The Big Problem with Trusting God
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
There is an old joke about a man who fell over the side of a cliff but was able to stop his fall by grabbing a small branch. As he dangled over the chasm, he looked to the heavens and cried out, “Is there anyone up there who can help me?” Three times he called out, and no one answered. Suddenly the heavens parted and the voice of God rang out, “I will help you, but you must trust me. I want you to let go of the branch.” The man looked down to the ravine below him, considered his options, and then looked back to heaven and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there who can help me?”
Herein lies the problem with trusting God. We are usually content to trust God with the ‘what’, that is, we trust God to provide for our needs, deliver us in times of trouble, show us the direction He wants us to go and so forth. We are OK with trusting God with the ‘what’, the challenge is trusting Him just as much with the ‘when’ and ‘how’. And it’s usually somewhere in the timing of God’s response and the way He chooses to respond where the real faith is required.
In my life it goes like this. I ask for help, and His usual response is not with an immediate answer or provision, but with an invitation that requires a step of faith, an act of ultimate trust in Him. In almost every case, trusting God requires me to take steps that seem illogical, countercultural, and uncomfortable. That is the nature of faith and trust. Our text from Proverbs reminds us that trusting God often requires that we set aside our “own understanding.” That is, we will be required to reject the way we would do it and the time-line we expect it to be done and embrace wholly the ‘way’ and ‘when’ of God. Sound familiar?
When I think of the challenge of trusting God for the ‘how’, I can’t help but think of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham prays for a son, an heir and future leader of his people. God answers by giving he and Sarah a son Isaac. I’m sure Abraham continued to pray for his son to grow up strong and wise and be committed to God. He prayed for him to be prepared to be the leader of the nation. And God answered Abraham’s prayer by the most gut-wrenching command – take him on a hill and sacrifice him. The ‘how’ was absurd, even grotesque. Yet in the face of this unthinkable command, “Early the next morning, Abraham rose and went out…” (Genesis 22:3) No hesitation, just a trust that the same God that delivered on the ‘what’ would be faithful for the ‘how’.
When I think of trusting God for the ‘when’, I think of Joseph. Imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, his life wasting away, I’m sure he prayed daily for deliverance. And then it came. God provided the ‘what’ in the form of the Pharaoh’s cup steward for whom Joseph interpreted a dream. Joseph’s last words to him are his plea, “but when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:15-16)
And all does go well with the cup bearer, just as Joseph prophesied. Buy chapter 40 of Genesis ends with these sad words, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Even more shocking is the next verse that begins chapter 41, “When two full years had passed…” Really? Two more years Joseph sat in that dungeon? Two years after freedom seemed just days away? Two years from the day God answered Joseph’s prayers for the ‘what’ of deliverance to the ‘when’ of final emancipation? Yet when Joseph did emerge from that dungeon, he was ready for the work God was preparing for him, and God’s timing was perfect.
How about for you? What step of faith, what act of trust is God asking of you? Will you set aside your own understanding and trust in Him? Even if it means trusting him for the way He will answer and believing in His faithfulness regardless of the timing of His answer? Even if it means letting go of your branch?
Let me end with a challenge. This is time for absolute honesty with yourself. Complete this statement: If I absolutely, completely, and unreservedly trusted in God as my Provider in all things, and I equally trusted Him for when and how He will provide, there is one thing I would do differently today: __________________________________________________________
Now that you have named it, what will you do about it?