Trust is my word for 2019. I’m approaching the 40-year mark on my life as a believer, and I’m still learning to trust God. Some days it seems so simple. Other days, not so much.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been sick for much of 2019. I’ve still been dragging myself to work every day, sharing my cold germs with anyone foolish enough to get close! Then making the long drive home, eating dinner, and collapsing into bed. Work, eat, drive, sleep. That has been my whole life for what feels like forever but is actually only a few weeks.
Even in this nuisance of ongoing, but not serious, illness, I am learning to trust God. There is so much I want to accomplish, but I have no energy to do anything. So, I’m learning to let go and trust God to restore my energy and health at the right time. I’m not stressing over what I’m not accomplishing. I’m relaxing in grace.
Why Learning to Trust God is Important
This is such an important life skill for believers. Life is full of minor annoyances and major disappointments. For each and every one of them, we must trust God. We must always be learning to trust God more. Whether you’ve been a believer for 4 days or 40 years, you will continually be learning to trust God.
This is never a lesson learned. It is always a lesson being learned. On this side of heaven, none of us will ever be able to say “I trust God” always and completely without fail. Because we’re sinners. We fail. We fall. We trust in ourselves, our families, our children, our spouses, our bank accounts, our jobs, our education, our connections, our churches, our friends, and so much more.
And the truth is, we should trust in at least some of those things – our families, our spouses, our churches, our friends. But the truth is also that they will always disappoint us at some point. Because, just like each of us, they are all sinners also.
That is why learning to trust God is so important, so critical to our faith. Jesus is the only One who will never disappoint. He will never let us down. He will never abandon us. He is always there, faithful and true, ready to hear and respond to our desperate cries and our awestruck praise.
How We Learn to Trust God
I think we sometimes make learning to trust God into a mystery when it isn’t. Think for a moment about how most people learn to trust their parents. When a baby is born, he has never known want, cold, hunger, discomfort, pain, or loneliness. All these sensations are new and disturbing. And the only thing the baby can do is cry. Hungry? Cry. Wet diaper? Cry. In pain? Cry. And usually when he cries, someone responds, fixes the problem and the crying stops. The baby is content again. He has learned that crying will bring someone to fix his problems. That someone will fix his problem, and eventually he learns that whoever that someone is (mom, dad, grandma), can be trusted to fix the next problem. Trust is beginning to be learned.
It works the same way with us and our trust in God. When we are new believers, we know He can be trusted, because we trusted Him with our greatest need – forgiveness and salvation – and He met that need. As we go through life with Him, we trust Him with smaller needs like finding a parking space (OK, anyone else ever pray for a parking space?), providing a job, finding a friend, or finding lost car keys (again, am I the only one?), and so on. We show our trust by crying – just as that baby did – but our cries take the form of prayers. As prayers are answered, we learn over and over again that God can be trusted. So, we continue to trust Him. Simple, right?
Yes and no. Yes, because God is always faithful. No, because sometimes our prayers are answered in ways we don’t want – with a ‘No’ or a ‘Not yet’ or an encouragement to ‘Grow.’ When this happens, we begin to second-guess God. To wonder if He really is trustworthy. To doubt His goodness.
Has this happened to you? It has to me. Being totally honest, it’s happened more than once. You would think I’d learn my lesson and just live in trust, but that isn’t my story. Which is why learning to trust God is not a once-and-done thing, but an ongoing life journey.
Ways to Practice Trusting God
So, how do we live out this learning to trust God in all things? What does it actually look like and feel like? How does my day-to-day experience change when I’m trusting God?
First, stop trusting yourself. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” That’s your heart and my heart. We can deceive ourselves so easily. I’ve seen it and lived it.
I’ve had friends who convinced themselves that they married the wrong person and left their families devastated. I’ve seen others convince themselves that the only way to ever be happy again is to ditch the faith they grew up with instead of the sin they grew comfortable with. We cannot trust ourselves! We need faithful, honest believers in our lives who will hold us to a Biblical standard and call us out when we aren’t living there.
Second, trust the Word. It never changes (Matthew 5:18; Revelation 22:18-19). God’s Word will keep your life on the narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14) if you obey it. Obeying the Word is proof that you are trusting both the Word and the Author. If you say that you trust the Word or trust God, but don’t obey their commands, then you are deceiving yourself. Trust in God is shown by trusting His Word and the directions it gives for your life. So, trust the Word.
But of course, you cannot be trusting the Word if you don’t know the Word – so be in it daily. This is the third step: be in the Word daily. Not in Christian books, not in devotional guides, not even in published Bible studies (which I love!), but in the Word itself. If whatever else you are reading does not awaken a hunger for the Word, change your reading habits. I read Christian books. I do Bible studies. I even read non-Christian books! But they are like the dip for my veggies – nice, but not necessary. The nutrition is in the carrots and peppers, not the dip. Likewise, the soul nutrition is in the Word, not the extras I add on.
Fourth, keep a prayer journal. Having a prayer journal will build your faith as you record faithful answers from your loving Father. It will renew your lagging faith when hard times comes as your re-read the prayers you recorded months or years before that have changed lives. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, they erected an altar of twelve stones taken from the middle of the river. This was to be a memorial for the ages to remind the nation of the miracles that the Lord had done for them. In the same way, a prayer journal can be a memorial of your journey with the Lord and His faithfulness. Keep a record of God’s work in your life. It will amaze you to see what He does.
Finally, find other believers who will keep you accountable for walking with the Lord faithfully. This should mean joining a church and serving there. But it is so much more than that. It is finding a handful of women (or men, for those men who are reading this!) who will surround you with love, uphold you in prayer, encourage you at your weakest, and rejoice with you in your victories. It is knowing they have your back – and you have theirs. It is trusting that you are never alone in the battle, whatever the battle may be.
When you find those people, cling to them. Join them in Bible study, prayer, and worship. But live life with them outside the church walls also. Meet for lunch once a month. Or coffee dates on Thursdays. Share favorite verses every morning by text after your devotions. Or call and pray together over the phone on your commute. Go to worship together, but also go shopping, see movies, and have play dates in the park. These are your people and you need them. They also need you.
Learning to trust God is a lifelong journey. Don’t travel alone!
I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to join my mailing list to get occasional encouraging emails in your walk of trusting God. You’ll also get instant access to my Resource Library, where I have resources that can help you to be faithful in your walk. We are walking together, let’s encourage one another!