God is trustworthy.
We know this from the careful reading and study of Scripture. We don’t learn it until, like the psalmist, this truth is experienced in real life. In times of distress, we gravitate toward texts such as:
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
(Psa. 56:3 NIV)
And when we are celebrating, we unite our heart with the psalmist who wrote:
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
(Psa. 100:4-5 NASB)
There are times when we doubt God’s trustworthiness. The events around us seem to defy the truth that a loving, all-powerful Creator God is engaged in His creation. The problem of evil, death and disease, inequities in society - all these seem to indicate that God has disengaged Himself, if in fact He ever was engaged. All of us have asked, “God, where are You?,” an inquiry usually bathed in tears.
It is not enough to know the biblical data about God’s trustworthiness. We may know those concepts, but we learn their truthfulness in the realities of life. There is no perfect season of life immune to doubting God’s trustworthiness. Walking difficult roads is the sad effect of living in a broken, sin-saturated world. No one can escape this reality. Even Jesus prayed before the crucifixion, “. . . Take this cup from me.” That was impossible. His anguish was real.
In His anguish, Jesus reached out (unsuccessfully) to His friends. We see their glaring imperfection as they fall asleep during Jesus’ prayerful anguish. He still invited them to share the burden with Him. They could have prayed with Him. It was the first of many broken trusts. But Jesus still reached out to His friends.
While this pandemic has limited our ability to gather as a community of faith, perhaps the greatest casualty of this limitation has been our inability to share each other’s joys and sorrows, to share the burden with one another. Yes, this can happen to some extent via social media, Zoom, and phone calls. Nevertheless, to strengthen relationships between one another, we must spend time together, learning to trust one another.
Perfect trustworthiness is a quality unique to God. We all play a role in trusting others and being trusted. That trust has to be earned, and earning trust happens in community. While we will never experience God’s trustworthiness in one another or in ourselves, we can learn to build trust and to hold trust. Our inability to do it perfectly is why Paul encourages the church to be patient with one another, forgiving one another as they have been forgiven, to quickly address discord and threats to unity, and to uphold one another in prayer. Just because we won’t trust or be trusted perfectly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t commit to being a community built on an environment of trust.
Learning to trust each other does not happen automatically. It isn’t a spiritual super-power the Holy Spirit sprinkles on us. It is sourced in His work to unite us in Christ, then it is nurtured by our willingness to encourage one another, extend grace and patience and forgiveness to one another, to walk together, and to be dependent on each other. That’s quite a list. It is contrary to our western culture which proclaims, “If you can dream it, you can do it. You can be anything you want.” The Gospel says, “God has given you abilities and gifts; represent Him by serving one another and the least amongst you will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God.” Quite a difference.
The last few weeks our Sunday video series has focused on “Why we gather.” We’ve looked at worship, witness, encouragement and this week, equipping. Interlaced in all of this, somewhat assumed, is the presence of trust. We need the certainty of a gathering environment that will be gracious, not judgmental. There will be unity, not uniformity. A place to rest, refresh and reset, not argue, defend and debate. A place where we can have an “off” day and not be rejected, where we can share a private burden with someone and it will be kept in confidence. And where we will welcome one another with open arms, setting aside any previous grievances if they exist, living out our commitment to grace and forgiveness. Trust means we embrace the stranger who visits our community, respecting their own pilgrimage toward maturity in Christ.
One of the positive side effects of this pandemic is the craving being created for us to be together again. I can’t wait. We will celebrate and give thanks together. And we will support one another. We will continue to learn to trust and be trustworthy. And together we will walk toward knowing and living the truths of our relationship with a trustworthy God.
He is trustworthy.