You Love the Lord, But…


…do you trust Him?

At first glance, such a question appears ludicrous. How can one love God and not trust Him?

Well, you love your kids, but would you trust them with a gun? Uh, probably not. I taught riflery at camp once. Emphasis on the once. Having a spacy teen girl carelessly point a loaded .22 at your head (despite fifteen minutes of admonition not to do so) tends to bleach your complexion, if you know what I mean. Didn’t make me love her any less, though.

Each of us may have good reason to love but not trust. How about a dad you love, but who’s in the habit of making life miserable for you and your family because he drinks—and he’s not a fun drunk. Or a single mom who brings home “Uncle” after “Uncle,” a relentless series of men who drift in and out of your life. Or your brooding teen nephew with the death metal and the Hustlers stashed under his mattress—your own son wants to man shotgun in the young nihilist’s new Lancer Evo.

You love your mom, but she’s not acting like an adult should. Dad, either. The nephew? Barely tolerable, but you love him ’cause he’s your beloved sister’s kid. Plus, you sat by the young punk’s bedside when he got pneumonia at eighteen months and you prayed your guts out that he’d live.

I think plenty of people who tear up in church during worship, the ones with their hands held highest, may very well love God with a fervor that outdoes everyone else in the pews, but all the while they’re scared to death to trust Him with their lives. They’re scared because they’ve been burned by a father who was an ugly drunk, or a mother who couldn’t keep a decent man in her life, or {fill in the trust issue here}.

No greater area of struggle affects me like this one. I love God very much and have served Him for many years, but I don’t always trust Him. Yes, I’m fine when I’m trusting the Lord for other people’s faith needs, but when it comes to my own I don’t do so well. I’m sure my Dad’s problems didn’t help me in trusting, but I don’t remember being leery of God’s direction and leading in my life until I started getting dropped.


Have you ever taken that leap of faith, the one so certain that it could not fail because “God was all over it”? Wile E. Coyote splatEnded up as a squish spot at the bottom of some canyon just like Wile E. Coyote, didn’t you? Hurt, right?

It wasn’t just the pain of meeting the ground at a terminal velocity as much as the fact that the angels didn’t bear you up. That God—the one who orchestrated that leap of faith—seemed to vanish in a puff of smoke just when you needed Him the most. Years later, you’re still nursing the wounds, still asking why.

And still not getting any answers.

For me, no verse in the Bible stares me in the face and dares me to blink more than this one:

Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…
—Job 13:15a KJV

For some of us, though, dying would be fine. But what of living, yet bearing a brutal wound? Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him may actually be easy. It’s the Though I’m left paralyzed in the bottom of a crater, yet will I trust in Him that needs our attention. I know a pastor who, on his way to a church meeting, accidentally backed the car over his toddler son and killed him. I can’t imagine. I simply can’t. I get choked up even thinking about something like that.

yet will I trust in Him

I’m not sure we do trust Him, at least to the extent we say we do. Though we all want to trust God to be more coherent and reliable than a drunken father, irresponsible mother, or suspect punk nephew, I suspect we all have our limits where trust begins to corrode. For some, that level’s pretty low. I believe that more than a few of us in America would blanch in the face of finding our favorite TV show canceled, our usual breakfast cereal discontinued, or the NFL home team packing up to move to LA.

Even if most of us can get past those mundane “disasters,” other more serious ones loom. We don’t want to deal with diminishing physical prowess. We don’t want to see the new kid promoted over us because it means we’ve maxed out our career and it’s all downhill from here on. We don’t want to go on weeping over adult children who have abandoned the Faith. We don’t want to consider what happens when the dream dies.

Even Christian books dance around this issue. I’m two-thirds of the way through Dan Allender’s Leading with a Limp. As an illustration of the power of honesty, he tells the story of a high-powered lawyer who confronted her company with a mirror and showed them how ugly they’d become. The company realized their errors and turned things around. The lady lawyer came off as a hero for her boldness.

But what if she hadn’t? What if they gutted and filleted her, then tossed her still-warm professional corpse on the dust heap, taking extra special care to ensure she never worked in a law firm within the borders of the good ol’ U.S. of A. again?

Doesn’t that happen? Doesn’t the leap of faith sometimes result in a big splat? Also, don’t we all know people who never recover? I do.

Last December, I wrote a blog post called “We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure.”I think we also need a means to help people crawl up out of the crater left behind when all the faith in the world didn’t work—for whatever reason. That’s where Christianity should shine, in moments like those.

