Why I don't trust God part 1: Christians let me down.
I don't know, exactly, what brought me to this conclusion, or precisely when it happened, but I have come to realize that while I believe in God, I don't always believe God. There is a huge difference between the two, which I will get to in a minute. Until rather recently, I was quite convinced that I trust God, but when I looked back on my actions and decisions I was forced to see the truth, the truth that I don't trust God and my actions proved it. I mean, looking back, there are plenty of examples where I have leaned on my own understanding, which is something warned against in Proverbs 3:5. The realization that I don't actually trust God stung a bit as I never like to be in the wrong, and I like to think of myself as a "good Christian."
Believing in God and believing God are not even close to being the same thing; let me explain. To believe in God is simply to believe He exists and is more or less what the Bible says He is, but to believe God is to trust Him, to trust Him to help you personally. When God says He has plans for your life and wants what is best for you, you believe it and act accordingly if you trust Him. I mean you really believe it and not just in some generic way; you live your life like you believe it.
A few Sundays ago my pastor, Scott, gave a great example of trusting God and living like it. When Scott was in school, his parents encountered a lady who worked three jobs just to get by and rarely saw her children. After praying about it they decided to make some sacrifices in their family, including nixing their summer vacation, in order to be able to pay this ladies rent for six months so she could quit one of her jobs and spend time with her children.
Over the past few weeks I have wrestled to to discover and isolate why I don't always completely trust God so I can fix the problem and get to the point where I unreservedly and unashamedly trust God, wholly and completely. This series covers my reasons for not trusting God and will, hopefully, conclude with with how I came to truly trust Him for the loving and merciful father He is. My goal is to get to the point where I trust God with reckless abandon. God wants us all to trust Him with reckless abandon, not just sort of trust Him.
When I sat sown to write my list of reasons for not trusting God, the first thing that came to mind was all the times I have been let down, abused, cheated, lied to, excluded and hated by those who believe in God and serve Him, or at least claim to serve Him. It is funny how it's apparently human nature to more easily remember the bad than the good. Perhaps it is a survival strategy that has been passed down to us from when our ancestors lived in caves and tents and everything wanted to eat them. Remembering mountain lion will kill you is, I guess, more important than remembering wild berries are delicious. Whatever the reason, it can keep up from living up to our full potential as children of God, and can keep us from making meaningful relationships with other people.
a mountain lion will likely kill you is more important than remembering that a specific berry is delicious, but being too distrustful and only remembering the bad can also keep you from developing close relationships with people.
It takes more faith to trust God to help you personally with your own problems than it does to trust that He will help other people with their problems, especially people far away you don't actually know, or at least that is the way it is for me. The trust I place in God is inversely proportionate to how much it will affect me personally. I trust God will help other's but not me, a lot of the reasons for which I will not get into until later in the series. I trust God in a general, He love his children, type of way and not so much in a He loves me personally and positively intervenes in my life type of way.
When I was a child my family knew a lady that my mother not so affectionately called "Mrs. Bobby Pin" because she once said Jesus loved her so much he would get on his hands and knees to help her find her missing bobby pin. When you really trust God you not only trust He will help with the big, but also the small. I am not sure if Mrs. Bobby pin actually believed what she said she did, but I want the kind of faith that she, at minimum, pretended to possess, but without the self-righteousness she paired with it.
Of course, I have always felt bad asking God for help, especially with the mundane, because He already did so much for me that I didn't deserve in offering the life of His son in ransom for me, but that is an issue to be discussed in another part of this series.
Another way to look at the difference between believing in and believing can illustrated by the example of people who came from a good, loving home. They always knew their parents loved them but when they were learning to swim or to ride a bike their fear kept them from completely trusting their parents when they said they would not let them drown or fall. No matter how many times the loving parent or parents assured the child they had them and nothing bad would happen to them, fear made them doubt and keep a death grip on the side of the pool and made them all but unwilling to relinquish the training wheels. Though they generally thought their parents were worthy of trust they could not overcome their fear to trust them in those instances. I think sticking with what is familiar and easy instead of trusting God is the adult equivalent of training wheels or white-knuckling the edge of the pool.
will make you feel safe but if you never give them up you will never grow
Later in life when the same child doubts his or her parents it is for a different reason, yet the same; fear, just a different type of fear. I heard somewhere recently that fear is a liar, and I believe that to be true. When the parent or parents refuses to allow the child to go to that party that he or she just "has to" go to, while the child knows their parents love them, he or she still doubts that that they truly have his or her best interests at heart when they deny them the opportunity party with friends. Sometimes children even come up with motives out of left-field to attribute to their parents to explain why they would not allow them to go to the party or other activity. They don't want me to have friends, they don't want me to have fun, etc.
