Sunday, May 10, 2009

How far do you trust God?

Do you trust that God will always provide food? And yet millions starve to death.

Do you trust that God will always provide shelter? And yet millions have none.

Do you trust that God will always keep you safe? And yet millions of those who practice religion are murdered.

Do you trust that God will always keep your child healthy and alive? And yet many of those who practice religion lose their children.

I could keep going with examples, but that would be a waste of space.

I often see people proclaiming how they trust God, and how God will always be there for the, and God will always be a present source of help in times of trouble. And yet, that source of help and trust come down to a very vague concept of God being by one's side. I'm reminded of a scene in the book "The Shack" where the father asks God where God was when his daughter was abducted and murdered. God said that He was with the daughter the whole time.

Yet the daughter still ended up murdered.

I can understand how the idea of this total loving source being by one's side, offering peace and comfort. But it seems when it comes down to concrete examples -- in trusting that God will offer something with substance such as food or safety -- no one can claim that as a guarantee. Yes, people can point to examples where God provided such things. But every example, there's an example of nothing be provided at all. So no one can promise that God will provide health or anything for basic survival.

Perhaps someone can come back and say that they can trust that a good outcome will prevail, and that everything will turn out well for those who trust in God. But even this becomes vague in its way, because what does that mean? Someone can point to the murder of a child and say it will work out for good in the end. But then what's being trusted is some sort of vague concept of good -- nothing concrete.

29 comments:

atimetorend said...

I ran into that dilemma when my kids wanted reassurance that God would protect them at night, that nothing would happen to them. Two choices: 1) lie, because they'll feel peace in their lives and also they will sleep better, or 2) Tell them the truth, I cannot promise you nothing will happen to you tonight, but there is no need to worry, mom and dad are down the hall and aren't going to sleep yet, and you can call me if you need me.

I opted for choice two, before realizing I had left faith behind in essence. And then all that is left is "some sort of vague concept of good -- nothing concrete." And that doesn't seem much good to me, all that is left is a possibility which we have no evidence for at all, which essentially makes it imaginary.

Lorena said...

I never did trust God would help me with anything. In fact, I was constantly afraid that it was my turn to go trough a "Job" phase. I even pictured myself scaling skin off of me with a piece of tile.

My fears always became through. It seemed like I was always going through a major crisis, needing God to deliver me.

The Christian faith is a constant testing of faith. The issue isn't that God is going to help. The issue is "am I going to pass the test?"

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

I wonder how parents who would've said 'yes' to the question rationalize their answer. They firmly believe it? And what they base that belief on.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

I've never understood the whole idea of God testing someone's faith. God already knows how strong your faith is, since He knows everything. And usually when you test someone, it's because you're attempting to determine how strong their knowledge is in one area, and thus they're graded on it. Why would God need a demonstration when He already knows?

Andrew said...

Excellent post! I always grew up hearing - "Will you trust God with your life? With your job? With your children? ...etc...

I have decided that I have no idea what the hell that even means. Trust what? That nothing bad will happen to my kids? Obviously not, as previously stated. So what then? That I will "trust" him (translation-still love him) even if they die tomorrow? How is that any different than a person of no-faith simply moving on as best they can when life has dealt them a blow?

It seems to me that if the event goes our way, it was God's will. If not, God is just trying to teach us, test us, has other things in mind. It is just a vague way of covering all bases... not so different than reading tea leaves.

I go back and forth in my opinion as to God's active involvement in our lives... but in any case, why try naming it? - unless he pokes his head out from behind the curtain to let us know it was his hand.

Lorena said...

I've never understood the whole idea of God testing someone's faith. Fundy's would tell you that God wants us to know how our Christian walk is going, as opposed to God who knows all things. Which is yet another rationalization that Christians use to justify non-sense.

OneSmallStep said...

Andrew,


**How is that any different than a person of no-faith simply moving on as best they can when life has dealt them a blow?**
Exactly. And that's why the whole 'trust in God' is kind of not computing for me right now -- what is the trust based on?

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

Basically, how I'm interpreting your comment is that we're told God loves us very much, wants to be a part of our lives ... and then goes out of His way to make things difficult and make it more likely to have Christians fall away.

That's not confusing at all.

