One evening in the last week, my wife and I were catching up on the day and I said to her as I do from time to time, “I am thinking about writing on trusting God this week”. Her response to me, instructive as ever, was: “you would be writing from theory, trusting God is not a matter of head-knowledge, its heart-knowledge”. The more I reflect on what she said, the more it occurs to me that I can only judge how much I trust God in retrospect. You need to have been through an experience where you had to trust God to say you trust Him. Until then, it’s head-knowledge. That said, how prepared are you for that experience?
A lot of people are familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. For anyone who isn’t, they were young Hebrew exiles who were likely taken from their homeland in their teens during the Babylonian invasion of Judah around 605 BC by king Nebuchadnezzar. Like Daniel, they were brought to a foreign country with the aim of being systematically indoctrinated into its culture, language and religion [Daniel 1:3-6]. Almost 2 decades later, Nebuchadnezzar, who at that time was the most powerful man in the known world, decided to erect a golden statue. He then asked all his subjects to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were now political figures [Daniel 2] were also asked to worship the statue, but they refused. They were summoned before the king and he ordered them to worship it or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Their response was stunning: “king Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18].
This angered the king who was renowned for his murderous rage [Daniel 1:10]. He ordered the furnace to be made 7 times hotter, his strongest warriors to tie up the 3 men and throw them into the furnace, and they did. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been in their 30s like me and they would have seen their family members killed and their homeland ravaged by war. Some old testament historians have suggested that they had also been made eunuchs. Essentially, they have been through more than most of us will face in a lifetime. They could have given up on God but never did. It’s not a stretch to say that their trust in God was built over time through experiences such as the one in Daniel 2 when they also faced death.
This story is as an example of unyielding faith. These young men were given the choice of apostasy or death, and they chose death. However, this story also speaks to me about trusting in God. The Bible says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28 NIV]. All things means our sovereign God is able to bring good out of all situations: tragedies, trials and triumphs. Nevertheless, it is far easier for me to see God at work in the triumphs than in the trials and tragedies. But can I say I trust God if I trust Him in the triumphs and not trials and tragedies? Isn’t my response to trials and tragedies a truer measure of how much I trust God?
It is easy to say you trust God when you have options and you don’t have to compromise your integrity. However, there are also those situations when the options we have to go against God’s word. For instance, what if compromising your integrity (lying, stealing, etc) would give you the money to pay those suffocating bills? Would you trust God to come through for you or take matters into your own hands? How about if you had to take an immoral position at work to keep your job? Would you stand in integrity, speak out against something God says is wrong at the risk of losing your job and then, trust Him to have your back? How about if your life or that of a loved one was on the line and you could make it all go away by compromising your faith? Would you cross that line? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have made their situation go away but didn’t. Would we do the same?
How about situations completely outside our control? I find that when I am under pressure, my first response is to take matters into my own hands and try to fix the situation. Certainly, God is not going to do for me what I can do for yourself, but in doing things in my power, there is a danger that I become self-reliant. And the downside of being self-reliant is that I don’t learn to trust God in the situations I think are within my control. However, these are the very situations we must learn to trust God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t, it can be very difficult to trust Him in the situations outside our control. And it is in those impossible situations that God does His best work. In those situations when there are no options – no plan B, our God tells us to wait on Him in the hope of what is unseen [Romans 8:25]. Because as it was with the 3 men, God is able to stop us from being consumed by the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:24-27]. But the Bible is an honest book because the miraculous rescue is not guaranteed. Hebrews 11:37 tells us about those who were not rescued. Sometimes, God allows us to lose everything because we can’t afford those bills or lose a job because we took a stand against something immoral or watch a loved one die because we wouldn’t compromise our faith. These times require a lot of trust. God promises that He will be there with us [Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6] and we will not be given more than we can bear [1 Corinthians 10:13]. But are we able to trust that God has our backs and hold onto these promises as the furnace heats up?
I am slowly coming to the understanding that trust is the ultimate fruit of my walk with God. My journey is to get to a place of trusting God where I hold everything loosely, and through trial and tragedy I can say “God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord [Job 1:21 NIV]”. Jesus tells us that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” [Luke 9:24]. You see, trusting God is easy when you have nothing to lose. It is usually hard because of what we have to lose. I guess one measure of how much we will trust God especially in trials and tragedies, is what we fear to lose. So, what are you afraid of losing?