Why I don't trust God part 4: I don't trust God because I am afraid He won't give me what I need and because I am afraid He will.
Some of you may think that a curious title, but others among you understand it immediately. There have been times when I didn't trust God because I was afraid He wouldn't give me what I need, or rather, I was afraid He wouldn't give me what I thought I needed. Other times I have been terrified that God would give me what I needed, terrified because it was not what I wanted at the time.
When I was a child I was always reluctant to ask my mother for help when I hurt myself because I knew that, while she would take care of the injury, fixing the injury would hurt more than the injury itself. It didn't really matter to me that the increased pain would only be for a little while, it was still more pain. I ultimately always sought help because, at that age, I was unable to take care of it myself. Sometimes it is that way with God, we know He will fix the problem but we are terrified He may fix it in a manner that is uncomfortable to us or one that inconveniences us, not worrying about the long term benefits, just the short term pain.
Have you ever had one of those moments when you start to pray to ask for something like patience, more responsibility at work, some grand opportunity to serve the Lord through His church, or that your current relationship will work out according to the Lord's will and than you hesitate because you are not sure you are ready for what you are about to ask for? Or even worse, you pray for something and than break out into a cold sweat and say to yourself, "Oh no! What if my prayer is actually answered?" I have done that for sure, all of those scenarios, and some of the time I don't even consciously realize I am doing it.
Some of the time, however, I am afraid God will give me what I need even though I am not asking for it and don't actually want it at the time, I just want to want it. I am terrified that God will give whatever it is to me now instead of when I think I am ready for it in the future.
Saint Augustine of Hippo said, "God, give me chastity, and continence, but not yet." Augustine was raised by a Christian mother and a pagan father and didn't come to Christianity until later in life, and even when he did, he had a lot of struggles with it and sometimes didn't even want to do what was right, he just wished he wanted to do what was right. In his confessions he spoke a lot about how your will controls your actions but you can't just will your will; something must change your will. It was a slow and sometimes painful process for Augustine.
A lot of us want to live it up and sow our wild oats before we come to God, and at the moment, we don't actually want to live a righteous life, we just want to want it, or sometimes want to want to want it. Wanting to want the right thing, while not where we should be, is a step in the right direction and is better than not wanting to want what is right.
When I was in college I was dating this girl I really liked and I hoped everything would work out between us, but since I had recently been in a long relationship that went nowhere, I prayed that if she wasn't the one I would know it before I wasted too much of either of our time, mine or hers. What I actually meant though was, "Lord, please make her the one." I got what I asked for, but not what I wanted, and this was far from being the only time or the most extreme. I was rather unhappy about the outcome, an outcome that involved her marrying one of my friends. Sometimes I am afraid the outcome won't be what I want so instead of asking for help from God I just continue living in a less than ideal situation because I can't bare to loose it. Just because you have put a lot of time and effort into making a mistake does not mean you need to hang onto it. I often want things that are not good for me even though God has promised something better, especially when it is a relationship I want to be in that I realistically know isn't going anywhere. God has a better plan for me, but I have to let go of what isn't working to make room for what will.
Sometimes I am like the little kid eating paint chips or playing with the snake he found, trying to hide it from his parents because he knows they will take the snake or paint chips away from him. The kid knows his parents love him and want him to be safe, but has deluded himself into thinking they are just being over-protective and want to take his fun things away, things he has convinced himself won't cause him any harm.
When we want things that are not good for us, while we may convince ourselves that there is little harm or that it is alright because we want it so badly, on some level we know we shouldn't be going, doing or saying whatever it is. Everything in life has consequences.
There is an old Cherokee legend of the little boy who finds an old rattlesnake. The snake tells the boy he is old and dying and would like to see the sunset one last time before he dies. The snake explains that he is too old and frail to make it to the top of the mountain himself and needs the boy to carry him. Initially the boy is reluctant to help the snake because he is afraid the snake would bite him.