The Rambling Taoist said...

I don't even use the word trust anymore. What does it really mean in the overall scheme of things?

I simply look at life from the standpoint of what happens, happens. Sometimes we can make sense of it and sometimes we can't. Sometimes we can prevent some things and other things we can't.

Sarge said...

Three friends of mine (they were church-going christians) were killed in a horrible accident about a month ago.

And, strangely, it was all "for good", "part of god's plan", and we are assured that "god was present".

At the funeral one of the songs was "Trust and Obey". I've noticed that the stress is always on that last word.

As one who has not believed since I was five, it got scary at times, but it all came down to life.

I now have cancer, and a lot of people are waiting for me to have a "come to Jesus" moment. Didn't happen when I was wounded, when I had a stroke, or my last bout with Big C.

I'm told it's rather gauche to not become spiritual in these cases.

Lorena said...

Sarge,

Yet you are more insightful and have a much softer, compassionate heart than that of many Christians I know.

OneSmallStep said...

The Rambling Taoist,

**I simply look at life from the standpoint of what happens, happens. Sometimes we can make sense of it and sometimes we can't. Sometimes we can prevent some things and other things we can't.**

That's pretty much how I view prayer. I don't see how it's going to change the outcome -- what happens, happens.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

**And, strangely, it was all "for good", "part of god's plan", and we are assured that "god was present".**
What I'd be curious about -- though there's no way to tactfully do this, given the nature of the incident -- is what those statements are based on. It's not like they can point to that situation and show how good it is, or where God was present (though I'm reminded of reading Steven Curtis' Chapman's daughter's death, and how they said that it was raining when they got home from the hospital, and thus almost showing that God was grieving with me. Me, being more analytical than compassionate at the moment, was wondering: how does rain prove God is grieving? It rains all the time. Where in the weather pattens can you trace God's involvement? What is God grieving over? He theoretically has the child in Heaven, in His direct presence, which is the best place to be. I feel questions like this demonstrate that I should not go to Christian funerals).

**I now have cancer, and a lot of people are waiting for me to have a "come to Jesus" moment.**

I assume they're also hoping that the cancer is used to show you how much you need Jesus? Of course, I again go into question mode, because need Jesus for what? Will Jesus cure the cancer? Reduce the suffering?

I should also not be the first person Christians go to for sympathy right now.

Sarge said...

Lorena you are one kind, classy lady. Thank you.

I have relatives who have prayed for me to suffer a terrible tragedy such as the things I mentioned. They thought it was a shoo-in when I got run down by a jeep a couple years ago, and they have actually prayed that something happen to my family, a death even, of my wife, sons, daughter-in-law, or grandsons.

They are willing that these people innocent people suffer for "the glory of god". On my behalf.

This indicates a certain want of maturity and dearth of logical thought, a self centeredness that a gyroscope would envy.

The word "good" bandied about in situations like my friend's deaths is simply fear of the powerful, a warding of wrath.
How many cultures call fearsome entities by names that seem to buy them off. In England the fairies (malevalent, or harmless) are called "The Gentry" or "The Good Folk", in Greece the Furies were called "The Kindly Ones".

Remember the Twilight Zone story about the Good Day? Same sort of thing, I think.

societyvs said...

Sorry to hear about the struggles Sarge - hope that all goes well for you.

Now is time to inteject with an idea - that I think is at the root of what is being taught by the disciples in the texts (which is not exactly the same as what churches teach on this subject).

I think the idea 'God will provide' - is truly being taught in the texts (no denial there). It's the 'provision' part that needs to be dismantled more closely IMO. How is this provision from God happening?

(a) we never see God - known fact - so it's not a face to face deal (or hand to hand deal)

(b) God however is claimed to be a 'spirit' - which is quite undefineable - but being people with spirits we can connect with this 'Spirit' on some unseen level

The 'provision' is coming from the example seen in Acts - that small community set forth an example of what the passages mean in Matthew or Luke (or the gospels in general).

In Acts we see needs being met left and right - for the widows, for family, for those in need...for those in community. Donations were receieved and kept for the whole community to benefit - as they all 'lived for one another' (under the One). Things were shared and they had all things in commmon (common being the key part for commun-ity).

