When we choose to follow Jesus, He asks us to enter a life of trust, one that lives in His presence, pregnant with possibility, ripe with hope. But to do that, we have to face our experiences of trusting others. Our hearts that are inclined to unbelief anyway are further pushed in that direction by disappointment, betrayal, abuse, and abandonment. We all have stories of trusting others with our hearts, only to have that trust belittled, violated, or just shattered. We learn early from playground taunts and unrequited loves that to trust ourselves into the hands of others is dangerous, even foolish. So many stories I know tell a tale of violation, followed by self-protection, afraid of further harm. Think about your own story. How have you handled your own violations of trust?
Mine centered so much around sports. I longed to be a part of a team, to feel trusted in and to trust others in the play of sports. Underneath that longing was a deeper one to be coached and mentored by an older man. Both longings were repeatedly disappointed, not by actual rejection so much as by being unnoticed. One day during the cold chill of the winter in high school, I remember walking to a classroom building after school, feeling lonely and disconnected. As I looked out onto a nearby field, I saw some peers playing soccer. The longing surfaced to trust and risk being a part of it, but the fear of failure and lack of mentoring jerked me back. Pushing the ache down, I tried to drown it in the icy waters of cynical unbelief, saying to myself: “I’ll never be a part of that.” My refusal to risk and trust became a paradigm for the way I handled the unknowns of life, but that unwittingly bled over into the way I handled God. I could say that I trusted Him and sincerely tried to believe Him, but something in my heart felt frozen, locked up, inaccessible. How was I to find that bold confidence in Jesus that is able to risk it all?
How can any of us learn to trust again?
A desperate father faced the same question in the gospels (Mark 9:14-29). His son was possessed by a demon that repeatedly tried to destroy the boy, throwing him into fire or water. It was a pathetic sight, yet the father’s faith that Jesus could do something had already been shattered by the failure of His disciples to help. Jesus then appears on the scene and offers another chance for the father: “All things are possible for one who believes.” The father’s heart awakens, yet with hesitation: “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Yet even in his ambivalence, he trusted Jesus to overcome his lack of faith. It was all that Jesus needed to release the healing power needed for the boy.
Just as He spoke to the father’s crushed heart, so He will come to each of us, teaching us how to trust again—in Him. One way is through His personalization of Scripture. If we will stay in the silence and listen, He will come and speak to us, healing us at the very places where we have known violation. Over and over, Jesus has simply invited me in with this: “Trust Me.” Then, as we learn to trust Him, He will call us out to do something risky or seemingly crazy for His Kingdom. It will take us beyond our resources, where we learn to lean on Him even further. It is this life of trust that leads us not only into a felt bond with Jesus but surprisingly into our truest selves.
So how do we start this journey? Remember, He is not looking for perfect trust. A small, ambivalent amount will do. Just start where you are.
He will come and meet you there.