Fill in the blank: “In ______ we trust.” For Americans, the first thing that comes to mind is “God.” “In God we trust” is a phrase that is burned into our individual and collective psyche because the phrase has appeared on all our coins since 1864 and later on paper currency, too. President Eisenhower signed a bill making it the national motto in 1956. It is also an oft-repeated phrase in other contexts, too. Is it accurate, though? Do we, do you, trust in God?
This question, whether we really trust in God, came to mind yesterday during a conversation in which we were discussing political matters in the United States. There was frustration about the drift from principles of freedom, liberty, and capitalism—principles that were the foundation of this great country (and still the greatest country of all). Most of the conversation focused on determining to what degree these principles are actually being compromised today. The conversation finished, though, with exasperation regarding our state and federal politicians who are, at the very least, letting this happen, and in many cases are actively encouraging the drift away from these founding ideals.
Lest you think this is a political post, let me assure you that’s not my point. I’m not trying to argue in what direction the country is headed and whether it is the proper course. I shared the conversation above to illustrate a problem we all have with what we trust and hope in. The frustration we experienced at the conclusion of that conversation was because we were putting our trust in people generally and in politicians specifically. Realizing this, I challenged the group with that thought: “You know, part of our problem is that we are putting our trust in people, in politicians. They are fallen people just like us and that’s not going to get us very far. We must put our trust in God.”
What or whom we trust is revealed in the midst of challenge and crisis. When your back is against the wall and you need a way out, where do you turn? When a project is falling apart and the pressure is on, what or whom do you go to for solutions? When a relationship is hanging by its final threads, what or whom do you turn to for guidance? When your integrity or character has been challenged, what or whom do you seek out for support? The answers will vary depending on the situation, but there are really only a few options to choose from.
Self—One option is to trust in your own knowledge, experience, and instinct. For effective and successful people this is a very natural response. After all, “Look how many problems I’ve solved over the years!” This is also a common response for people with high self-confidence.
Others—Another option is to turn to others, especially when we don’t feel personally equipped to address a problem, or the challenge isn’t something we have authority to address. This is often the case in professional, academic, and church life when we need to depend on the actions of appointed or elected leaders.
Money and Resources—People with access to significant resources, financial and otherwise, often know how to leverage resources to solve problems. The interesting thing about this option is that success here often leads to a greater accumulation of the resources, thus creating a seemingly perpetual cycle.
God—I put this last on the list because God is so often the last option we choose. People tend to trust in God when they, others, and their resources have failed to resolve the problem. We throw our hands up and exclaim, “God, help me! I don’t know what else to do!”
Of course, in our calm, unpressured moments we know we need to turn to God first. What does that mean, though? How do we trust in God, for example, when frustrated about the direction of our country (or the failing project at work, or the broken relationship, etc.). What this means is to realize that only God is fully trustworthy. He will not fail. He will not forget. He will not lie. He will not break a promise. He will not change. None of those things are true about our other trust options. All the other options will, at some time and in some way, break our trust. Almost 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul reminded the believers in Corinth, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25, ESV).
So start with God. Start by cultivating a personal relationship with God the Father. (It’s really hard to trust someone you do not know!) Learn to trust him first. Yes, we need to work with people and resources to get things done, but don’t place your ultimate hope or trust in them. When they fail (and they will), you can turn to God and say, “I’m glad you understand this situation and know what’s next, because I don’t.” Do not ever think that God is surprised by any turn of events!
When the heat is on, where do you turn first? I tend to turn to myself first. What’s strange is that I fail to recognize that it was myself that usually got me into the mess in the first place! What about you? What do you trust first?