Because I think that life is not going to be easy for most of us. At some point we’re going that face the reality of the ground rushing up to meet us and no net coming out of the sky. We have to be able to make sense of the crater we leave behind if we’re to trust God in the future.

We talk about God never leaving us and make up little poems (“Footprints in the Sand,” anyone?), but then the Bible also says this:

But, in regard to the ambassadors of the rulers of Babylon who sent to [Hezekiah] to ask about the wonder that was done in the land, God left him in order to try him, to know all that was in his heart.
—2 Chronicles 32:31

What is God going to find in our hearts when we’re in the crater after the leap of faith? What is it going to take from His Church to help those in the crater summon up the trust He is looking for?

20 thoughts on “You Love the Lord, But…

  1. Pingback: BlogWatch
  2. David Riggins

    When measured up with the disasters faced by some biblical characters, most of us live rather mundane, faithless lives. Not that we do not have faith, insofar as we understand faith to be, but most of us, as my pastor says, are taking ‘mouse breaths’ of faith, rather than the deep lungs-full of a marathon runner. The result? When trials come, we find ourselves gasping for air, unready for the climb.

    How did Paul face stoning and scourgings and his ultimate torture and beheading? How did Peter ask to be hung upside down, rather than beg for mercy? How did Christ face the desolation of seperation from His Father? When Elijah was faced with persecution, he gave up, and God ministered to him by showing him a bigger picture than his own view. When I go splat, I try (and often fail) to remember that it’s not about me and my plans, it’s about God and His plans. Maybe my grease-spot will help someone else, or lubricate the stuck faith of a witness. Who knows but God? But the key is, like you mentioned, what does God find in our hearts as we lie in the bottom of a smouldering crater?

    When we are faced with a spear in our breast vs. denying Christ, I wonder how we will fare? What does Pauls confession to the Philippians

    I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    tell us about the Christian walk?

    • David,

      I think all of us will have to face majors, death of a family member, the disease that comes at the exact wrong time, loss of critical employment, and so on. The majors are devastating.

      The minors can be devastating when they pile up one on top of another, and you can’t think to sort them out. A child failing in school, an unexpected expense of huge proportions that can’t be avoided, a necessary vehicle that fails prematurely, or moving across the country or to another culture.

      A few years ago, we topped the actuarial stress charts with the following in nine months time:
      1. Moving cross-country.
      2. Pregnancy and birth of a first child.
      3. Two job changes.
      4. Loss of a job.
      5. Terminal illness in a family member.
      6. Alcoholism in another.
      7. Moving a family member in with us.
      8. Assuming healthcare for a family member.

      Several majors and several minors all rolled up. Within the following ten months, we bought a home, moved into an unfamiliar area, made several necessary purchases that taxed our income, then lost our only source of income.

      All the while you wonder what is going on. Some of it is under your control, but most isn’t.

      I understand none of this is “Deny your lord, Christian scum, or we lop your head off” kind of stuff, but the stress of it is just as real. I wrote last week about seeing the tsunami, but being unable to get out of its way before it wipes you out, and much of that’s at play here. Your trust lies quaking and shaky.

      No one wants to suffer. And no one wants to suffer for extended periods. How we deal with that in this country is appalling. My mom was a very popular person who’d done extraordinary things for hundreds of people, but when she needed help (as did we who took care of her), people just vanished. They said they’d be there for her when my Dad died and she was facing imminent death herself, but they weren’t. They weren’t really there for us, either, in the aftermath of their loss and our own subsequent descent into hell.

      It’s one of the reasons I write on this topic (and related ones) at Cerulean Sanctum. We can’t live as islands, but too many people do. People today can’t deal with their own sufferings, much less the sufferings of others. I think that diminishes the Faith, though. What good is following Christ if we’re too busy for others in the midst of their suffering? Job’s friends may not have been the perfect counselors, but at least they showed up. We don’t even get that far.

      • David Riggins

        What good is following Christ if we’re too busy for others in the midst of their suffering?

        I think that you’ve hit on (one of) the root(s) of the problem…As James mentioned in his letter (2:15-16). If we are to be truly dependant upon God, a part of that is the ability to rely on one another. In our selfish independence, it’s not easy to be called upon. There’s a song out there that our praise team has sung (to lackluster reviews) on occasion: “If we are the body, why aren’t His arms reaching?”

        It speaks to reaching out to the lost, but it is just as important to
        reach out to the saved.

