait, don’t you believe we should live for today? That’s what I’m doing when I live like this!”
Living a life of carefree distraction and “redeeming the time” are not the same thing.
We either live today in spite of eternity, or we live today with our sight on eternity.
Immersing yourself in problems can drown you; avoiding them fully will wither your growth. Once the new experience offering distraction grows routine, another option must be explored. You hate silence, and being alone and prolonged inactivity. When those things come, and you lie on your bed at night, there is nothing to hold the thoughts in check. The circumstances may change, but the problem remains because you can’t get away from yourself. You never change. This too becomes a never-ending cycle leading you further from God as you try to escape any real or perceived threat to your comfort.
I tend toward the first response, but see elements of the second in some areas of my worry. I suppose most people are somewhere on that spectrum as well.
The first key for me was grasping the fact that worry is self-centered. Not only is worry self-centered, but if I am not worried because I am trusting in myself or anything other than God, then I am equally as arrogant and just as wrong (Jer. 17:5-8). No concern is as deadly as too much concern.
The next thing God did was remind me of a promise He made to Israel a long time ago…
(Part 2 in this series can be found here.)