After a passionate plea and a promise that he would never harm harm the boy, the young man picked up the old snake, gently holding him to his chest, and climbed the mountain. The boy and the snake watched the sunset together and then the snake complained of the cold and asked the boy for help. The boy let the snake sleep on his chest all night.
In the morning the snake said, "Please, take me back to the woods so I may die in my home."
The boy, deciding that since the snake had been true to his word so far, thought it would be the right thing to do and put the snake in his shirt and climbed down the mountain. When they reached the woods later that day the boy carefully placed the old snake on the ground. As the boy stood to leave the rattle snake bit the boy.
"Why did you bite me?" the boy cried. "You promised me you would not bite me, now I will surely die!"
"You knew what I was when you picked me up," replied the snake.
There are good reasons God doesn't give us everything we ask, gives us things we don't think we want, and takes some things from us. We don't know the way things will turn out, but God does.
When God want's to take something, or someone, out of our lives, it isn't because He wants to be a buzz kill, because He doesn't want us to have fun or because He wants us to suffer, but rather because He loves us more than we could ever imagine and He knows whatever it is He is taking away from us is toxic or dangerous and will hurt us if we are allowed to keep it. A good parent won't allow a child to play with anything poisonous or dangerous, regardless how much fun he or she thinks they will have with it, and God is the best parent.
Even if we don't admit it to ourselves or allow ourselves to think about it, we knew that whatever it is that God took from us was bad from us before it was taken away. When we know something we are doing isn't right or people would not approve we are often compelled to hide it, sometimes even from God, though in reality, it is impossible to hide from God. All through the Bible people have tried to hide from God or hide their actions from God. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, Cain tried to hide the murder of his brother from God and Jonah tried to run and hide from God.
When I was young, my family had a wood burning stove and I insisted on melting crayons on the side of it. If you have never used a wood stove, it is basically metal box you burn wood in with a pipe going through the ceiling to let the smoke out. The sides and top of the stove gets extremely hot, and while you could cook on it, they are used mostly to heat the house. My mother told me to stop melting crayons on the stove, and not just because the smell was horrendous and would linger in the air for hours, but also because she knew I would burn myself if I kept playing with the stove. After being told numerous times to leave the stove alone, I sneaked over while my mother was busy with something else. I was going to "prove" I could play with the stove without getting burned. I quietly made my way to the stove but just about the time I reached it, one of out cats ran under my feet causing me to trip and fall forward. I instinctively put my right hand out to catch myself, which I did, full palm on the side of the hot stove. I screamed and fell backward onto the floor. When my mother ran to my aid she saw the skin was blistered and pealing from the palm of my hand. I could not use my right hand for at least two weeks, and if you think my mother used this as an opportunity to say she told me so, you would be 100% correct. My mother could have disciplined me for not listening to her, but she decided the pain I was in more than taught me I had done wrong.
It always takes more time and effort to correct a mistake than it does to make it, which is part of the reason we should seek out God's guidance before we make big decisions instead of after we have made them and our our lives start to go wrong. Not consulting a map can prove disastrous for a ship and for our lives. A map can help ships keep from shallow waters or from hitting a reef and sinking, and the word of God can keep us out of trouble and make our lives worth while.
There have been times in my life when I knew some aspect of my life was now what God wanted for me but I would rationalize why I would be fine if I continued, but I wasn't, and much like my mother, God was there to pick me up but without the, "Told you so."
God's rules are not born out of a desire to control or subjugate but out of love. If a parent loves their children they don't just allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, they do their best to keep them safe and to train them to be nice well-adjusted adults. Similarly, if God were to allow us to run rampant and give in to every desire and self-destructive behavior He would have no love for us, but He sacrificed the life of His own son as a ransom for us because of love, and it is love that motivates God to give us rules, for our safety and happiness.
