I prefer not to cry in front of people. I hate it when people see me cry. But, there are times when I’m simply moved to the core and the ugly cry happens, kind of like how my leg kicks when the doctor hits that spot on my knee. Often I can regain control fairly quickly – sometimes within seconds – but I can’t eliminate the reflex and I never see it coming. The “ugly reflex cry” doesn’t happen to me often (thankfully!) but when it does, it’s memorable.
Not that long ago I had such a moment at our fledgling small group Bible study. I’m pretty sure one woman – who has only joined us that one time – thinks I’m nuts. I suppose I did seem a little nuts, particularly since none of the women present really know me. They know generally who I am and who my family is, but that embarrassing 90-second breakdown and my vague attempt at an explanation is the only peek they’ve really had into my soul, and it must seem odd without the context of who I really am, what I struggle with, and the backstory of that moment.
They don’t know that in that moment, I was suddenly no longer burdened with chronic anxieties about what was happening here and now on this soil. I was beautifully broken by the realization that I didn’t trust the One who is fully trustworthy. And so, for a moment, I wept.
The tears didn’t signify a longing for human comfort, reassurance, or encouragement in my circumstances. They weren’t a cry for pity and empathy. They were the outward expression of sweet submission wrought in my heart by the Holy Spirit. Tears of a repentant child with her face buried in her heavenly Father’s chest. He opened my eyes to my sinful unbelief and He reassured me that I can trust Him.
As you have probably experienced, trusting Him can be hard for us humans.
I’m the mother of three sons. Two of them profess faith in Christ; one of them isn’t so sure about what he’s been told. He compliantly attends church without complaint, participates in religious education and conversations, but when asked directly what his opinion is and whether he trusts Christ himself, he doesn’t have a clear answer. Off the religious stage, his path is that of a rebellious heart and the best efforts on our part have done very little to change his trajectory. He gets older, and older, and his time under our care and protection grows shorter.
I fear for him.
I worry about the potential consequences he’ll suffer in this life if he continues in his unrepentant sin patterns and relational dysfunction. If he doesn’t change course he plunges straight toward misery.
I worry about the day he stands before God to give an account for his sin. If his life isn’t hid in Christ through faith a miserable life on this earth will seem preferable to eternity.
I worry about him and me and our family in day-to-day life. His actions and attitudes profoundly affect the rest of us – no matter how much as we try to minimize the negative effects – and we are all prone to be frustrated and weary and discouraged, and tempted to become angry, bitter, apathetic, and distant.
We humans worry about real things. Real possibilities. There is objective truth and real potential behind our subjective feelings. Concern is good. It shows that our emotional nerve endings are functioning. Yet fears, worries, and anxieties usually also reveal our forgetfulness, distrust, and unbelief. We become consumed with our worries because we forget how good, powerful, and trustworthy God is. We become handicapped by our anxieties because we don’t trust that God will do what is best. We don’t believe God will work for our good and His glory when He doesn’t seem to answer in the way we think He should.
We also tend to presume that God owes us more than what He’s actually promised.
When the Israelites were in the wilderness God provided them with manna to eat every day, just the right amount for each day. God didn’t promise them brick houses with double ovens and unlimited oil and grain while they were in the wilderness – He promised them manna, and He faithfully provided it for them.
God didn’t promise me certain success for parenting a certain way; He promised me grace for today and its challenges. He promised to give me wisdom liberally when I ask for it.
God didn’t promise to make me supermom; He promised to perfect His strength in my weakness.
God didn’t promise my children’s salvation; He promised to draw His children to Himself and to save all who call upon His name in faith. He promised that His Word will not return void.
God didn’t promise a respectable image or a comfortable life; He promised to work all things for the good of those who love Him and for His glory.
In all my worrying I was refusing to believe. Refusing to trust. I didn’t trust that God’s promises are enough. I didn’t trust that God would supply the grace I needed for each day. I didn’t trust that God in His infinite wisdom and perfect goodness will work out our circumstances for the real, true, ultimate best.
Why? Why do I struggle so much to trust Him? Has He not proven Himself faithful, time and again? Has He not already fulfilled so many of His promises in Scripture? Has He not always given me the grace for each day, faithfully, day after day? Why don’t I trust Him?
I trust my idols more.
My plan. My parenting. That new curriculum I found. My intentions. My efforts. My timing. My insight. Me, myself, and I. The god of self: my idol.
No wonder I worry. There comes a time that the insufficiency of all my own efforts is painfully clear.
There comes that moment, by God’s sweet grace, that I realize that even though I thought all along that I was trusting Him, I was actually trusting myself. In that moment I see my folly, and run back to the Faithful One, who loves me enough to direct me back to Himself over and over again.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.