Recently my Community Group conducted a book study of “Ruthless Trust” written by Brennan Manning. We read a chapter a week, rotated facilitation, and had some of the liveliest and most fruitful discussions since we first started meeting together. Trusting God to the point of complete dependency has been a major challenge in my spiritual journey. Perhaps it is the same with you. If so, this blog is written with you in mind. My hope and prayer are that sharing some of the insights I was given will help you also develop a “Ruthless Trust” in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I learned that trust is all about believing God’s Word – believing He is who He says He is and that He has done, is doing, and will do what He says. It is a matter of taking Him at His Word, no matter how far-fetched we think it is, how difficult it may be to understand, or how unbelievable it seems. God’s will is revealed in His Word. Here are some things God says about His Word:
All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof (or rebuke), for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
My son be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:20-22)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NIV)
For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out of My Mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55: 100-11)
But He answered, “It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) Bread is nourishment for the body while the Word of God is nourishment for the soul and spirit.
Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My Word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:12)
Brennan defines trust as the combination of Faith and Hope. Faith + Hope = Trust. Faith is believing with certainty, full assurance, and absolute conviction that God can do what He says He can do – He is able to fulfill His promises. Hope is the “confident expectation of good.” We believe He is willing to do what He says, reveals, and promises. We are to trust in both His ability and willingness to take care of us. We believe that He always has our best interests at heart. We believe that He consistently makes all things work together for our good, growth, and gain and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
Trust is NOT clarity or human understanding about our situation or circumstance. Proverbs 3:5-6 admonishes us not to “lean on” (depend or rely on) our own understanding. Trust is a walk in the dark with the Word of God as a “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Brennan shares an anecdote about brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh asking Mother Teresa to pray for him. He asked her to “Pray that I have clarity.” She refused, saying clarity was something he was clinging to and must let go of, as she had. “I have never had clarity, what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God,” she said. Later in the same chapter, Brennan says, “The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future.” We “leave what is nailed down, obvious, and secure and walk into the unknown. . . Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered His presence and His promise.” As Christians we are called to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) If we can see the way ahead, figure things out by ourselves, or rely on our own resources to meet our needs, then we don’t need God.
Trust is also a matter of focus. When faced with adversity, do I pay attention to, dwell on, or obsess about the situation, circumstance, or problem OR do I focus on God’s goodness, wisdom, love, power, availability, and support? My experience is doing the former produces negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, dread, anger, helplessness, depression, and grief while doing the latter produces peace of mind, joy, hope, and reassurance.
Romans 15:13 (AMP) reminds us “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His Promises.” Joy and Peace are fruit of God’s Spirit. We rely on His power to fill us up rather than try to produce the fruit through our own strength and effort.
Trust is absolute reliance on God to provide everything we need. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:32-33 to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” rather than seeking after, striving for, and worrying about our basic needs like the Gentiles (non-believers) do. Jesus emphasizes that our heavenly Father is well aware of what we need and is faithful to provide it. Brennan points out that our childlike trust and dependency – “our trust in God’s love” – gives God great pleasure. Brennan refers to Henri Nouwen’s book The Inner Voice of Love that was published on the day of his death. He points out that Nouwen used the word trust or trusting sixty-five times in 115 pages and shares this quote: “The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need.”
If, like me, your trust issues with God stem from painful experiences with fallen human beings, I leave you with this thought about God from Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” God is absolutely worthy of our trust. Let His Holy Spirit lead you into the abundant life Jesus promised and died to make available – “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)