So here is what I think:

God 'provides' - but are we listening? God ain't gonna come down and doing anything 'hand to hand' - this is left in our very capable 'hands'. If we are not up to the challenge - that's ok - or maybe we ain't listening? Needs exist - but does community exist to bare those people up? No.

We have been provided with all we will ever need on this planet - all of humanity - and it's a matter of sharing and living as one to realize the greatness of the resources we actually do contain. Problem is...humanity is very greedy - and has a history of ripping one another off for centuries. So this has but a huge dent in needs being met globally.

The problem isn't neccesarily God's provision - but humanity's greed with the 'provided'.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

It sounds like you're advocating more of an idea of some sort of blanket provision -- everything is already there, it's more a matter of how it's accessed. And as such, it doesn't make God as personally relatable as many of the churches would teach. Such as the idea of one having a personal relationship with Christ, or God always been available to help.

**The problem isn't neccesarily God's provision - but humanity's greed with the 'provided'.**

I agree with you in the matter of we have all the potential resources -- isn't there a study out there about how it would only take $30 million to solve the world's poverty, and the US spends four times as much as that on its military?

The complication with this -- and perhaps this is what you're touching when you say the church doesn't teach it as such -- is that it comes down to saying 'God has already provided, but humans might get in the way.' But if that's the case, then how can one trust God? If the provision and method of God getting it to you is constrained by human interaction, then how much help will God be? Because can you still say you can trust God to keep you safe, or keep you fed, if the provisions have those limitations? Doesn't that still just come down to a basic sense of luck?

Yes, God has provided -- but in a blanket, abstract sense. Everything is already there, and it's up to humanity to see that it gets delivered fairly. In that case, why bother involving God at all? Why present Him as a source of help? Why pray to Him for solutions?

societyvs said...

"Because can you still say you can trust God to keep you safe, or keep you fed, if the provisions have those limitations?" (OSS)

I am willing to put the blame squarely where it belongs - right on our own shoulders. Now maybe these limitations mean it will suck for many - that's true - but should God just start raining manna down to solve human problems all the time? At some point we just become dependant on that and not 'grow up' and become responsible...we get that once we will look for it forever.

For me the point is all about responsibility - and God providing when asked, IMO, seems like a cop-out from personal responsibility and human community. If anything, God should be striking down the dicks that hold the supplies back from everyone else. Then again, we see one of those and we will want more of the same....at some point these are our problems to solve.

"In that case, why bother involving God at all? Why present Him as a source of help? Why pray to Him for solutions?" (OSS)

Good question - better one - are we sure this is how God thinks on issues like this? We ask for the handout - He gives. Is this how this Spirit entity actually interacts with humans...I personally see very little proof of that close of an interaction.

Maybe the prayers are our voicing of what needs to be said - and God listens. Now maybe God allows us that much clarity when we do such an act (meditation) that we start to find in some strange way -- God has provided all those answers in us already (and this Spirit nudges our spirit in those moments). Maybe the 'kingdom of God' is truly 'within us'? Maybe we are created with that gem in us already.

Why is God involved? Because there is a mystery to this whole thing I don't quite get. Humans can help humans and make this world such a great place or such a horrible place...but somewhere in there is a thing called faith that makes us people more loving, hopeful, and bright.

I believe humans actually do live succesful and happy lives by using and dealing with the faith aspect that's all around us...from God to others - this idea God also seems to have left as is.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**At some point we just become dependant on that and not 'grow up' and become responsible...we get that once we will look for it forever.**

That depends on the type of problem, though. If we're talking about God keeping you safe on a dark street, or God healing your child from a deathly illness ... I don't think we can say that people will just get dependent upon God.

**If anything, God should be striking down the dicks that hold the supplies back from everyone else. **
But doesn't this then put God in the position of dealing with something directly? ;)

**Good question - better one - are we sure this is how God thinks on issues like this? We ask for the handout - He gives.**

We aren't. But my impression is that conservative Christianity does present God in this fashion. So when they say all one has to do is trust God, I come back with 'trust in what way? What are the expectations as to what God will provide? What is that trust based on?'

societyvs said...

"I don't think we can say that people will just get dependent upon God." (OSS)

How sure can one be of this? Suppose God healed someone's child from cancer straight out - and many saw it - would this become the expectation? Would people forgo the use of medical help in another similar situation? Hard to say.

