“It’s pretty much useless for me to do anything,” I wailed pitifully.
Our CRV crept through the pedestrian stripes in front of Walmart, my husband, the good Rev, at the wheel. He either didn’t know what to say or anticipated that this conversation would find its way to #1 on Katie’s Top Ten Hissy Fits. The latter was a little unlikely, though. It would have to be a doozy to best the day that I put a dent in the ironing board–with the iron—while it was hot–in a fit of self-loathing because I could not for my life remember to get up early on Wednesdays for faculty meetings. That little incident has topped the countdown since 2003.
For this recent meltdown, about eight months ago, I felt more desperate than angry. After a tough couple of years following a miscarriage, I quit my job. Being at home would give me ample time to work through a tangled mess of grief, take care of my family and myself, and write.
Leaving the job took a lot of pressure off, and I applied myself to grieving with the help of a counselor. But it was slow work and hard to stay motivated. When I would have a productive stretch, if I felt like I’d gained some ground and maybe had rounded a corner, I would invariably encounter a period of intense grief, leaving me to wonder if I was getting anywhere at all. I lost whole days, sitting in a chair in my living room, accomplishing nothing.
“I can’t write. I can’t grieve. I’m making absolutely no progress,” I continued at Todd, who was still inching us through the parking lot. “It doesn’t help to talk to God. He won’t give me a baby. If I tell him I want to be a writer, he’ll just say no. He always says no.”
Sufficiently warmed up, I ranted my way through a list of things which make me unhappy and must certainly be God’s fault. Through all this, Todd kept his eyes studiously ahead, stopping for shoppers as needed.
“It doesn’t matter how hard I work or how much effort I put into anything. If I talk to God, he doesn’t come through. If I ask, he says no. If I need something, he says no. No matter what it is, he expects me to take the hardest road possible.”
With that, Todd abruptly pressed the brake and turned to face his abject wife. “Well. Those are all just lies.”
He couldn’t have gotten my attention any better if he smacked me on the head with a fly swatter. I stared first at him, then out the window at the world which continued to turn, a flurry of humanity and shopping carts and plastic bags, even though I felt stuck. As I write this, it occurs to me that it was God giving me a smack through Todd’s words. I imagine Him saying, “Hey! Quit talking like that about Me.”
Rather than talking to the Lord, casting my cares on him, I heaped a whole lot of blame. And I know better. I have faith in Him and I’m certain of His character.
Why don’t I trust Him? Does a lack of trust mean I don’t have much faith?
Last Saturday, I sprung the question on Todd. “OK. Say you have to preach a sermon right now. How do you answer the question—do you have faith in God if you don’t fully trust Him?”
His immediate and numerous responses impressed me. The man can preach. I even opened up my laptop and took notes.
“You have to separate the object of your faith, which is Jesus,” he began, “with the object of your desire. There’s nothing wrong with desiring things, but you still have to allow God to put those things through His filter. When we’re truly trusting in God, it’s going to stretch us.”
We talked for a long time. Most helpful was discovering that I’m alright—I do have faith, even if it’s the mustard seed variety. Faith indicates the thing of which I can be certain–that Jesus died for me. That is the object of my faith. But when it comes to the things that we desire, we have to consider outcomes. What solution to this problem am I most hoping for? Do I trust God with the outcome of this situation?
“He’s not going to immediately give you what you want so that you can feel good about your faith,” Todd said as I furiously typed, trying to keep up. “There’s a dependence on and a need to see an outcome. And when we see what we wanted all along, we feel good and we feel comforted. But who did Jesus say the comforter is? The Holy Spirit.”
I readily saw myself in the scenario he described. Perhaps, I feel good about my faith if I can accurately predict the outcome. In other words, I think I know what’s best for me, so that’s the outcome I’m praying for. If God gives me the thing that I thought would be best, I feel validated both for my faith and for having a Father who gave me exactly what I wanted. But in giving my future over to God in prayer, I have to recognize that He may go a different direction than what I think is best. It takes a little discipline to trust Him regardless of the outcome.
Before writing about it, I decided to pose this same question on Facebook. I wanted to see if everyone has the same neurotic trust issues that I have. It surprised me, and I guess I’m a little envious, that there are those who could easily say, “This is totally OK. Doubt is normal.”
But there were also responses, some messaged to me privately, that described insecurities about faith and trust. One friend said to me recently, “I know God can. I’m just not sure He will–for me.” For those of us who want to trust in God more completely, what is the obstacle that stands in our way?
According to the Rev, “Sometimes we call our presumptions faith. We have a desired outcome. So we want to presume upon God that this must be the outcome. Rather than having faith in God to produce the outcome he wants, we think we’re applying faith by just telling him how much we want the outcome that we want.”
The obstacle to trust is setting our sights on one particular outcome, which is then pressed upon God. We want or we need God to answer in a specific way, or we won’t be OK. Maybe the outcome God chooses will cause us to doubt the object of our faith—Jesus.
Sometimes, the object of our desire, the thing for which we must trust God, isn’t a matter of life or death. This might result in frustration, maybe a hissy fit if you’re prone to melting down.
But sometimes, the object of our desire is truly a matter of life and death. We have to place ourselves or a loved one in His hands and pray for what seems an impossible solution or a miraculous healing—of course, we pray for what we most want. In either case, whether you have to trust God with someone’s life or just the solution to a problem, it is so important to know the One who is the object of our faith before we attempt to apply trust.
The difficulties that we face often force us to re-learn certain principles of discipleship. I’m covering ground, again, that I thought I’d mastered. That’s hard for a perfectionist! Still, I know Jesus. That my confidence became a little rickety has no bearing on His character.
So, I’ll go back over this again—like a review sheet the teacher assigned to help me prepare for the test. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV). God predestined me for very good things, and those things come with a guarantee. The guarantee is also the Comforter.
l bet that if I memorize that, I’ll be better prepared for the test when it comes.
One Facebook friend who responded to my question talked about trusting God while going through health issues which required two brain surgeries. “The first time I knew I would be fine. The second time I felt assured that whether I awoke here or in His presence that all would be well. I was not afraid.”
Wow. That’s genius.
She filtered her trust through the object of her faith. She viewed the unknown outcome in light of what she knows to be true.
If we are confident of our future in Christ, and especially if we value our life in Him more than anything else, our trust in God will be unshakeable.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8, NIV