Hebrews 12:8 If you are not disciplined--and everyone undergoes discipline--then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
When you see the neighbor's children mis-behaving, you don't discipline them because they are not yours. The Marriam-Webster Dictionary says that discipline is, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." I think it worthwhile and important to point out that, sometimes when we think we are being disciplined by God we are only suffering the natural consequences of our poor actions, like the pain of the burn after I had touched the stove. God doesn't typically intervene with angels or talking donkeys like he did with Balaam when he was on his way to curse the children of Israel for the Moabites when we are off track and going somewhere we shouldn't be to do something we shouldn't do, but rather He acts through people, like when Samuel stepped in to correct Saul when Saul didn't follow God's command. This is true of the Bible and it is true in life. When your pastor, your grandmother, your father, your sister or one of your friends tries to warn you and you still do whatever ill-advised thing it is they warned you about, you can't, in good conscience, say that God never tried to warn you or steer you away from that mistake.
When God helps people He almost always works through people to do it. I like to tell the story about a pastor who climbed onto the roof of his house during a flood. When the water rose to the bottom of the roof a rowboat came by and the people offered help.
"Climb in pastor, we'll take you to higher ground," one of the men said.
"No thanks," said the preacher, "I have faith in the Lord; He will save me."
Since the pastor did not want a ride the men in the rowboat went on their way. When the water was up to the pastor's waist another boat came by, this time a motor boat. One of the men in the boat reached out his hand and offered help.
"Climb in preacher," the man said, "We will take you to dry land."
"Thank you, but I am fine," the pastor said. "I have faith in the Lord; He will save me."
When the flood waters was over the pastor's shoulders and almost to his chin another rescue attempt was made, this time by way of helicopter. One of the men in the helicopter threw down a rope and yelled over the sound of the rotors, "Climb up pastor, we will save you and take you to higher ground."
Once again the pastor refused help saying, "Thank you for the offer, but I have faith in God; He will save me."
With that, the helicopter flew off leaving the pastor to drown in the muddy water. When the pastor went to heaven he cried out, "Lord, I had faith in you, why didn't you save me?"
"I sent you two boats and a helicopter," God said to the pastor, "What more did you want?"
We have to realize that when God sends us help He will send another person. You are the answer to my prayer and I am the answer to your prayers.
We don't actually trust God if we don't trust that He knows what is best for us instead of trying to impose our will on God. God isn't a genie at our beck and call, giving everything we ask for and think we need. God is our wise and loving father and our Lord.
Psalm 56: even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you. -Psalm 56:3
When we are afraid, no matter how rough thinks look, God loves us and wants what is best for us, even if it isn't what we think should happen. Perhaps you didn't get the job because God has a better job for you, or because that job would not allow you to be with your wife when she gets cancer. Perhaps Sam broke up with you because down the road he would cause you to loose your faith, or beat you, and if you were with Sam you never would meet Robert, the man who will be your best friend in the world.
A lot of the time it isn't actually that we don't trust God, we are just afraid of what he will ask of us if we completely surrender out lives to Him. I want to say I have completely surrendered my life to God, but it wouldn't be true. Most of us have at least one area we hold onto and won't give over to God such as our money. Let's be honest, we have all had thoughts or fears that God may ask of us what we are not ready to give, such as our money, our home or our life. We are afraid that what God wants us to do isn't what we want to do, or that it will be hard, or we will loose friends.
Have you ever noticed that one of the reoccurring themes in the Bible, and throughout Christian history, is when a person hands the reigns of their life over to God their life almost never get's easier? More fulfilling? Yes. More worthwhile? Most definitely, but not easier. A person need look no farther than Paul the apostle to see this is true. Paul was once Saul, a pillar of Jewish society, a highly respected man with means and power. Once Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, however, his life changed dramatically and where he was once respected and revered he was now Paul, a man hated and hunted. Even the other apostles didn't completely trust him, but who could blame them? Paul spent the rest of his life winning souls to Christ. Eventually, Paul was beheaded in Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero.
Actually, all of the apostles, with the exception of John, suffered violent deaths at the hands of those who hated Christ.
