Ugh. Did you have to put it that way? “The Christian who doesn’t trust God…” That sounds so…harsh.
Yep. I did have to put it that way.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s anything that serious. Everyone doubts sometimes!”
“I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, it doesn’t mean I have deep trust issues.”
“But I believe in God, so how can you say I don’t trust him?”
Isn’t it tempting to brush our fear and anxiety away with those thoughts? Isn’t it easier in the society we live in, one ruled by anxiety and fear, to say as a Christian, “Yeah, I struggle with anxiety,” or, “I have some control issues,” rather than admit: “I don’t trust God.”
But the truth is, anxiety and fear are just the bi-products of a doubt-ridden and untrusting heart. And it’s easier to say we struggle with overthinking or with desiring to control our families, our futures, our relationships, or our jobs, than it is to try and reconcile the fact that a deeply rooted trust in Christ can’t be accompanied by control, fear, and anxiety.
But, can we be bold enough together, you and I, sweet friend, to admit the truth? The truth that we don’t believe God has the best in store for us, that we wrestle with trusting him to always be good, to always provide. Can we admit that there is even an ounce of fear that if we let go and trust, he might take something from us? Or might do something to teach us some kind of lesson? Can we be honest and acknowledge that we toil all day trying to keep the status quo, to check off all the to do lists, to keep up with the daily hustle and bustle, to work and work and never rest, because if we don’t take care of it all…who will?
I don’t write this with a light heart, and I know you don’t carry an easy burden. The weight of anxiety and fear can crush even the strongest soul. In my experience, it can feel impossible to dig yourself out of the mentality that the worst is going to happen.
I don’t know what you fear. Maybe it’s losing your spouse, a family member, or a friend in some tragic way. Maybe it’s getting sick, like really sick. Maybe it’s something or someone from your past. Maybe it’s what to do with your future, what job you’re supposed to have, what major you’re supposed to study. Maybe it’s singleness or a deep loneliness you fear will come or won’t ever go away.
Or maybe, if you’re like me, it’s a little bit of everything. It’s the big stuff and it’s the small stuff. Maybe you’ve gotten to a place where it isn’t very hard for you to spot what could go wrong in any given situation. And so, “in vain you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil,” constantly trying to control every outcome of every situation (Psalm 127:2a, ESV.)
Anxiety is a heavy weight.
But when you add anxiety, fear, and control to a Christian’s life it becomes…confusing. See, because if someone doesn’t have Jesus, then anxiety and fear make a lot more sense, right? Those without Jesus have to work hard to try and control everything in their lives because, well, the only hope they have is in their ability to make things work out. They don’t have King Jesus to look to or hope in, to trust their lives with, to trust their eternities with. There is no promise for them that everything will be brought together for their good, that everything is ultimately leading to a beautiful redemption, that all will culminate in glorious, unending days with God Almighty forever and ever.
No, they do not place their hope or trust in any of that. So, in many ways, their self-reliance, their desire to control, their anxiety and fear and feelings of hopelessness – they all make sense.
But, for those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus, who have trusted his life and death and resurrection to cover our sin and present us as righteous before God each and every day…Well, for us, anxiety and fear are harder to explain.
And that, reader, is an unexpected gift and blessing. Thank goodness we are not content to live ruled by anxiety and controlled by fear. Thank you, Jesus, that we cannot reconcile our fear with our trust in you. I know it doesn’t feel like a gift to battle anxious thoughts in the dead of night and in middle of the day, but we are the lucky ones because we know that the answer does not lie within ourselves and that living in victory is possible for children of God.
And so, this is where the wrestling match begins. Because why, oh why God, can I trust you with my life and death and resurrection, but cannot trust you with my daily tasks, with my relationships, with the lives of my loved ones? Why can I trust that you loved me enough to die for me, but can’t trust you enough to BE enough regardless of the pain or the suffering or the hardships that might come my way, here on this temporary earth?
It’s that pain and suffering part that trips me up, if I’m honest with you. Because the Bible is clear: we will suffer on this side of heaven (John 16:33.) The fall guaranteed that this perfect world was fractured in every possible way. Pain is inevitable here.
