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Trust God? No Way?

I didn’t trust God, but I kept it under wraps and put up a good front, talked a good game and sang the stanza, "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, and that it would be 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 even think that I could hide my feelings from Him, but I wanted badly to keep from admitting such a heinous mistrust that I suppressed its existence and intensity. Ultimately, I confessed my distrust to God, which was emotionally liberating in that it got the issue onto the table for discussion. But that’s as far as confession took me. In fact, once I admitted my problem, it flared up with greater intensity than before. Perhaps the Lord wanted to make sure I understood the scope of my skepticism. If that was the case, it worked because 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, though as usual, not as I anticipated, but as He intended. I remained in my tunnel of uncertainty knowing full well that 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. Every so often, a few ties at a time, I caught fleeting glimpses of Him. I had hoped for a dynamic revelation that would put my heart at complete rest and eliminate my distrust–immediately. (That’s the way I would have done it.) But He had a better plan.

Some months after I’d lain my "trust issue" on the table, I was answering questions after a class I’d taught at Nashville’s Brentwood Academy. I have no recollection of what question had been posed, but I do clearly remember 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 as I came to the incredible realization that God had begun addressing my quandary of distrust. Written before me on the blackboard was the beginning of His answer.

Confidence in God was my working definition of faith. And it still is. But, I didn’t have a definition for trust. However, written before me were words that gave meaning to my experience. Trust meant confidence in God even when it appeared as though He wasn’t trustworthy. I understood that to trust God, my faith was going to have to 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 for trust. The stress and dishonorable anxiety were purposeful, and this, in and of itself, was enough to begin building my trust in God.

The months added up to years as I meditated on my definition of trust: Confidence in God even though He appears untrustworthy. Time and again this accurately summarized what I seemed to be experiencing. As each wave of distrust crested and loomed over my inner tube of life, I tried to convey to God what was occurring in my heart. I had been paddling alone through my sea of skepticism for a long time, and there was yet a lot of open water in front of me. I knew without a doubt that my ability to trust was one count away from drowning, that God was the only rescue vessel around, and that the storm lashed angrily on.

On Easter Sunday, 1987, I was in the Bug heading home from an errand I had run, following another car down a residential street. As I watched, a squirrel decided to make a break for the other side. He didn’t make it. The car in front of me hit him. I pulled over quickly and ran back to the injured squirrel. His hind legs were hurt badly, and he was bleeding internally. Carefully, 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 and his sharp 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 abject 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 softly and with reassuring words straight from my aching, empathetic heart–but to no avail. My godlike and imposing form hovering so close grated against everything within his squirrel programming.

After a few moments, pulling himself on his belly across the grass, 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 presence of God. And then I looked past my distrust into the eyes of this figure kneeling beside me and for the first time caught a glimpse of God’s heart. Because of where I had knelt and the blood on my hands, I understood where God knelt and how He felt about the blood shed from His hands.

I understood! God had run across the universe that I had placed between us, stopped me in my tracks on Easter Sunday, 1987, and was now making every effort to convey His heart to me. Praise God I understood!

I got back in my car and headed for home. The emotion and distrust of the preceding years began to flow out of me, and new gratitude and joy supplanted their vacant strongholds. It wasn’t just that my distrust for God was gone. I had found Abba Father and He was trustworthy. What an Easter! I expected Him to be at churches around the world admiring all of the new clothes purchased in His honor, but He met me on an asphalt street in an unknown yard with a special, four-legged emissary sent personally to reveal His heart to me. I asked Him to take special care of the little squirrel whose life was used to answer a throbbing question that had been pitching up and down for several years in my heart. (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 that 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–my faith–appears to be without foundation.

But this is the arena where trust thrives and spars with the deceiver and his deceptions. In this morass, trust declares confidence in the Father even though it appears He has abandoned ship. Trust stands at the bowsprit of life’s vessel, catching the spray from Satan’s angry storm directly in the face, all the while declaring, "I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able." How is this? Because trust is the eye that sees through the mist and spray, right into our Father’s heart.

Preston Gillham

About the Author

As a co-founder, Preston Gillham led Lifetime for 30 years. Preston is a writer, speaker, and leadership guide. He has authored numerous articles and several books including No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. He blogs on “Life and Leadership”. More about Preston, his writings, speaking, and his consulting practice can be located at PrestonGillham.com.