I grew up with the Bible, was well aware of what it said and was familiar with the Gospel, still, I had a difficult time separating the actions of those who represented, or claimed to represent, Christ and the actual actions and motivations of the God they claimed to represent. Not an overly good excuse,but when a representative of a company acts in a specific way it is generally regarded as the actions of the company. The difference is, the gospel is not a company and a sure-fire way to determine if someone is acting in accordance with the will of God is to go to the source and read the Bible.
Logically, I have always known that the actions of people who believe in God are not always, and quite often are not, a good or accurate reflection of the God they believe in. King David, as close to God as he was, chose to do some extremely despicable things, like when he had an affair with Bathsheba and got her pregnant, than tried to get her Husband, Uriah, to leave the rest of the servants and soldiers and go home, but being an honorable man, Uriah refused. Uriah said, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
When David's plan to cover his sins was frustrated he sinned a much larger sin to try and cover his previous sin. David, as the Bible says, had Uriah stay in Jerusalem one more day and in the morning he wrote a letter to Joab, ordering him to send Uriah to the front of the worst battle and then withdraw the troops leaving Uriah to die.
The Bible is extremely clear that God did not in any way endorse or condone David's actions. Quite the opposite actually, God was angry with David and he lost his favor with God as a result.
One of the worst offenders I have ever known was my father. You see, my father was an extremely religious man, but an extremely sinful man at the same time. My father would twist and distort scripture passages, taking them wildly out of context, in an effort to justify himself in his sin. But I had read the Bible and I knew better, yet I often let my father's actions reflect on God. Sometimes I would reason that even if God didn't condone the actions of my father, He certainly didn't prevent them from happening. I couldn't see how a loving God would allow an innocent child to suffer at the hands of his father.
Of course, I wasn't innocent. The only truly innocent person to ever live was Jesus Christ, but still, I didn't deserve what was happening to me at the hands of my father. Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings helped me to realize that perhaps my suffering would lead to greater good, especially when the book makes note that, even the wisest can't see all ends and that what you think is bad now may be the path leading to good things.
Still, I often judged the whole of Christianity on the Christians that I personally knew and the Christians I saw on the television. Mostly, I judged Christianity by the bad Christians, not the good ones and I often conveniently forgot about the times when Christians had gone out of their way to help me, at their own expense or discomfort.
When I was a teen, I attended a Baptist Church and would see members of the congregation living riotous lifestyles six days and confessing their own righteousness on Sunday. I knew what kind of "righteous" lives they lived, and everyone else likely did as well but refrained from saying so. A few young men my age came up with a plan to catch me out of town and beat me up. No, I didn't get beat up, I scared them off without a fight. I have always had the uncanny ability make people think I was just enough unhinged that they were afraid to mess with me. For that reason I have never been in a fight. The fact that I didn't get beat up by a group of fake Christians didn't increase the likelihood I would continue to attend that church. It also didn't help that the pastor refused to answer any of my theological questions.
The last straw was when one of the young men who plotted to assault me spoke in church and went on and on about what a good Christian he was. I left before he sat down and the pastor started his sermon. I could not abide such blatant hypocrisy.
When I was in college I started attending an Assembly of God church just off campus, and while the church taught solid Biblical doctrine, the congregation was sorely lacking in the hospitality department and a few of the members put me in a rather embarrassing and humiliating situation and than made a spectacle of it.
I asked a young lady out on a date, to which she agreed, gladly it seamed. We arranged everything, but when I went to her apartment to pick her up for the date her boyfriend, yes, I said her boyfriend, answered the door. Let me tell you, it was quite a shock to find out that she had a boyfriend. The boyfriend didn't know anything about me coming over either and was was taken back by it. The young woman denied ever agreeing to go out with me or even speaking of it, so naturally there was a confrontation and the rather large boyfriend had an overwhelming desire to rearrange my face. Thankfully he restrained himself. My face may not be all that pleasing to look at, but I would like to keep it the way it is.