And for the anxious ones, that truth seems to silence all others. In the midst of our most anxiety-ridden nights, all we can hear is the promise that pain is coming. There is no promise of redemption or protection or peace that seems to scream louder than the fear of suffering. And isn’t that why we toil and why we grow anxious? Doesn’t it all tie back to fear of some type of emotional or physical pain? Doesn’t it all come back to the belief that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will?
And deep down, doesn’t that fear come from a place where no trust exists? Is that fear and anxiety rooted in anything other than the belief that at the end of the day, Jesus just might not be there when we need him? Might not be enough to get me through that day when the worst happens? And if suffering is guaranteed, don’t we struggle to see the goodness of God?
The wrestling is real. Because still, we do not know why it is that we can trust, truly and genuinely trust Jesus with our souls, with the redemption of all things, but cannot give up the worries of our everyday lives to his control.
Why do we believe he is not worthy of all our trust?
Doesn’t it feel impossible to answer that question? For me, it’s always felt more complicated than that. I can’t point to a moment when the shift happened. I don’t have an experience in my past that I can pinpoint and say, “There. That’s the event that triggered all my anxiety.” It just felt like somewhere along the way, my view of God transformed from a benevolent Father who lavishes grace, mercy, and good gifts to his children into a sneaky, conniving God who gave the worries of my life only half consideration, half effort, and who was always looking for ways to pull the rug out from under me. As if he was operating from a mindset where causing me pain would be the only way to get me to ever love him more.
And that, dear friend, is the fiery dart the enemy shoots at those ridden with anxiety. He tempts us to dwell on the worst-case scenarios, he undermines our safety, he urges us to seek control and cease trusting Christ, and then he whispers lies until our understanding of God becomes totally twisted.
And what’s ironic is those things we begin believing are true of God are actually true of the enemy. He is conniving. He is sneaky. He is trying to pull the rug out from under us. He’s trying to attack our safety net, destroy our foundation of faith, shake our trust, and bring intense suffering to our lives. All in the hopes that we will accuse God of being untrustworthy and obsessed with getting his own glory at the expense of his children’s hearts. Because if the enemy can get us to accuse God, then he knows for certain we will not trust God.
The enemy knows that there is no one more fearsome to him than a child whose trust in God has been tested and proved unshakeable. Because then, the worst can happen, and that child is not running. That child is staying close, held tight in the arms of Jesus. For that child, their anxieties and fears can all come true, and they remain secure. Because the one thing that cannot be taken from a child of God, not now and not ever, is the secure foundation of Jesus.
So, how do we become the trusting children whom the enemy fears and the Lord holds secure?
We remember who God is.
Yeah, it’s not earth-shattering. Cliché. You’ve read this far…for that?
But, what if it is that simple? Maybe we just need to remember that the Lord looks upon us, his children who are his delight, and says to us, “Nothing but my very best do I have to offer you.”
Maybe it is enough for us to listen to his beckoning call, as he whispers in the midst of all the worry and the fear:
“Sweet child, I do not want to take my good gifts from you. I do not seek to harm you. Whatever you endure, I endure with you. I will give you nothing but the best for you. I do not put half effort into caring for you.”
Does that mean we won’t suffer? Nope, that’s still guaranteed.
Does that mean everything we want, we’ll get? Nope, wrong again.
Does that mean our worst anxieties and worst fears won’t ever come true? Unfortunately, no. The Bible doesn’t guarantee the worst won’t happen to us.
But what this means is that any suffering we endure will not be wasted. The Lord will bring pain to a purpose in our lives and will one day silence it for good. And we might not get everything we want, not every job, or every relationship, or every possession, or every reconciliation or healing, but he will give to us what is the very best for us. He will bring it about in the best way for us. And yes, some of those anxieties and fears may come true, but not a single one will separate us from the King and not for a moment will we endure an ounce of suffering without Jesus pouring out his mercy and grace and comfort on us.
And with this in mind, we can say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you…[you] are my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I have set you always before me; because you are at my right hand I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol.” (Psalm 16;2, 5-6, 8-10, ESV)
We can proclaim with confidence that we trust him. And on the days it’s hard and on the days that we don’t, we can come to the throne of grace, confess our doubt, and fight again for the little victories. And with courage we can surrender our control for his provision, knowing in full, that the Lord has already prepared the very best for us. Eternal redemption is our present reality and we are walking daily toward the place of perfection that he has prepared for us.
And that, sweet friend, is a promise from the King who we can trust in.