Category Archives: Trust and Faithfulness

A Deeper Kind of Trust

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I love the book of Daniel.

I’m not really sure when it started or how I ended up in a book that is full of end times graphics and mysterious prophecies, but somewhere along the line I came to love the stories and truth in this particular book of the Bible.

Also, as you’ve probably gathered, trust has been an overarching, preeminent theme in my life. Even just looking through old blog posts, it’s clear that trust is something that the Lord continues to put his finger on over and over again (see when I trust from the stroller, do you trust me?, something about trust). This post is just some recent prayer-time revelations about a deeper level of trust that Christ is calling us into.

One of my favorite stories in Daniel comes at the end of Daniel 3. It’s not about Daniel, but his fellow Jewish bro’s, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Long story short, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive, golden statue of himself that he puts in the center of Dura. Then he asks everyone to bow down to it.

Naturally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse, knowing the king is going to have them thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. But that’s not even the part of the story that my soul finds so captivating and convicting.

Before sending the men to what should be their certain death, he asks them why – why didn’t they bow down? Who do they think is going to save them?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

It’s one thing to trust that God is mighty enough to save you. To believe that He can heal and provide and show up in amazing, unexpected, supernatural ways is to trust who He is as God.

It’s another thing, a deeper thing, to trust in a God who can, but may not.

What’s amazing to me is that Jesus demonstrates this same kind of trust Jesus demonstrates on the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is hanging disfigured, bruised, and bloodied on the cross for our sins. The crowd and Pharisees begin jeering, asking Jesus to jump down and save Himself.

The thing is – they weren’t wrong. He could have saved Himself. If I were one of his disciples at the cross, I wonder if I wouldn’t be pleading for Him to jump down too. Show everyone who He is. Shut them up once and for all. End the grotesque torture and pain. Be the God He knows that He is.

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Matthew 27:42-43

Jesus did trust God. He was God; His trust in the Father went beyond anything we could ever comprehend or imagine. It wasn’t merely the kind of trust that believes He could get off the cross. It was the kind of trust that knew He would still be God, would still be good, and would still be able, even if the plan said this was better.

I don’t just want the kind of trust that says “my God can do this.” I want my trust to be so deep, my relationship with Him to be so intimate, my love and reception of His love to be so penetrating, that my soul proclaims, “He can – but even if He does not, still I will praise Him. Still I will love Him. Still I will believe He is faithful.”

It doesn’t mean getting to that place in my soul is ever easy. Honestly, I wish trusting weren’t this hard. I wish this deeper level of trust didn’t require so much nitty gritty soul work. I almost wish trust wasn’t such a necessary part of walking with the Lord. I almost wish – because I’ve seen, at the end of the day, that trusting Him who is worthy of it leads to so many beautiful stories, souls, and an unparalleled closeness with our Savior. It’s more than the place of trusting His might – it’s trusting that His might can, even if His providence says no. We know He can save us, we know He is good, regardless of what the outcome is.

It’s the sacrifice of whatever it is that we are so hesitant to let go of. Because we know we may not get it back (or get it in the first place). It’s trusting that His plan is better because He is God and we are not. It doesn’t mean we always like the plan or are in full support of the outcome. Jesus Himself wasn’t the biggest fan of the whole crucifixion plan (Matthew 26:39). I’m sure Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not voting for the “die in the fiery furnace” option when they said that they’d never bow to Nebuchadnezzer. But this deeper level of trust seems to grasp more fully at what it means to truly trust Him with our lives.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself (and the Lord’s been asking me) for several months now: what are the things that I am sure about when it comes to the Lord? The promises I’m willing to bet my life on, whether or not I actually see them come to fruition? The unwavering places of trust that proclaim who God is, regardless of whether or not He meets my expectations and desires with what He allows to happen?

When I Trust from the Stroller

It was the appropriately coined “solo day” on Wheaton Passage, the transition retreat for incoming Wheaton freshmen. This was our final stop after a day of fasting, prayer, and silence. Another park, this one a little less beautiful than the one before.

As I sat there on the patchy grass, trying to keep my thoughts off my rumbling stomach and lack of new thoughts to journal about, I rested my back against a less-than-comfortable tree. My wandering eyes roamed around the open Bible and journal on my lap and eventually fixed upon a woman with her son a few feet in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watch the young boy chase a squirrel in circles around the tree, his mom resting her arms against the back of the stroller.

