Week 3 of the series, “Three Simple Truths.” Thanks to Adolf Hansen for providing such a wonderful resource. The congregation was blessed by these truths!
Proverbs 3: 3-8
3 Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and of people. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.
In his book, Three Simple Truths, Adolf shares the heartbreaking story of his daughter, Bonnie, who was killed when she was struck by a bus in downtown Indianapolis. Through this experience and several others, Adolf came to embrace these three simple truths that we have been reflecting on over the last few weeks: that God is good, all the time, that God works for good, in everything, and finally, to trust God, no matter what. As Adolf’s family gathered around Bonnie’s bedside to say goodbye, the words that resounded through Adolf’s thoughts were these: “No matter what happens, we are going to trust God.” Even in the midst of pain and heartache, these words were spoken. Even in the midst of questions, doubt, and even anger, these words gave strength to even the worst of situations: “no matter what happens, we are going to trust God.” And so today, I invite you to reflect upon what this final simple truth means in your life. What does it mean to trust God, no matter what?
We have spent the last two weeks reflecting upon God’s steadfast love for us (chesed) and how God works in the world to express that steadfast love through God’s presence, power, and God’s ability to work for good in everything. Today, we will continue to reflect upon God in relationship to trust. What does trust mean to you? Who is the person you trust most in this entire world? Trust is a part of our everyday experience. We trust people to not cross over a double line on the road in traffic, we trust people to bring us safe food at restaurants, we trust our doctors with medical needs…the list could go on. Trust is something that we participate in every day- we trust others, just as others expect us to be trustworthy. Trust is also what builds our deepest, most intimate relationships. Without trust, there is not much of a solid ground for a relationship to be built upon. When that trust is betrayed, we might feel as if the ground has collapsed beneath us or our world has been shattered. When I was in middle school, I had a tightly knit group of friends. We told each other everything and we shared our lives, including all of the drama that was being in middle school. At one point, one of my very best friends betrayed my trust. She went through my personal things and shared one of my secrets with everyone. I was humiliated and felt very alone. And if you remember middle school, you know it is a scary place to feel betrayed and alone. It took me a very long time to get over that and feel that I could trust people again and feel confident enough in myself to trust others again. That’s another thing about trust- you have to trust yourself before you can really place your trust in someone else.
Trust, of course, is a mutual experience. Our deepest relationships involve someone who trusts us just as much as we trust them. We also have to be willing and open for someone to teach us how to trust and what that really means. What relationships have taught you about trust? What makes those relationships meaningful? For me, the people I trust the most are my mom, my sister, and my husband. These relationships show me what trust looks like. I know that no matter what happens, I can trust these people to be there for me, to support me, to keep my secrets, and to listen to my inner most thoughts and struggles. Who do you have in your life that you trust, no matter what?
In his book, Adolf points out that “when we reflect on trust, we are examining the core dimension of our lives- one that connects us to a deep and profound experience of trust with God.” (56). The kind of trust relationship that we are invited to have with God is directly related to what we experience with others. We have reflected upon God’s steadfast love and goodness over the past few weeks, and it’s no secret that there is a strong relationship between love and trust. After all, trust stems from love. So trust is yet another quality of God’s steadfast love that is extended as an invitation to each of us. Trust in ourselves and others is a very important part of life. Even more profound, however, is the trust that we extend to God and receive from God (56).
If you were to pick an image to describe trusting God, what would it be? For me, it is this image of a hen gathering her chicks under her wing like Jesus describes when he weeps over Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” (Luke 13:34).
This beautiful mosaic can be found in a church on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the ancient city of Jerusalem. This image reminds me that God wants to gather us in as his children under the protection of his wings. Like a mother, God invites us to find shelter, love, and mercy…to find a safe space where we feel at home- a place where we can trust, no matter what. In this image we are also reminded that we must be willing to find shelter under God’s wings. If the chicks do not go to their mother, what will become of them? In the same way, if we do not seek and find our trust in God, we may find ourselves lost and alone, not knowing where to turn. We have to be willing to accept God’s invitation to trust.
