I didn’t trust God, but I kept it under wraps and put up a good front. I talked a good game and sang, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
In all honesty though, when I got away from the crowd, laid aside my Sunday School answers, dropped my religious facade, and looked at my relationship with God, I had to admit that I didn’t trust Him. In all candor, I felt it best if He stayed on His side of the universe and I stayed on mine.
It took some time for me to realize that performing for God and doing the right things wouldn’t mask my trust issue from His notice. It’s silly to me now to think that I could hide my feelings from Him, but I wanted badly to keep from admitting such a heinous mistrust of my creator.
Ultimately, I confessed my distrust to God, which was emotionally helpful in that it got the issue into the open. But that’s as far as confession took me. In fact, once I admitted the problem it flared up with more intensity than ever.
Perhaps the Lord wanted to make sure I understood the scope of my skepticism. If that was the case, it worked. I told Him regularly that I was sinking in a stormy sea of distrust and that unless He intervened, calmed the waters and reached out to me, I would most certainly drown on my side of the pitching universe.
God began to answer my prayers for help, but as usual, not as I anticipated. I remained in a tunnel of uncertainty, knowing full well God was the light at its end. What I didn’t know was whether the light was His train coming to run me down like a grasshopper on the track or His lantern coming to guide me safely to the other side.
I hoped for a dynamic revelation that would eliminate my distrust. But, no such luck. Every so often I caught fleeting glimpses of God, but the wariness in my soul remained.
Some months after I confessed my trust issue to God I was answering questions after teaching a class at Nashville’s Brentwood Academy. I have no recollection of what question was posed, but remember as if it was yesterday turning to the board and writing, “You will never learn to trust God until your faith in God has been challenged.”
Whether I adequately answered the student’s question or not became of secondary importance. Written before me on the blackboard, in my own hand, was God’s initial answer to my quandary of distrust.
Confidence in God was my working definition of faith. It still is. But I didn’t have a definition for trust. Now, written before me were words that gave meaning to my experience. Trust is confidence in God even when it appears He isn’t worthy of my belief. In order to trust God my faith must experience crisis, and it was—a perpetual state of it!
As the words on the blackboard burned into my mind, I saw meaning in my struggle to trust. The stress and dishonorable anxiety in my soul were purposeful, and this in and of itself, was enough to begin building my trust in God. What seemed like random difficulties from the hand of a capricious deity were meaningful after all.
The months added up to years as I meditated on my definition of trust: Confidence in God even though He appears untrustworthy. I had been paddling alone through my sea of skepticism for a long time and there was a lot of open water in front of me. I knew my ability to trust was one wave away from capsizing and that God was the only rescue vessel around. The storm lashed angrily on.
On Easter Sunday, 1987, I was driving home from an early errand, following another car down a residential street. As I watched, a squirrel decided to make a break for the other side of the street. He didn’t make it. The car in front of me hit him and drove on. I pulled over. In my mirror I could see the squirrel struggling to get out of the street. I backed up, got out, and went over to the injured animal. His hind legs were hurt badly and he was bleeding internally. I picked him up and carried him over to the thick carpet of St. Augustine grass in front of an unknown home and knelt down beside him.
His muscles were hard. His claws scratched into the skin of my hands and wrists. His ears laid back against his head in a display of uncertainty and there was terror in his shiny black eyes. I searched in vain for some memory of what to do for a creature in such pain and fear. I wanted to touch him and comfort him, but he shrank from each move I made. I spoke to him with reassuring words straight from my empathetic heart. But to no avail. My godlike, imposing form hovering so close ignited every fear within his squirrel programming.
After a few moments, pulling himself on his belly across the grass while dragging his back legs behind him, the squirrel crawled toward a hedge leaving me kneeling on the lawn in bankrupt grief at the scenario I was sure would follow.
I looked down at my hands spotted with blood, then out at the wounded squirrel. In an instant the scene changed. Suddenly I was in the place of the squirrel, wounded, dragging myself by my fingernails from the towering, hovering presence of God. My distrust throbbed its familiar warning—until I looked past my distrust into the eyes of the figure kneeling beside me. For the first time I caught a glimpse of God’s heart. In a rudimentary and simplistic way, because of where I knelt and the blood on my hands, I grasped where God knelt and how He felt about the blood shed from His hands.
I got it! Enough light breached my darkness that I saw for the first time. God had run across the universe that I placed between us, stopped me in my tracks on Easter Sunday, 1987, and was now using the trauma of His creation to convey His heart to me.
I got back in my car and drove home. The emotion and distrust of the preceding years began to flow out of me and new gratitude and joy supplanted their vacated strongholds. It wasn’t just that my distrust in God was gone. I found Abba Father who is trustworthy.
What an Easter! I expected Him to be at churches around the world admiring all of the new clothes, but He met me on an asphalt street, in an unknown yard, with a four-legged emissary. At great expense He revealed His heart to me. When you and I meet one of these days, just inside the eastern gate, I’ll be the person with a pocketful of nuts and a gray squirrel sitting on his shoulder.
The Bible says the enemy accuses me before God on a regular basis. While I believe that to be true, I find that the enemy also accuses God before me day and night. Whatever circumstance presents itself, Satan has what seems to be a one-track mind: How can I make God look bad in this situation? As he rants and raves, pitching my little life boat around like a stick of wood, it appears as though God is less than He claims to be. It appears that He really did lose track and let me slip through some crack in heaven’s bureaucracy. It appears that Satan has found a loophole that God didn’t anticipate and that I am indeed adrift in a sea of isolation. My confidence in God—faith—appears to be without foundation.
But this is the arena where trust thrives and spars with the Deceiver and his deceptions. In this ring of testing so familiar to life, trust declares confidence in Father God even though it appears He has abandoned ship.
Trust stands at the bowsprit of life’s vessel, pitching though it is. The spray from Satan’s angry storm lashes, but with spray in his face the one who trusts declares confidence in God. How is this? Because the one who trusts sees through the mist and spray into Fathers’ heart.