I once spent around six years struggling in a particular area of my life and ministry. Hear me clearly: this struggle was not a mild irritation, an uncomfortable, occasional sense of annoyance or some vague, peripheral nagging. It was a daily dagger. It taunted me like Goliath before he had his head-on encounter with David’s stone. I fasted, meditated on the Scriptures, sought and received counsel, spent the combined equivalent of a month in spiritual seclusion in mountain cabins, dialogued with God and shared this burden with a handful of trusted people, chief among whom is the person I love the most on earth, Amy, my wise wife. Through all of that, my circumstances did not change. Honestly, it got worse for a bit. The dynamics of my challenge actually grew and took on additional troubling dimensions. I experienced intense feelings of loneliness, dread, guilt and abject fear of what was to come. Frankly, it was a miserable experience. No spiritual disciplines, psychological techniques, Christian books, pastors’ podcasts or energetic conferences did anything more for me than to provide moments where I sensed temporary reassurance from God. For nearly six years I lived in this one area of my life under the smothering tarp of fear. Then, one day, God gave unforeseen breakthrough. He did not merely change the circumstances. He changed my heart.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” – John 14:1
It is a very humbling moment when a Christian has to confess to Abba that he doesn’t really trust Him. I am saved and easily able to trust God with nearly all things in my life. I have been bought with a price, so my whole being belongs to Jesus Christ. Truth be known, it bothers me that there was once a dislocated bone in the anatomy of my faith. I preach and sing and counsel with confidence in God’s supreme goodness and love for us…but I kept having to come back to the undeniable reality that I absolutely doubted whether He was worthy of my trust in that one particular area. I needed something from Him – some impartation of confidence. It was during those years that I wrestled with God the most.
Above, in John 14:1, Jesus is moving us from a general faith in God’s goodness to a more specific faith in Jesus’ promise to us. He speaks to us by indicating that He knows that His followers trust in God the Father. This is big, broad, unspecified faith. It could be as simple as one’s acknowledgement that God is good. Yet Jesus immediately moves us in a sudden drop in altitude from the lofty heights of faith, and we experience the intense G-force of His command to place specific trust in Him. He reels in our faith from the clouds, brings it down into daily, earthly matters, and confronts us to see if our faith has ever become trust. Jesus does not allow us to get away with generic faith. He requires from us a definite and purposed trust in who He is. The word He uses for “believe” is in the form of a command, and it means that we are to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance – to have confidence in Him. Jesus wants us to have such assurance in Him that the result is that we have specific trust in the midst of all the unpredictabilities that find us in life. Perhaps the most intense test we will ever undergo as Christians is when the thing we fear pounces upon us, pins us to the ground, straddles us and defies us to get up. It is when everything you are experiencing mocks your big, broad and unspecified faith in God, and then dares you with a sneering grin to trust your Savior, Jesus, while your back is on the ground and you are finding it hard to breathe.
This was where I found it necessary to say to Jesus, “I see it now. I have faith in You, but I confess that I don’t trust you while I am pinned underneath this thing.” It was a humbling confession. Jesus has heard that prayer from me more than once in the ensuing years since I first spoke it to Him. He did not get angry with me. He did not scold me. He did not walk away to spend quality time with some of you who don’t ever battle like this. When I tell Him that I struggle to trust Him, I hear Him say, “I know. I’m helping you with this. I love you, Jeff. I love it that you do trust Me with your honest confession of your distrust in this one area. Let Me continue to help you. Will you just trust Me with it today? This is what I am commanding you to do.” He is so tender with us when we bring to him our weaknesses in honesty.
Maybe you have an area in your life like this. For some of you it is not a maybe. It is a definitely. Don’t mask your distrust before the One who sees all. His love for you eclipses your doubts of Him. By the way, don’t brush your distrust aside because it is actually a big deal. It is an blemish in your faith that the Great Physician wants to treat. He is commanding you to trust Him. With everything. Right now.
And you say, ‘But I don’t. I don’t trust Him with this one thing.”
Then trust Him to help you with your distrust. He is not going away. He is using the thing you fear and hate to bring to you the thing you need and want: a childlike faith in Abba which is the signature of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
It once took me six years. He still has to come to my aid even now when my doubts arise. Yet, my instinct now is to bring it before Him in full transparency and to say, “Jesus, here it is again. My doubt has resurfaced.”
Then the King seems to smile at me. Then He helps me. Then my confidence in Him grows a little bit more.