From the time we are very young, our parents teach us not to talk to strangers. Why? Because parents know that while some people have good intentions toward their children, others definitely do not. It is only once a person’s character has been proven to be good that we know we can trust them.
Trust is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. In order to form an assured reliance on someone, that person must prove themselves to us through experiences over time.
Trusting God works much the same way. When we first hear of God, we’re not sure that he’s being truthful about himself. We aren’t sure if his character is really good (after all, bad things happen in the world all the time) or if he truly wants what is best for us.
Simply put, we just don’t know if God is able to care for us the way we want to be cared for. We need God to earn our trust.
Can God Be Trusted?
To begin, we must know what God says about himself. Christians believe that he gave the world the Bible, which reveals his character to anyone who wants to know God.
In it, according to author Tim Chester, God declares four key truths about himself. God says he is great, glorious, good, and gracious. If we decide to believe that God really is all of those things, it will affect our ability to trust him.
If we believe God is great, we can trust him to be in control because he is powerful. If we believe God is glorious, we can trust that we don’t have to look elsewhere for satisfaction because he satisfies all our needs. If we believe God is good, we can trust that we can let go of our worries because he cares for us. If we believe God is gracious, we don’t have to prove ourselves because he is accepting.1
Obstacles to Trusting God
That’s certainly easier said than done. Not everyone approaches life with the belief that God is great, glorious, good, and gracious. Why is that?
At the heart of the issue is the fact that we simply don’t believe what God says about himself—or even that God exists. We give in to doubt.
But this is nothing new. People have struggled to trust God for a long, long time. The Bible says this is because of Satan, also known as the devil.
According to the Bible, in the beginning of time, Satan came to Eve—the first woman God created—in the form of a serpent. He wanted to cause her to doubt God’s character, so “he said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’”2
For the first time, skepticism about God’s truthfulness and goodness crept into Eve’s mind. She responded, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”3
Eve recounted God’s instructions—but she added one of her own. God’s command was that they not eat of the fruit; Eve took it upon herself to add that they must not even touch it. She tried to establish at least the illusion of control over her situation by adding her own spin on the boundaries God had set in place.
Satan continued, playing into the doubt formulating in Eve’s mind by lying to her about God’s character. He wanted her to question God’s goodness, to wonder, Could God be holding something back from me?
“‘You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”4
So Eve decided to believe Satan instead of believing God: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”5
Through this process, doubt, sin, and death entered into the world. Today we follow in Eve’s footsteps. We choose not to believe what God says about himself but to listen to what others say.
Taking Trust for a Test Drive
So how can we move toward believing what God says about himself—toward trusting him? Well, to start, we have to simply try it out. It may be a little unnerving or cause us some anxiety, but what if we take what God says about himself for a test drive?
Take the story of Adam and Eve, for example. What if, when the serpent came to Eve, she had answered differently? What if she had said, “I don’t even need to think about the fruit on that tree because God has already provided so much for me on other trees”? What if Adam had responded, “God has only been good to us—if we needed to be eating that fruit, he would have told us to do so”?
The whole story would have turned out differently.
How might our own lives look if we lived out of the belief that God is great, glorious, good, and gracious? What if we allowed God to be in control, found satisfaction in him, knew he would do good for us, and didn’t feel the need to prove ourselves to him or to others?
This is what a life of trusting God looks like. However, just like trusting a stranger doesn’t happen overnight, neither does trusting God occur so quickly.
Trust and Faith
Consider Jesus’ good friend Peter, for example. Peter was with Jesus when he taught crowds of people that he had come to give them a picture of what God was like. Peter was with Jesus when he fed more than five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.6
Peter heard Jesus declare himself to be great, glorious, good, and gracious. Then he saw Jesus’ interactions with the people around him—even people whom society despised and rejected. He saw that Jesus’ actions matched his words.
Peter got to know Jesus. And when it came time for Peter to trust in Jesus, he was able to do it—at least for a little while.
One night, Peter and Jesus’ other disciples were on a boat in the middle of a lake; Jesus had stayed behind to pray. Before morning, Jesus walked on the lake out toward the boat. The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, and they were afraid.
“But immediately Jesus said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’”7
Peter was giving Jesus the opportunity to prove himself. He wanted to trust Jesus. Would Jesus come through? How would he respond?
“‘Come,’ [Jesus] said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”8
Did you catch that? When Peter believed Jesus was everything he claimed to be, he was able to walk on water. But the story isn’t over. Peter didn’t keep his eyes on the prize—Jesus—for very long.
“When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, “why did you doubt?”9
Jesus wants so much for us to believe that he is who he says he is. He wants to do amazing things in the lives of those who believe him. And he wants to rescue us from our doubt if only we would cry out to him for help.
We Trust What We Know
So what do we have to lose? If we act on who Jesus claims to be, like Peter did, who knows what he can and will do in our lives. And if we have a moment when we doubt him and begin to sink, he will save us.
But we can only grow to trust a God we come to know. As we spend time with God and give him opportunities to prove himself to be the great, glorious, good, and gracious one he claims to be, he either will or will not earn our trust.
If you’re not sure how to begin, consider talking to someone you know who has a relationship with God. Prayer and Bible study are great places to start. Talk to God and read what he has to say about himself. Get to know each other and decide for yourself if God is trustworthy.
- Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010 ), 79–80.
- The Holy Bible, New International Version © 2011, Genesis 3:1.
- Ibid., Genesis 3:2–3.
- Ibid., Genesis 3:4–5.
- Ibid., Genesis 3:6.
- Ibid., Matthew 11–14.
- Ibid., Matthew 14:27–28.
- Ibid., Matthew 14:29.
- Ibid., Matthew 14:30–31.
- Photo Credit: Jovana Rikalo / Stocksy.com.