By Matt Wilmeth
I will never forget stepping into the room to meet my daughter for the first time. While my wife recovered, I became the first person my little girl met after the doctors and nurses who welcomed her into the florescent lit hospital room. As I picked her up, she held onto me for dear life. Her little hands clung to my shirt and chest and refused to let go. I remember thinking this is what trust is—pure, unadulterated trust. This was the first time we met, but she knew that my arms were safe.
I always think about this when I consider how we should trust God. Trust is the action caused by belief. It is what faith looks like on the ground. If we claim that God is big enough to provide for our needs, knowledgeable enough to know what is best for us, and loving enough to want to be actively involved in our lives, then we must trust him by handing all our life plans and personal goals and daily to-dos over to him.
Yet for some reason, we find it so hard to let go of our control and hold onto him.
Trust also reminds me of another experience: Early in our marriage while my wife and I were working with a church in Honduras, we discovered we were almost out of food. All we had left was some flour, milk, sugar, and a varied assortment of condiments, and we still had one week before we would receive a check. That night we went to a church event where everyone was supposed to bring a banana as part of our dessert. When the event had ended, there was a multitude of bananas left over, so they sent us home with an entire bag. For the rest of the week, we filled our bellies with banana pancakes, banana muffins, banana bread, banana milk shakes, and simply bananas. We found ourselves relating to the time the Lord provided so much quail for the Israelites in the desert that it came out their nostrils (Numbers 11:20). It was a surprising and overwhelming demonstration of God’s provision, and we had plenty to eat until our next check came in.
I think a lot of us have stories like this if we truly analyze our lives—stories of God’s overwhelming provision. Yet no matter how much he surprises us with his grace and proves how much he cares and provides, we still tend to wobble in the knees and fret each time a new unknown arrives.
It is time to trust God with our entire lives—even the dark, unsure corners. But what does that entail? What exactly does trusting God look like?
Trusting God Step 1: Prayer
Too often we tend to make prayer very much about us and very little about God. This is because we misunderstand its purpose. The purpose of prayer is not to remind God of your needs as if he were not already aware or were prone to forgetfulness. God is very aware of what you need. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:7, 8: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
So if God already knows what we will say, why pray? Because it is an act of trust. We are telling God, “I trust you to handle this situation.” Asking something of God in prayer is a confession to God that you cannot achieve it on your own. It is a statement not of your needs but of your need for him.
Another thing that prayer is not meant to be is a list of demands that God then is somehow supposed to obey. I once heard a sermon on the radio earnestly comparing God to a soda machine, insisting that you only needed to state what you wanted (and maybe put in a little money) and it would be yours. Prayer is absolutely NOT a means to manipulate God. Though we have this great privilege to talk to God, we do not forget that he is the holy creator of the universe. This is where the greatness of God and the goodness of God inspire our trust. He is too big to be manipulated, but he is exactly big enough and loving enough to take on whatever weighs down our hearts. We offer it to him.
Trusting God Step 2: Stop Worrying
We cannot trust God and worry. As a culture, we often view worry as a good thing. We tend to boastfully say things like, “I will never stop worrying about you” or “I was up all night worrying about this.” Worry is strangely addicting. It can make us feel like we are working hard to solve an unsolvable problem despite not really having done a thing. In the end worry is a useless endeavor that only highlights how little faith we have in God. God does not want or need our worry.
As Jesus put it in Matthew 6:27, 31-34: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Jesus’ message on worry was twofold: 1—worry is not necessary because God will take care of you and 2—worry has no power to change anything anyway. Some things are out of our control, and losing sleep over them will not make any difference. There is only one who is big enough to handle it all. By actively choosing not to worry, we show God that we trust him to take control. You cannot trust God while trying to take back the wheel.
Trusting God Step 3: Act
Praying and renouncing worry are the first steps in trusting God, but it is not complete until we act. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as “The Hall of Faith” due to its powerful list of biblical heroes of the faith. This list is not a list of perfect people—some of them had some very serious issues—it is a list of people whom God blessed because they had faith in him. Their faith was not proven by their statements of beliefs but rather by their radical action. Each one stepped out in faith and chose to trust God. Noah built a boat on dry land. Abraham and Sarah moved to wherever God called them because he had promised to give them a nation from their descendants despite being childless and well past their prime. Moses’ mom placed her infant in a basket and set him afloat, trusting God would save him. The entire nation of Israel walked on dry land with towering walls of water looming above them on either side. Everyone listed in this chapter trusted God. They often did what others would find crazy all because they knew that faith was more than just something you profess or a statement you sign. Trust is the only action that a faithful person can do. We must follow God.
Sometimes the best way to trust God is to go all in. Get rid of all crutches. You do not need to live a safe life. Do not get to the end of your life just to say, “Everything I have accomplished, I have done on my own.” Why would you want that when you have the living God inside you, speaking to you, leading you? Where has God been trying to take you but you have not been willing to step out and trust him? Or what have you been trying to worry about and control on your own and thus been failing miserably? It is time to cling desperately to our heavenly Father and trust in his capable hands.
Matt Wilmeth is the pastor of Haverstraw Church of Christ in Haverstraw, New York.