It’s really hard to trust someone you don’t know. When I first became acquainted with my future husband, John, I knew others who knew him and thought well of him. In fact, I remember asking Larry, a mutual friend, if John was someone you could count on. He looked good, he sounded good, but what was he really like?
During our last two years of college, John and I got to know each other well. No, we didn’t date. Both of us were going out with other people. But he became my close friend. There is something special about a best friend of the opposite sex when neither of you are interested romantically in the other. You don’t have to play games. It’s safe. You don’t have to worry about what you say or do because there’s no risk of breaking up.
Over time I watched how he interacted with others. I saw him in different situations. Spending time with his family gave me insights into his character as I got to know those who had shaped him. Asking him questions, seeing him struggle with tough issues, and hearing his dreams all added to my knowledge of this man.
After three years of being just friends, John finally saw the light. (My version of course!) Three months later, we were married.
Did marriage mean that I completely knew this man? Of course not. I had a basic confidence in who he was and a deep desire to spend the rest of my life getting to know him.
Over four decades later, I am still discovering the depths of this amazing man. Marriage would be boring if the growth and discoveries (and even hard times) were over once we said, “I do.”
Ways we forget God
Just as any relationship begins at the acquaintance level, so does our relationship with God. Our knowledge is shaped by what others say, by what we read, observe, and hear, and by our personal experiences.
Some of us have known Him for a long time, others are just getting acquainted with Him, and perhaps some are waiting to be introduced to Him. No matter what our relationship level is with God, we all have one thing in common: We would like to be able to trust Him.
The better we know Him, the easier it is to trust Him. But so often we get overwhelmed with an issue in our life, and soon the issue becomes bigger than our God. Even when we know Him, we can still have the tendency to withdraw from Him or forget Him. It comes in a variety of ways:
We run from God. Life gets tough. A situation arises. We may consider Him for a moment but then thoughts creep in: I got myself into this situation, I can’t help myself, I don’t know how to help my child… We blame ourselves. We beat ourselves up once again for our past. In our shame we begin to run from Him. Like the apostle Peter, we may even deny Him.
We are afraid of Him. He is so big and so good and we are not. We fear we’ll let Him down. (We will.) We fear He will withdraw His love. (He won’t.) We fear He isn’t really in control. (He is.) We fear what we can’t totally know or control.
We ignore Him. We take on the responsibility of thinking, I should be able to handle this myself. Or maybe we don’t really believe in an all-powerful God who loves us intensely, or who is interested in us intimately, or who is sovereignly in control of all things.
Maybe we fall prey to cultural pressure that ridicules anyone who might believe. Instead of lovingly engaging a critic, our courage falters and we remain silent, ignoring the power of the gospel within us.
Often we ignore Him because we are afraid He won’t come through for us. And we don’t want to find that out. That would be scary.
We try to figure Him out. I am very good at this. I assume that if X happens, then God is saying one thing. Otherwise Y would have happened. I determine how I think He should work and when. And I don’t even realize it.
The reality is I’m dictating to God how to be God! I’m putting Him in a box. I am severely limiting who I believe Him to be. When I’m brutally honest I recognize my real problem is that I just want to be God. Or I’d like to try to manage Him. At some level, anyway. It’s laughable, isn’t it?
If we peel back to the layers of all our efforts, of our own self-protections, we realize again we are not enough. At our core, each of us wants and needs something more, something bigger than ourselves.
I suspect that what we really want is to believe in a power bigger and strong than ourselves. We long to know there is One who understands us. One who is ultimately in charge and is perfectly capable of handling all things.
What we really need is a greater understanding and deeper experience of just how big God is. The eminent French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but by God Himself made known through Jesus Christ.”
We want to accept God’s perfect personal love for us—a love not based on our behavior but on His character. He cannot help loving us. It is His nature, His number one character trait, His top priority. It’s far easier to believe this in our heads than in our hearts. We know our hearts are not pure. We struggle because what we want collides with what we experience.
Believing is a process
Just as getting to know a person is a process, so is getting to know God. It is not instantaneous. I didn’t instantly know John. I am still in that process. The more time I spend with him the better I know him. This is true in any relationship. We get to know someone when we spend time with him or her.
Some relationships will turn into deep friendships and others will disappoint or dissolve. But a relationship with God will not disappoint. This doesn’t mean we will understand how or why He does what He does. Like David, we will get angry with Him; like Jonah, we may hide from Him; like Job, we may feel hurt by Him. But He will, as He has for these men and countless others, convince us of His perfect love for us. It isn’t likely to happen all at once, but He will do it as we spend time getting to know Him.
J.B. Phillips, an Anglican writer and Bible translator, wrote a popular book in 1955 called Your God Is Too Small. What he meant is that our view of God is too small. God isn’t small, but our characterization of Him is. He is so much bigger than we think.
Phillips was right. My view of God is too small and I imagine yours is too. But what if we could catch a glimpse of how much bigger He is? If we could, I suspect we’d become more confident of the personal, unconditional love He has for us.
I’d like to say I’ve learned how big God is and am convinced of His perfect love. I’d like to say I no longer struggle. But it’s simply not true.
The truth is I still struggle, but now I realize the real key is that I need a bigger vision of our great God. I need for my understanding of His power and love to grow. I desperately want to really believe He is all-powerful and all-loving. I realize it is only as my view of Him increases daily in my head that I will be more able to view my issues with a proper perspective.
Is there a quick way to do this? No. It’s a lifetime journey—a path with lots of setbacks but many encouragements along the way.
Life is full of risks. As we acknowledge and accept the earthly risks associated with trusting and following Jesus in all of the issues of life, we will more deeply understand the need for the eyes of our hearts to be opened to behold our great God.
When Susan Yates whispered “Help me, Lord,” she was surprised by the words God spoke to her heart. In a FamilyLife Today® interview, Susan talks about making a conscious choice to trust God each moment of the day. And in her book, Risky Faith, she takes readers on a journey of renewed understanding and vision to walk in the confidence of a God so much bigger than the challenges we often face.
Adapted from Risky Faith, copyright © 2016 by Susan Yates. Published by Loyal Arts Media. Used with permission.