As a growing Christian we constantly hear sermons about trusting God. After all, the Bible is full of examples where God asked His people to trust Him. Some did, others did not, but God never yielded His requirement of trust. In the last blog I talked about the three levels of trust. In this blog I want to focus on identity-based trust.
This is the ultimate level of trust that we as Christians can have because it takes our desires and our will out of the equation as we identify completely with God, His will, His desires and His purpose. It is no longer about us; rather, it is all about Him. At this level we see our trials as part of His plan and that gives us victory even in the midst of chaos. This is the level the Psalmist was referring to in Psalms 56:3 when he said, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." He was saying that God was in control regardless of the situation. This level of trust is very hard for most Christians (and yes, even ministers) to achieve.
Before the trials that tore my life apart, I was a normal guy. I was trying to live a good life and faithfully serve the Lord. My wife and I had been married for more than twelve years and had two beautiful daughters. We had moved to a small town and had begun establishing a new church. Additionally, I was becoming more successful in business, which I attributed to God’s blessings and favor on my life. Of course, we had the normal challenges that all families and marriages face; but on the surface, life seemed to be what most people would consider average.
I learned, however, that things can change suddenly and without warning. Like the weather, life can be beautiful and sunny one moment and cloudy and rainy the next. My storm blew in during the summer of 2002. However, it wasn’t just a storm, it was a category five hurricane! On this particular Saturday, my wife and I were making plans for a family vacation and talking about the future of our family and church, everything seemed very normal. The next day, Sunday, it all changed when she expressed some confusion about her life and her feelings toward me. At first, I thought she was joking. As she continued to express her concerns, however, I suddenly realized that she was very serious. Needless to say, I was shocked by her words and at the thought that in less than 24 hours something could change so dramatically.
I did the only thing I could do as a good Christian and began to pray and fast. But it seemed that the more I prayed and fasted, the worse my situation got. I knew that it wasn’t true but when you are in the midst of chaos and prayer doesn’t seem to be working, it’s easy to convince yourself that you must be doing something wrong. The worse it gets the more you plead for God to fix the situation or bargain with Him to relieve the pain. Throughout my situation, however, all God would say is “Trust me.” I will freely admit that at the time I really felt that I needed more direction from God. I often felt let down or even abandoned. I would battle bouts of anger toward God for allowing this to all happen. I appreciated that He did speak to me, but I wanted more. I wanted my pain to stop.
The worse it got, the more I tried to isolate myself from the pain. Friends that I had known for years were taking sides. Ministers sharing their opinions on my situation with little or no knowledge of what was really going on. Everyday seemed to bring new challenges and heartache. The pressure seemed so great at times that I didn’t think I would survive.
In hindsight, I realize that God was in control. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I believe He allowed very painful things to come out into the open so that I would eventually be able to move forward. Nonetheless, saying that God is in control doesn’t make it feel any better when you are going through your trial. That doesn’t change the fact that God is still God and He will work things for our good if we trust His process. He loves us and wants us to live in victory through every circumstance of life.
For the two or more years of the divorce I was dealing with a barrage of different emotions on a minute-by-minute basis. From one moment to the next I found myself feeling surprise, hurt, disgust, anger, and a whole host of other emotions. The hardest part, though, was the uncertainty. I would continually have to remind myself to “trust in the Lord always!”
During the course of this challenge I began to understand the difference between faith and trust. Although I had always said I had faith (and I believe that I truly did), this was a whole new spiritual ballgame. You can’t understand what it means to really trust God until you’ve reached the point where there is no action you can take or words that you can speak to change a situation. A wonderful woman of God once put it this way, “Trust is what happens when faith runs out.”
Over the next few years, I was continuing to deal with a lot of emotional baggage. On the outside it appeared to be over but on the inside I was having serious self-esteem issues. My confidence was shattered, and my heart was hardened. Those three things are a recipe for disaster if they are not addressed. I had thought that everything would get easier once I had some resolution, but I quickly discovered that I had just started the healing process. Healing is a process and not an event. I had to have patience and trust that if I took a baby step everyday eventually I would gain my stride back again.
I found that life goes on every day with or without us. Every new challenge brought up another harsh emotional reality. I wanted to continue to blame those that had hurt me, but I came to the realization that if I didn’t get better it was not their fault but my own. It was time for me to step up to the alter and start taking responsibility for the new path that God had put me on. It was hard, but I kept hanging on to the word that God had given me to trust Him.
Even though I couldn’t see it, God knew what He was doing. My job was just to have faith, trust Him, and hold on. I had to learn how to focus solely on my relationship with God and my daughters. I had to develop tunnel vision and I could not let the craziness of my life and situation distract me from the plan God was executing. God’s wants us to learn to keep our eyes on Him in the midst of the storm. There were many days I battled to stay focused; regularly finding myself in a place of prayer and fasting. In the end, though, God is faithful, and His promises are always true.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)