Recently I threw out a question to a group of people: “In what area of your life is it hardest for you to trust God?” The answers that came back were varied but I found they held a commonality. They all revolved around issues that went beyond the self’s ability to fix or solve. That makes sense; why do we have to trust God for things that are easy for us to come by?
To one, finances come easily and to another it is a constant struggle. One woman has an easy time conceiving children but to another there is barrenness. But to each one of us there is some area that seems to defy all human solutions and that is the place where God calls us to trust. We think; “Why can’t this be taken care of, this is the thing I want the most. I would be complete if this were resolved” What we can’t have becomes our most prized goal.
What is trust really? How can we grow in trusting God? Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd and it is in this metaphor that we will examine trust. The idea that we are like sheep under the guidance of a shepherd is a good one because our personality matches that of sheep more than we would like to admit. Sheep are easily frightened and like to pasture in calm lower lying places. Not “loner” animals, sheep need to be with a flock as they don’t have any natural way to protect themselves. Totally vulnerable, they definitely need someone who is taking care of all the security issues for them.
As I prayed and meditated on the whole trust issue this picture unfolded before me. I saw a shepherd on a mountainside with his flock and as I watched I considered joining them. The sheep had their heads lowered, grazing, and took no notice of me whatsoever as I was too far off for them to see. The shepherd was standing there quite tall with staff in hand and was looking out beyond the flock in all directions. Seeing me down below, he beckoned me to come up and join him.
I did go up and I could see the great advantage of being under the care of a good shepherd. The sheep could attend to typical sheep duties because they had someone who could see beyond the place they could see. All they had to do was glance up occasionally and keep the shepherd in the corner of their eye. When it was time to move he would signal them. They could just keep on eating and resting and doing other sheep stuff.
As I joined the shepherd there was a conversation and this part I would like to share with you who are struggling with trust. The shepherd said; “When you have trust you have confidence in who I am. You have confidence in my decisions. You don’t care that you don’t know where you are going because I know.”
Trust is only as good as the ability and character of the one we are trusting in. Our most important step in trusting God is to examine who he is. Jesus says in John 10:11; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” That is nothing but words if we don’t really feel it solidly in our heart. We can’t get it solidly in our heart if we don’t spend time with the Lord; so much time that we know every nuance of his face, his character, his heart toward us. A good step toward really understanding the person of Jesus is to read the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Reading these books over and over and over again produces an intimacy that is a foundation for trust.
Once we have confidence that the Good Shepherd is worthy of our trust we can take the next step which is to put our issues in his safekeeping. Why? Because we know he can see at a level we cannot and to a distance that we are unable. Remember the sheep analogy. We are low to the ground. If we look up and out we can’t really see that far or that well. Other sheep around us are blocking our view and there is probably quite a bit of noise and distraction too. We have no idea where the next pasture land is coming from or how to get to it. We have no idea what predators might be near. Without the shepherd’s love and care and protection we are pretty much doomed to be picked off or lost.
Peace comes when we put our “issues” into the safekeeping of our Shepherd. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about them anymore. We still want to get to that particular pasture land. We need a financial solution; we want to see that prodigal child return to the Lord; we want relief from that chronic pain. Trust is not being passive; it means actively believing that the Shepherd is good and has a good plan and is bringing about solutions in HIS way and HIS time. Why? Because he has better vision than us and he has a better plan than any we could come up with. Trust rejects fear, doubt and caving in to a fatalistic attitude.
Trust in God does not mean we stop praying either. Praying is definitely part of sheep duty. Keep on praying. Listen for any word from the Shepherd that it is time to move forward or take any particular steps. The unfolding of God’s plan for us usually involves some steps of cooperation on our part.
Realize that there will always be areas in your life where trust is called for. The issue that it is hard to trust for now will be over someday. But a new issue will replace it. Learning to trust is an ongoing process in our life but it is made easier with the experience of seeing our trust ultimately rewarded. The longer we know the Shepherd the more we know how trustworthy he is. Then we can join David the psalmist and say with absolute confidence; “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Perhaps you would like to know a little more about the God who is the Good Shepherd. Read Jehovah – Rohi to find out more about this powerful name of God.
Note: I received a beautiful note from a reader in response to reading this article and want to pass it along. Here is the way one person views trusting God. “I think of Trust as the open hands of God, and when I put my trust in Him, it’s like stepping up into those giant hands, knowing he will protect me, guide me, and keep me safe. I feel moved by those hands, as I sit in them, moved in the direction where HE wants me to go, and it’s a beautiful feeling to trust God!”