And as I sat, content to watch the young boy’s joy and delight in the simple things of life, drawing parallels for my own need for delight in life, the moment was interrupted. Just as my my heart was settling into the sweetness of the moment, the mom came behind the boy, scooped him up, and proceed to strap him into the stroller. He began to kick and scream, protesting the abrupt end to his playtime. I watched as he pulled his shoes off, his patient mother picking them up and pushing the stroller away.

Flashbacks of babysitting flooded my mind. The boy has had his fun and now it’s time to go home. It’s what’s best for him. It’s about dinner time anyways. He’s probably hungry, although he was probably too distracted to realize it. In the young boys mind, nothing could be more wonderful than chasing the squirrel in the park. But he doesn’t know what’s best for him. He doesn’t see that the constraints of the stroller are bringing him to deeper places of care and necessity. He can’t see past his own little boy vision of what he wants and what he’s not getting.

And as I reflected on this reality, I began to write. . .

“Is that really how it is, God? I wander around this world, sometimes it leads me to discover something new about your world and sometimes it leads me to be a little too far away from You. I cry when you put me back in my spiritual stroller. I pitch a fit when I don’t get what I think I want. I feel hurt. I feel frustrated. I throw a temper tantrum at the God of heaven because you let me. But deep down I know it’s for my own good. I just don’t see what you are doing. Your delight is in watching me laugh and explore the world you are showing me. You love it when I delight in You. You correct me – always seeming to me, in the moment, harsher than it actually is. I don’t appreciate how much you love me. I don’t value that all you have is your glory and my good in view. I’m sorry. Increase my view of grace. Teach me what it means to trust you, in the things that make sense and in the things that don’t. Jesus, renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Friday, August 16, 2013

And two years later, I’m as convicted by this truth as I was sitting by the tree that day.

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Letting Him Lead

My freshman year of college I learned to swing dance.

I’ll never forget when one of my friends pulled me out into the middle of the gym floor after I had learned the basic East Coast Swing step. We began moving our feet in sync, but the tension in my arms indicated my trepidation as I hesitantly responded to his movements. My eyes were glued to our feet, as I tried to predict the next step we would take. One failed spin too many, I finally got a laughing, “Mads, stop. You have to let me lead.”

I’ve since learned a lot about swing dancing from my irregular attendance to the lessons and dances over the past two years. I’ve learned the wrong flats will give you terrible blisters. I’ve learned how  spandex shorts under dresses are a girl’s best friend. I’ve learned I’m not actually a bad follow; I just need to be dancing with a lead that I trust. Even when I trust my lead, I have to keep my eyes off our feet if I want to stop trying to predict the next move and actually enjoy the dance.

I love empowering women but for swing dancing to work you have to have a lead and a follow. It’s just how the dance works. Partner dancing where two people are trying to call the shots is always a mess. He initiates the spin and I respond by spinning. He catches my back and I lean into the dip. While my time at the Wheaton swing dances wasn’t spent drawing parallels to my spiritual life, the passage my pastor read on Sunday, from Luke 9, reminded me of the eternal dance I’m in with the Lord. The Message phrases verse 23 this way:

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am.” 

It’s a pretty simplistic correlation: the Lord is our lead and we are His follow.

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As I reflected on this simple truth, I’ve realized that it’s not often a lack of trust that causes me to be a hesitant follow. I’ve swing danced (swung, swinged. . .I still haven’t learned how you actually say it) with some of my best guy friends. I’ve danced with guys whose skills I wholeheartedly trusted. It’s not that I didn’t think they could lead well; I was just too busy looking at our feet to notice.

So much of the time I feel like Peter walking towards Jesus on the water. Obviously he trusted Jesus or he wouldn’t have stepped out of the boat in the first place. I don’t think Peter ever really doubted Jesus’ ability to get him across the water; he loses his focus on the trustworthy One when he looks down and begins to analyze his own movements.

Maybe you need to be reminded that Jesus is eternally and infinitely trustworthy. If you are like me you probably keep finding yourself in places where you frustratingly tell yourself: “You really believe He is trustworthy! So why then do you keep trying to control things . . . can’t you let go . . . aren’t you all in?” It’s not that you don’t think you have a trustworthy Lead. It’s not even that you are a bad follow. You just need to get your eyes off the steps and back on the Person you are dancing with. It makes for a much better view anyway.