A lot of people want to live their Christian lives out under the radar, so to speak, keep their faith on the down low so they don't come off as strange to their friends, or worse, clients or customers. Most people don't want to be seen as a "Jesus freak" and want the benefits of being Christian without any of the risks. Jesus is not pleased with that type of mindset and wants us to always acknowledge Him and give Him praise.
Honestly, I struggled for a long while before finally deciding to do this podcast because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I was finally able to overcome my fear by thinking about the people this podcast could potentially help, and by remembering that what Jesus thinks of me is more important that what the world thinks of me.
Mark 8:38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels
Samson had incredible strength given him by the Lord and the Philistines were always trying to figure out where his strength came from so they could find a way to defeat him. The one weakness of Samson's the Philistines knew about and exploited was his weakness for women and they hired the prostitute Delilah to find out where his power came from. When Delilah asked where his strength came from, Samson said it was came from his long hair instead of giving proper credit to God. Delilah had Samson's hair cut while he slept and when he woke a changed man. Where Sampson was once unstoppable, because of his sin, the Lord departed from him, he was like any other man and was tortured by the Philistines until he repented and God gave him back his strength one last time to avenge himself, and act that ended his own life as well.
One of the examples of a person's life becoming more difficult after giving their entire life to God is Moses. For those of you who have seen the movie The Ten Commandments with Charleston Heston and haven't read the book of Exodus, this next story might not sound quite right to you, but trust me on this one, Cecil B. Demilles took quite a few artistic liberties with the story and while the movie doesn't directly contradict the Bible, it does add a lot of things that were not in the Bible. Some of the things added are the love triangle between Moses, Rameses and Nefertari, Moses nearly becoming pharaoh, the early life of Moses, etc. It also omitted some of the Biblical story and changed some details, such as why the children of Israel wondered in the desert for forty years. In the movie it was because they worshipped a golden cow, but in the Bible it was because they refused to have faith in God and HIs ability to deliver the promised land to them, despite the military superiority of the current occupants. In the Bible, God was angry because of the golden cow, but that is not why they wondered for forty years. Also, in the Bible they children of Israel party when the Egyptians are killed but in the movie they watch in awe, mostly in silence.
Moses was part of a royal family in Egypt, raised by the pharaoh's daughter, and could have lived a cushy life but fled Egypt as a murderer and lived the rest of his life in the desert, suffering great affliction. Now granted, things would have turned out differently had Moses not committed murder (the Bible doesn't tell us who the murder victim was, but it was certainly not Baca the master builder), but even without the murder, it was never in God's plan to free Israel with political or military might. God wanted to make sure He got the credit, not man, and having Moses to free Israel with a political move would have people praise Moses instead of praising God. Unlike the movie, Moses was never in line to be the next pharaoh.
Movies are not known for staying true to the source material, especially when the source material is the Bible. By the way, if you haven't seen the Noah movie with Russell Crowe, don't bother. That movie is the most anti-Biblical Bible movie ever made, and it was intentional as it was made by an outspoken atheist. OK, I have strayed far enough and I'll get back on point now.
I know I have mentioned it a lot throughout this series up to this point, but fear is extremely detrimental to a Christian life, and to the overall quality of life in general. God is love, and perfect love casts out all fear.
We need to trust God in all aspects of our lives, holding nothing back. God knows what we need better than we do. When I look back on my life I can clearly see that when God answers my prayers, even when I initially didn't think it was what I wanted, what God has given me is always better than what I thought I should have been given. Sometimes we don't accept the grace of God because we think we don't deserve it, and sometimes because we think we deserve more.
God doesn't give us what we deserve, but if we refuse to accept what He is offering us than we get what we deserve. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and sin leads to death and hell, but God is offering something that can't be bought or earned, only accepted as a free gift. If we can trust God with our salvation, which we surely can, that we can trust Him with our lives. As the old hymn says, "I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow."