Here’s a link to the first part of this series:
The online dictionary defines “brilliant” as: “very bright and radiant” or “exceptionally clever or talented”
Why Should Anyone “Trust” God?
A young woman once confronted a pastor, saying:
“You can’t really believe all that patriarchal stuff in the Bible, can you? About how a wife must obey her husband? I would never want to ‘obey’ my husband…if I had one. That’s demeaning.”
“Well,” the pastor said, “let me ask you a question: Imagine you had a husband who loved you more than he loved himself.
“Imagine that he always wanted to make you smile, that he listened to all of the things on your heart, that he held you when you were sad and cared for you when you were sick.
“Imagine a guy who puts your needs before his own, who would jump on a land mine to save your life, who appreciates your talents and encourages you to reach your potential.
“Imagine that everything he says and does is to help you flourish. That everything he ever asks you to do is only for your own good. That when you listen to what he says, it only results in good.
“If you were married to a guy like that, would you obey him?”
“Heck, yes!” the young woman replied.
Okay. Now, replace the “young woman” in this story with “people like you and me,” the “hypothetical husband” with God, and “obey” with “trust,” and you’ve got the reason why I believe, in the final conclusion, that it is smarter to trust God than not.
Obedience isn’t always fun, of course. We like to be independent thinkers who make our own decisions in everything.
But if we had to obey someone for our own good, it wouldn’t be so bad — in fact, it’d be very good — if that someone was a wholly loving, wise person who cared deeply about our well-being. (That’s what good parenting is all about, after all).
And trust, in some ways, is really just a kind of obedience. (God tells us to “obey Him” in the Bible. If we trust Him, we will obey Him. One leads to the other)
Of course, some argue that God is not good. There are people who have suffered horrible things and have grown angry, bitter, resentful of the pain they’ve gone through…pain that God did not stop.
I know this, because sometimes, I am those people.
But I’ve never fully gone over to that dark side, for this reason:
God, by definition, must be the greatest being in the universe. If He were not so, he would not be God.
Which means that everything good and wonderful must come from him. And the source of everything that is good and wonderful must be much more good and wonderful.
I know that love exists. As does goodness. Therefore God must be both loving and good. The most loving and good being in existence.
And if that’s true, then trusting Him is the most brilliant thing you could do.
Why Trusting God makes you Brilliant
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. — Proverbs 1:7
By “trusting God makes you brilliant,” I mean “brilliant” in both senses of the word. It makes you shine, and it makes you smart. How?
Because truth is clarity. As you clean your thoughts and life of lies and untruths, and embrace God’s worldview, you will be able to see more clearly and act more decisively.
You will become more transparent to others (in the good sense), and they will see you for who you are. The light within you will shine more brightly, and people will be drawn to the beauty of your character and personality.
In his well-known 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, writer David Foster Wallace told the story of a couple of…medium.com
Likewise, trusting God makes you smarter because God knows all things — how the universe works, what’s in the hearts of all people. And the more you trust Him, the more He can open your eyes and give you insight into these matters.
George Washington Carver was a former slave who became an agricultural scientist and inventor. He came up with hundreds of products using peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, saving the Southern economy from the dangers of soil depletion.
He used to go out in the morning to take a walk and ask God to reveal to him the secrets of plants and vegetables. Later on, Carver would say:
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour if we will only tune in.
Even Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sought Carver out for his wisdom, and Time Magazine called him a “Black Leonardo [da Vinci]” in 1941.
But if trusting God has so many benefits, why do people — why do I — struggle so much with it?
Why I struggle to trust God
The reason I struggle with trusting God is probably the same as most people’s — pride and selfishness, leading to a deep fear of personal pain.
I know that God is good, and I know that he loves us all. But I know, also, that sometimes (a lot of times), love hurts.
When I was a little kid, my mother used to spank me when I misbehaved. Of course, I hated it, but as my mom often reminded me, when she spanked me…she hurt too.
That’s because my mom never spanked me out of anger or spite.
She did it out of love.
She never hit me with an object, but used her bare hand so that she would feel the sting of the contact herself. She never hit me when she was angry, only when she was in full control of her emotions. She never hit me excessively, and she always let me know what I had done to deserve the punishment, and forgave me after.
She also only used spanking when I was too young to understand words and reason. Once I was older, she switched to disciplinary methods that correlated with my age and maturity.
And today, the person I am closest to in the whole world is my mom.
So I know that God sometimes disciplines me when I go wrong, and it hurts. And like every weaselly little kid, I often want to duck the discipline, and so I don’t like obeying or trusting Him.
But there’s another reason why I struggle to trust God. And it has to do with the seeming randomness of evil and suffering in this world.
I know that God does NOT promise me a perfect, happy, pain-free life if I trust and obey him. And I know that God does allow terrible things to happen to people, pretty much all the time.
I have been quite fortunate, one could say, so far.
Some people claim this as a reason to hate or deny God. They conclude that God is either evil or nonexistent. And sometimes I am tempted to hold the same attitude myself, at times.
But when I’m in my right mind, I can’t draw that conclusion. It’s logically impossible. The very fact that evil bothers me tells me that it’s wrong.
Because, if there is no God to define good and evil, how can we define what is good and evil beyond what we feel to be good and evil? And how can we trust those feelings, which apparently come from nowhere and which if left to run wild often lead us to destruction?
The 3 Barriers to Real Trust
Pride, selfishness, and fear.
These are all things that I struggle with, and I suspect many others do, too, but I’m not here to point fingers at them.
The failings of others should make us reflect on our own failures, and trigger compassion and sobriety, not self-righteous judgment and condemnation.
So in the sections to follow, let me speak only about myself. And you can see if any of this resonates with you:
This might be THE biggest barrier for me to trust God…or any other person, really.
Human beings have a strong desire for self-determination. We want to direct the course of our own lives. I know I do.
And when it comes to other people, who are imperfect as I am, this sense of autonomy is good. Without it, I’d be an easy victim to despots, bullies, cult leaders, and the like (especially combined with my penchant for people-pleasing)
But when it comes to God, this desire to decide for myself is not good.
The difference is, God knows more than I do, and He is more morally good than I am. Thus, anything he says must be right, even if it goes against what I want to hear.
But I want so bad to have things go my way that I reject Him. I act as if God does NOT know what He’s doing, as if I know better.
But when I act like I do, that’s prideful. It’s like a middle-schooler arrogantly trying to teach math to Linus Pauling.
And when God lets me have my way, and I mess things up, I blame Him and say “Why didn’t You stop me?” “Why did you let the consequences work out the way they did?”
That’s pride, in a nutshell.
Other times, I may know God’s word is right, but I don’t care. A lot of what Jesus demonstrated with his life is self-sacrifice and caring for other people, and let’s face it — I don’t want to.
I want to think only about myself. My own comfort. My own benefit. My own family and friends.
A God who loves everyone, including my enemies, is not appealing to my selfish heart.
Why should I suffer that others may benefit? Why should I “die” so others may “live?” Why should I bite my tongue when others insult me, or refrain from getting revenge when they hurt me? Why can’t He (and they) leave me alone?
That’s selfishness. And it’s ugly.
I’ve never been afraid of death. At least, not my own death. What I fear instead is suffering.
And I know through my reading of the Bible and history that God does not guarantee me a free pass from suffering if I trust and obey Him. Believers throughout the ages have been tortured and mistreated, have faced horrible accidents, have lost precious family members.
I’m afraid, in some ways, that trusting and obeying God will throw me more in the way of these disasters, because He’ll think “I’ll be more able to handle it.”
In other words, I’m a coward.
This article goes deeper into my inappropriate fear of God:
We never like to hear other people say to us, “you are proud, you are selfish, you’re a coward.”
But in our more sober moments, we must admit to ourselves: “I am proud, I am selfish, I’m a coward.”
Not only is it true, it’s the only way to open the door to change.
Building Trust like a Skyscraper
The way I see real trust is like a pillar, or a skyscraper.
First, you need a foundation based on facts, logic, and reason. That’s the concrete foundation. When it comes to God, apologetics can help with that. Study the historical, scientific, and philosophical reasons for your worldview.
But when you finish laying the concrete, you have to switch to a different material to build up the rest of the skyscraper. You need glass and metal and plaster and more.
Logic alone is not enough. Neither is emotions, or personal experiences, or any of those things, individually. Rather, they have to work together.
History and reason have laid the foundation for my worldview:
History: The reason I believe what the Bible says is that I’ve gathered sufficient evidence that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are historically proven, as far as any ancient historical fact can be proven.
Reason/philosophy: I’ve also thought through the philosophical ramifications of a God-created as well as a Godless world. And from my understanding, a God-based worldview makes far more sense than a Godless one.
I’m no great scientist, but I have a general university level understanding of physics, astronomy, biology, and chemistry, and multiple facts in these various scientific fields, from the complexity of life to entropy to the expanding universe have convinced me of various cornerstone points of this worldview.
Reason, logic, science, and philosophy have laid the groundwork for my faith. They are the door leading to trust.
But reason is not enough, not for a deep trusting relationship, which is what real faith entails. For that, you need feelings.
For example: I know my mom loves me, not just because she’s raised me since infancy, disciplined me conscientiously, helped pay for my education, and done a million other verifiable, factual things that demonstrate her love.
I know she loves me because in addition to all of these basic care-for-the-child types of activities, I also feel her love.
I feel it when she hugs me and when I see her eyes light up when she sees me. I feel it when she comforts me or laughs with me at inside jokes. I feel it when I hear the warm tones of her voice over the phone when she tells me that she will be there when I need her.
I know my mom loves me, and beyond that — I feel it, too.
Likewise, simply knowing the facts of God’s existence, goodness, and justice is not enough for me to fully trust him. I have to feel his love for me, too.
This is where I, and perhaps many other people, falter.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel God’s love…
Feelings are funny things.
Science tells us that feelings are necessary…necessary for us to make decisions, to have motivation and goals, to live well, to experience love, joy, forgiveness, love.
Yet feelings can also suck.
I have struggled with an anxiety disorder, so I know how deceptive and powerful and hateful emotions can be. How, when you lose control of them, they control you.
Most people (I know) who claim not to believe in God claim to reject him due to pure, cold reason. But their behavior belies their speech. Challenge them a little, and they become emotional — irritated, angry, aggressive. Or else, they shut down completely, hiding their emotional turmoil under a mask of indifference.
That’s not to say that deists don’t do the same. They do as well.
Because the truth is, none of us make decisions, especially on important things like worldview issues, based only on pure logic and reason. Feelings are always part of the equation.
No doubt part of the reason that I have never fully doubted God’s existence or goodness in spite of the crappy mental illness I’ve had to go through (among other things) is because through the darkest valleys, I’ve always seen a bit of light.
I’ve had friends reach out in compassion, I’ve pondered memories from earlier years of Christians who have gone out of their way to shower love on me, and most importantly, I have a living, breathing evidence of God’s love right next to me — yes, my mom.
I have never been totally abandoned to a cold, lonely, painful existence. No matter what other hellish things have been going on, I have always had many things to be thankful for. Always.
So, on an emotional level, I’ve never been so hurt and so miserable that I turned on God, like many I have known.
Is that enough? It’s enough for me to keep from jumping into the abyss. But there’s one more thing:
In the end, trust is an active thing. It’s not just knowing what is right, and knowing the reasons for why the thing is right, it’s also acting on that knowledge.
And that is where I fail miserably. Perhaps part of the problem is that I overthink things. Not everyone needs to know the philosophical and logical ramifications for their beliefs, they just instinctively do what’s right. They trust.
I’m not like that, and if you’ve read this far, you probably aren’t, either. There’s still a lot I don’t do and don’t know, but I do know this much:
It’s better to trust God than not. And trust isn’t trust until it’s acted on. Until you’re willing to, as in the “trust game” close your eyes and lean back, knowing that your friends are there, ready and able to catch you.
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a happy child, or watched a toddler playing with a loving parent?
There’s something about them that shines, isn’t there? Like sunlight.
Because these kids who have grown up in safe, loving environment have not yet grown cynical or burdened. They have not yet been polluted by the excessive darkness in the world. They love their parents, and trust them.
At the beginning of this article, I argued that trusting God is likely the most brilliant thing you could do, in two senses of the word:
- It’s the smart thing to do
- It makes you shine
Yes, life is often confusing and dark and full of evil situations and people. Sometimes it feels like one person — you — cannot make much of a difference. Statistically, that seems to be the case.
Jesus is the light of the world, and if you’ve welcomed him into your life, you will inevitably spread light wherever you go.
And if you struggle to do that, like me at times, I absolutely understand you and don’t blame you one bit. Let’s just take baby steps together.
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