I wish I could wrap this post up like a well constructed sermon with three take-home points on how to keep your eyes on Jesus. Sometimes my focus shifts back when I stop analyzing the minutia of every step of my life and look at the big picture of what God is doing. Sometimes it requires the opposite,  stopping my futuristic anxieties and simply living in the moment to get my eyes up. Scripture, prayer, worship, and walks in nature are always helpful in snapping my attention back. And sometimes we can become so engrossed in anticipating the steps that our patient and loving Lead Himself has to speak our name, wait for our eyes to meet His again, and whisper the reminder to our hearts: “you have to let me lead.”

Something about Trust…

Trusting God has been something that has always been a big thing for me. It is something the Lord has highlighted in the past few years specifically, but I have always had something of a little bit of childlike faith. It is a combination of an easygoing personality, a lifelong relationship with the Lord, and His unfailing grace towards me. The whole reason I am even at Wheaton is because I really trust the Lord to be my everything and to provide for every need.

So I don’t know what has happened in the past three months. Maybe I just haven’t been aware of the shift in my relationship with the Lord. Maybe it is because I am surrounded by people who struggle with trusting, both God and others. Maybe it has been my lack of intentionality in putting myself in and recognizing situations where I have to have faith. Maybe it is the “do it yourself” mentality of college. Maybe it is my recent lack of intercession and contending prayer. I don’t know exactly when my trust began eroding, but it has. . .

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I realized, or rather, the Lord highlighted, during my quiet time last night the angst in my heart. Especially before coming to Wheaton, my life was characterized by divine peace and surrender to the Lord. Again, the very fact that I am at Wheaton because it really doesn’t make sense and I really trust the Lord’s plans. But last night, when thoughts of developing relationships, scheduling, getting into classes, finding mentors, investing into my future, paying for classes, etc. were running through my head, I realized how weak my trust in the Lord had become. Almost immediately, I was led to read from Matthew 8-9 (not previously on my mind or planned to read. . .the Lord is so good to us, is He not?).

The stories of the leper, the Centurion, the stormy seas, the woman with the problem of blood, and the official’s daughter would have brought me to tears had I been in a crying mood. Even now, typing this, I almost wish I could cry at the simultaneous conviction and rest they bring. I am so grateful that Jesus understands my emotions and my circumstances even when I don’t. I am so grateful He exposes the lack and struggles of my heart in the most painfully glorious and beautiful way possible.

Why am I so concerned that my late sign up date for classes will mean not getting into the classes at the times and with the professors I want?

Why am I so anxious to develop relationships and have the adults around me invest into and care for me?

Why am I so impatient when it comes to solidifying friendships and still meeting new people?

Why have I not brought decisions about summer, classes, and my future before the Lord in prayer?

Why is my heart in such tension about the church I have been going to and clubs I want to get involved in?

While these may feel uncharacteristic of my heart and trust in the months prior to coming to Wheaton, they are not uncharacteristic of my, or anyone else’s, human struggle. I am both reassured and challenged by Christ’s rebuke of His disciples of “little faith.”

I have had very little faith recently. But it is not that I don’t trust Jesus anymore: He has been so abundantly faithful to me, in my whole life, but especially these past few months at Wheaton. I think I’ve just stopped recognizing my need to trust Him. I can’t make relationships happen. I don’t know who the Lord has for me, in this season or to walk with me for a longer period of life. I can’t ensure I get the classes I want. I don’t know what the Lord has for me to do and learn, how He wants me to grow and who He wants to put around me. I am totally dependent on Him.

I didn’t get to Wheaton by myself, so what makes me think I can, in my own strength, sustain myself here? Some of the best things in my life came when the Lord moved most evidently and all I could do was trust him; like my relationships from high school, like my church back home, like being in this microeconomics class (and loving it so much). . .

I know it hasn’t been me who has done these things. t know I can’t “make it happen” myself. I had just forgotten to remember it.

That’s it. It’s noon and I’m hungry (Saga, here I come). I needed to get these thoughts out of my head. I needed to both confess my struggles as of late (and ask for your prayers in them!), as well as potentially remind you not to forget your need for faith and trust. Don’t let the surrender you had (or maybe the surrender you want), and the subsequent peace and provision of the Lord, slip through the cracks because you aren’t mindful of it.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday. Let Jesus be the sovereign, omniscient, good God He is. And maybe, read Matthew 8-9. Be encouraged. Take heart. We are all of little faith, but we must continually ask for more, because according to our faith the Lord does His work in our life.

And sorry for the lack of pictures. My poor camera has been so terribly neglected.