  3. Astoundingly good post, Dan, and the graphic was priceless. I always loved the Roadrunner Show!

    “What is God going to find in our hearts when we’re in the crater after the leap of faith?”

    The answer from my personal struggles in this area has been resentment and bitterness– insidious little vines that sneak their tendrils into every crack and fissure of the soul and then begin to squeeze as they grow.

    “What is it going to take from His Church to help those in the crater summon up the trust He is looking for?”

    A few kind souls with a lopper and the ministry of strategic cutting.

    • SLW,

      I have no idea of the practical means of restoring bitter people. I come up empty on that one every time I meet someone like that. I simply don’t know what to say or do.

      What would you do?

      • I think you just keep loving them, Dan. Sometimes you ignore the steely glare of distrust in their eyes and embrace their folded arms against your own chest. Mostly, it won’t work. So you do it anyway.

  4. Suzanne

    Excellent post. It’s something I think many struggle with, especially in this success-driven culture. So much Christian preaching, writing, blogging, etc. seems to be motivated by a “What can God do for you here on this Earth?” mentality. A look at the lives of the great men and women of God throughout history does not paint of lovely picture of earthly success for the most part. Many, unlike Job, did not come through the pain, suffering, and despair and finally end up ok. Many went into the valley of misery and died there. I think many of us American Christians forget that.

    • Suzanne,

      I think the majority of men out there struggle with legacy issues far more than women. Men want to think that their lives were not in vain, that they made a difference, even if it was local and not readily acknowledged by the globe.

      No Christian man wants to live a wasted life. That plays into some of this striving. But then again, if you’re not seen as striving toward something spiritually fulfilling, you’re labeled self-centered, lazy, or carnal. So people, guys particularly, keep striving.

      Into that comes failure. When all the work produces ashes, what legacy exists? None. And that chill some people to the bone.

      Like most men, I struggle with this. In fact, I may struggle with it more than most because I already don’t fit the typical “Proverbs 32” male stereotype (see the recent “The Gospel of Manliness”).

      • Suzanne

        I don’t think it’s so much a matter of “legacy” as the fact that our culture is so focused on success. How many books are there in this world about goal setting, achieving your dreams, getting results? This mindset spills over into our Christian walk. No wonder the Bible talks about the Gospel as folly to the unbeliever! It’s often even folly to the believer as our success is not of this world. We want to see the miracle as the loved one who is healed or the personal problem that is solved after much prayer, but the real miracle is that any faith at all remains after the dust settles and the body is cold. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…”

  5. e. barrett

    Dan –

    To me this question of trust seems tied up with the question you posed last week regarding the “tsunami”. Of course I have no short, pithy answers to these questions (does anyone?!). In my own life I so desperately want to follow God that sometimes it almost physically hurts. And yet, every single day I recoil from God because I’m afraid he’s going to let me “splat”.

    As I read the Bible I’m struck by the fact that very few people don’t fully trust God. Peter didn’t trust Jesus on the night of his arrest. Moses didn’t trust God’s ability to turn him into a leader. And Thomas didn’t trust that Jesus had really been raised from the dead. The list, of course, goes on.

    What gives me hope, and makes me try to trust a little more, is that in each of these cases the next line isn’t “and then God smote Thomas / Peter / Moses for their lack of trust.” Instead, God reaches out to them with explanation and patience.

    I don’t think this really explains how to trust God more. But it comforts me. I realize these great God-loving people failed, but God still embraced them and did wonderful things through them. So maybe there’s hope for me.

      • e. barrett

        If I’m honest I think I’d have to say I’m not sure we’ll have truly know. My guess is it’s because no matter how much we want to be lead by God we are willfully stubborn. And maybe it’s because the world is just broken, and doesn’t work as God had intended. Maybe the Devil plays a role in our failures. Or maybe it’s just plain dumb luck. Or maybe it’s a bit of all of that.

        One of the themes in the Bible that strikes me is this: we all fail. Everyone. We all splat. But what God seems to prize is for us to get back up and try it again. Just like Wile E. Coyote.

  6. I wish I had a good answer! Folks caught in bitterness tend not to be correctible, at least in my experience. I do my best to serve them, love them, and I try to wait them out. I don’t know what other than the hidden work of the Holy Spirit (sometimes in conjunction with suffering) that can excise the bitter root. I can only remember a handful of folk that overcome it. Maybe that’s why Hebrews 12:15 stresses prevention.

    • Sorry Dan,
      I goofed up nesting the comment above. It belongs with the slw thread a few comments up (blame it on the fact I’m blogically-challenged).

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