I have been part of 'faith' churches where they pray about every damn thing and expectations like that (healing). The theology fails because the proof God intervenes in most situations in some direct manner is just not there. But if it happened once - those people would be screwed.

"But doesn't this then put God in the position of dealing with something directly? ;)" (OSS)

True...but if I expected God to intervene at some point - it would be on a scale like that...dealing with human govt's that hold things back and torture their own people.

"So when they say all one has to do is trust God, I come back with 'trust in what way? What are the expectations as to what God will provide? What is that trust based on?'" (OSS)

That's the big one - the provision part. I think there is a lot of literalness surrounding that scritpure - in ask and you will recieve. What cons are not understanding is there is nothing in a single one of those passages about 'how this is accomplished'. I do not doubt God gives when we ask - the question for me is 'how does this get accomplished?'. I can honestly say God does not deal 'directly' with humans - no face to face stuff going on.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**Would people forgo the use of medical help in another similar situation? Hard to say.**

We're looking at this different ways. I was thinking along the lines of someone wanting a car, or a promotion, and working for it. For many people, earning the object of desire increases the value of the object itself, and provides a sense of pride and self-sufficiency.


**the question for me is 'how does this get accomplished?'. I can honestly say God does not deal 'directly' with humans - no face to face stuff going on.**

Then what's used to determine how it's accomplished? What can be used to see how God is in fact doing the providing?

societyvs said...

"Then what's used to determine how it's accomplished? What can be used to see how God is in fact doing the providing?" (OSS)

Nothing. That's why they call it 'faith' in God (in some ways we are talking about a 'trust' in a Being we have little to no interaction with). If people want something to measure this by - they won't find anything observable to measure the unobservable by (ie: spirit cannot be measured).

So, in the end, we are left with a Spirit dealing with us in a spiritual way - whatever that looks and feels like for each person. I know this is a horrible answer for anyone wanting solid answers to 'where is God?' I tend to believe God 'is' and so are 'we' - and time to time we cross paths.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**Nothing. That's why they call it 'faith' in God (in some ways we are talking about a 'trust' in a Being we have little to no interaction with).**

But then this comes back to my original question: when people say that they trust God, what is the substance of that trust? What is the substance of that faith? How can it be defined? What does it even mean to have faith in God, or trust God, if there's no way to measure it?

societyvs said...

"what is the substance of that trust? What is the substance of that faith? How can it be defined? What does it even mean to have faith in God, or trust God, if there's no way to measure it?" (OSS)

I don't think its observably measureable - that dont mean it aint measurable by the individual. It also depends on what 'faith' is and what we are measuring.

(a) Following the teachings and living by them is faith/trust in God

(b) Having some connection with this Being is also part of 'faith/trust' (an experience of some sort)

Now (a) is very measurable - we can even define that for ourselves and cross examine how much we are keeping those ideals. For example, loving your enemy is very identifiable - we determine if we are or are not doing this by our 'actions'.

Now (b) is the part I think is not measurable. Spirit to Spirit dialogues tend not to be - some people think that is 'crazy talk' or 'fictitious'. But I think there is a connection that can happen in that realm we cannot measure but can experience.

So faith/trust in God is measureable in some regards - not measureable in other ways.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**(a) Following the teachings and living by them is faith/trust in God**

So following the teachings is equal to trust in God? To take your example, we could say, "I love my enemy, and that shows that I trust God." But it still wouldn't define what the trust is based on. Trust that God will reward for following that teaching? That He'll keep your family safe? And so this doesn't tell me what people trust God to do -- and yet what I often see presented is that if only people trusted in God, society would be great, lives would be great, and so forth.

Yet we could have someone who trusts God, and then promptly loses his job, his house, two children get sick, and his wife divorces him. And so this person could say that he still trusts God -- but the type of trust would be so vague for me. He can't say he trusts God to help him keep his job, or any of the things he just lost.

It's like the difference in trusting that 2+2=4 because a bunch of teachers tell you, and trusting the equation because you understand how the equation works. Too often, trust in God is presented as understanding how the equation works. Yet we see a lot of less than good things happen to all sorts of people who trust in God, and they can't understand why. So then the trust becomes because something tells you -- other people, the Bible, so forth.

danielwghana said...