I was confused and somewhat offended, and I had no idea it could ever get worse.
The woman in question never admitted she agreed to go out with me and told everyone about the incident and said I must be confused and was possibly a stalker. It wasn't long before most of the congregation was talking about me. Some church congregations flock to gossip like gulls flock to the rotting food at the landfill. I never felt overly welcome there and when people decided to spread rumors about me and to have fun at my expense I decided it was time to check out. My faith was already weak, and this did not help.
Later, at another church, I made a comment at a home group that the group leader didn't agree with and she said, "From now on, keep your comments to yourself," and I did exactly that. I left that church and over the next few years I only occasionally attended church, and I never went back to that one.
Two of those churches taught solid Biblical doctrine, and the other not so much, but none of their doctrines supported the manner in which they treated me. Again, since the people claimed to be Christian, and some of them probably were, I felt that I had placed my trust in God and God had let me down. In reality, I put my trust in imperfect people and imperfect people let me down as a natural result of being imperfect. I know I have let people down, and I hope and pray that none of my actions have made it difficult for anyone to trust God.
If a person's actions shakes your faith than your faith was in people rather than God. Placing your place in people is like building you house on the sand and placing your faith in Jesus is building your house on a rock, the only rock that matters.
I know that trusting God without reservation isn't a problem unique to me, and throughout the Bible, people who had great faith in God still doubted Him at times. Sarah laughed when God said she would have a child in her old age, Zachariah did not believe the Angel Gabriel when he told him he would have a son, and was made mute for nine months because of it. When Jesus announced he would go back to Jerusalem to see Lazarus, the apostles were quick to bring up how people wanted to kill him there and Thomas said, "Let us go that we may die with him." Even Mary had reservations and doubts when Jesus showed up to raise her brother from the dead. The apostles also doubted God when they woke Jesus when the waves scared them saying, "Master, don't you care that we are about to die?" After all they had seen Jesus do they still lacked in faith and marveled when he calmed the sea.
I am not trying to excuse my lack of faith and trust in God, just pointing out that it is not a problem unique to me or even to my generation. Still, I often find myself thinking that I am the only Christian who doesn't have it all together, the only one who doesn't trust God, especially when I am in church. I compare myself to people in my home group and say to myself, "I wish I had as much faith as he does, and I wish I was as good of a Christian as she is."
To trust God is more than to believe He generally want to do what is best for people. To trust God is to believe that He wants what is best for you, that you really matter to Him and he cares about your day to day life. God doesn't just love people and want to help them, He loves me and he loves you, personally and completely. To trust God is to know He not only loves us individually but that he likes. Sometimes I think about someone and realize I love them but don't like them, well God is not that way. God loves us even when we are not likable. When we trust God we know the path He is leading us on will be for our good, even if we don't understand it. If we trust God enough to let go of the apparent safety of the side of the pool, He won't let us drown. Sure, the side of the pool is safe and secure, but if we don't let go and trust we will never learn and we will never grow. Fear can hold us back from so many things in life, and with Jesus there is nothing to be afraid of. When the storm is raging and Jesus has our hand, we need to keep our eyes on him and not let the fierce winds and the high waves shake our trust in the one who has never and will never let us down.
It is easier to think the worst of people, and since I often wrongly attribute human actions and emotions to God, which I will get into in a later episode, I also often assume the worst about God, but when I look back on my life in an honest manner, I can see that God has never let me down and has never abandoned me. Even during the points in my life when I completely gave up on God and gave Him every reason to leave me lay and haul anchor, He never gave up on me.
Sometimes I almost convince myself that God doesn't really want me because I am a horrible person, but that is a lie the devil feeds us to keep us away from the redemptive power of Christ.
The thing about trust is, in order to build trust you first have to trust, and I am striving to trust God in all things, even when it doesn't make sense, especially when it doesn't make sense. I really want to trust God, and I pray daily for help in this area.
In the next episode I will discuss not trusting God because I don't view myself worthy of his promises.