Trust in God is not as vague, as some seem to be thinking it is. A person places faith, trust, confidence in something or someone, when they sense their own need, or when they wish to express love. All love is based on trust. I think we would all agree, if we consider our own relationships with others in life. We all have needs, and at times we find it necessary to cast our care on others, so that they might offer some assistance. The closer we are to someone, and the more we have observed the faithfulness in their character, the more willing we would be to place our trust in them. The reason many do not trust God, is because they do not perceive their own need, as well as recognize that He alone is the one that can provide for their need.

You might still be saying,"How can I trust in, what or whom I can not see". But remember that trust is based upon a relationship, and as a person comes to know God, and experience his faithfulness, he can learn to trust in God. I have trusted in God for many years, and for very specific answers to prayer, and have found that God is faithful, willing to answer my prayers in a most marvelous way. I have lived in Africa for 5 years on the principle of trusting in God. With no salary, or arrangements with a mission board, church, or otherwise. I am completely cast upon God for my daily care, and He sustains me every day. I believe not only in God, but I believe God, because I have a relationship with Him. Perhaps some of the thoughts on this blog are from persons who do not know God, and thus have not known what it is to trust and rely upon Him. He can and does reveal Himself to those who will trust Him (Jer 29:13).

OneSmallStep said...

danielwghana,

**The reason many do not trust God, is because they do not perceive their own need, as well as recognize that He alone is the one that can provide for their need.**

I think the comments made it pretty clear that this is not the reason -- the trust in God has nothing to do with a sense of need. It has to do with the evidence around us. Some Christians pray for safety and receive it. Others don't. Christians pray for a job or a home or a family. Some receive those, others don't. If you pray that God keeps your children safe, and they end up getting killed, then that is when the trust aspect becomes vague, because what exactly are you rusting for? Or in?

**He can and does reveal Himself to those who will trust Him (Jer 29:13).**

But that's not how anyone operates with any other relationship. First, the person reveals him/herself and the character. Then you decide whether s/he is worthy of trust.

Anonymous said...

I am very disappointed that no true Christians have defended their religion. This post challenges the magnificence and awesome power of God. He is all in all. There is no questioning him. Whenever he does something, there is a purpose...either to teach you, mold you , or make you a better person. For example:

My grandfather fell out of an attic and broke his hip a year ago. Our family, strong believers in God, wondered why this happened. But we didn't question God. We just kept trusting in him and were thankful that nothing worse had happened. And you know what? A year later, he is perfectly healed and was able to recieve medical benefits due to his accident that help him pay for all the medicine he has to take (diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol).

My youth pastor at church was a fine man. Perfectly healthy and nothing was wrong with him...until he went to a yearly checkup and was diagnosed with acute leukemia, a form of cancer with a very high death rate. all the people in our church fasted and prayed for him, as did many others around the world. And prayer does work, I know it. God will never put you in a situation that you cannot handle. He knows your limitations and weaknesses. Now this pastor is in full time ministry, perfectly and completely healed when the doctors gave him only a few months to live.

I am at the top of my high school graduating class. Right now, I feel that nothing is going right. My grades have dropped lower than they've ever been. But I'm not going to give up, and I'mm not going to stop trusting in my God. He has been so faithful to me, I will never question his decisions. I know, from experience, that whenever I cry to him on my knees, he hears. And that is a proven fact...I don't care what you people say.

How can anyone put God's name down without knowing him. Obviously you haven't tasted and seen how good he is. maybe you should try. God is good, all the time...He loves you and knows what's best for you. Don't understand how I can say these things? Try it yourself. Pray to God sincerely, pour out your heart before him for anything, and taste and experience his goodness and love. It never ends.

Andrew said...

Heh... Obviously ;)

Anonymous said...

the real question is, do you trust god with your life? with your childs life? he never says, "you wont be shot, or stabbed to death or raped etc"
i for one will say this, i trust god with everything in my life. if my family is kidnaped and killed, so be it. i trust the lord. am i sad? heck yeah, but i still trust him.
look at job as an example. if your following god because you think he will give you physical comfort, then your following a different god.