Each of us, through God’s steadfast love, are invited to trust, rely on, and have confidence in God. We are invited to feel secure, to depend on God for our strength, no matter what. But this trust is a two way street. God also wants to trust us to carry out God’s work in the world and to be people who honor and glorify him. Just as we are willing to trust in God, so is God willing to trust in us. What a privilege and responsibility that is! (58). To get examples of how much trust God puts in us and vice versa, we only need to look as far as scripture- we look to the story of Abraham and Sarah who trusted God no matter what when they were told to leave their home and go to the land that God would show them. We look to Moses who trusted God no matter what we he was told to go back to Egypt and stand up to Pharaoh so that the Israelites would be free. Moses trusted in God, no matter what, as he led the Hebrew people to the promised land, just as God trusted Moses to lead them. We look to Mary, the mother of Jesus, whom God trusted to carry Jesus in her womb and to care for him…Mary, who trusted God, no matter what, when she was told that she was pregnant with Jesus, the savior of the world. Her trust in God gave her strength throughout her life, even as her son was dying on the cross. And of course, Jesus was one who trusted in God and the one in whom God placed his trust…even to the point of death that led to new life and our salvation. Our most powerful and cherished stories of our faith all begin with people who placed their unwavering trust in God, and in whom God trusted to carry out his divine work. Without this mutual trust, we might not be here today, standing strong as people of faith. Abraham, Moses, Mary, and Jesus put their trust in God, just as God put his trust in them. We are invited to be a part of that ongoing story.
Mutual trust takes work on both sides. We place our trust in an unfailing God who shows us steadfast love, but we might not always hold up our end of the deal. Sometimes we forget that God is yearning to trust us, or there may be times when we betray the trust that God has placed in us. How God must grieve over those times, people, and circumstances (58). Our world is unfortunately full of people and situations that have betrayed the trust that God has placed in us, and all of us stand guilty of those times. But the good news is that God’s character of goodness, steadfast love, and God’s activity of working for good in everything remains the same, no matter what mistakes or betrayals we have committed. We praise God for never giving up on us, even when we may give up on God (59).
When Adolf talks about his grief over his daughter’s death, he admits times when he was angry at God and wonders why, in fact, we should trust God. It’s easy to trust God when things are good and times are ordinary. But in bad times or horrendous times, we may find it difficult, or even pointless to trust in God. When we are angry at God, we may not even want to consider trusting him! And right now with all that is going on with the world…the Malaysian airlines plan shot done, our children suffering at borders, the conflict and senseless death in the Middle East…it is especially hard to trust God, no matter what. Sometimes it is easier to be mad at the world and mad at God than to put our trust in God.
But hear this: God can handle our anger. God can handle our doubts. God can handle it when we don’t feel that we can trust him. In fact, God does more than just handle our anger, doubts, and questions. God is actually there, hurting with us, walking alongside us, and is present with us expressing that steadfast love until we know without a doubt the power of God’s presence. If God is good, all the time, and working to bring about good in every situation, then we can place our trust in God, no matter what is taking place. God’s love and presence remains steadfast. God is working for good and working to earn our trust. Our text from Proverbs reminds us that no matter how hard we might try to understand a situation or to lean on our own insight, there are times that we must put our trust in God because our insight is not always sufficient enough. When we have done everything in our control to resolve a situation, to answer all the questions, to try to put broken pieces of our lives back together and we find ourselves not getting anywhere…we are invited to trust in God, no matter what. Sometimes putting our trust in God is the one and only option we have. No matter how old or young you are, no matter what you are going through, no matter if you are well or sick, joyful or sad, whether you are new to faith in God or have always had faith, whether you feel you belong or not, you are invited to trust God, no matter what (65).
I asked some of my friends and acquaintances when they have trusted God, no matter what, and I got a variety of answers. We all have a story to share about a time when we have trusted in God, no matter what the situation. One story in particular stood out to me, and that was my friend (also a United Methodist pastor) who shared that she trusted in God, no matter what, when her husband died unexpectedly. Her husband was a very well loved pastor in the Indiana conference, and helped many of the new clergy get through the ordination process, and was a mentor to many many people. He had a joyful heart and spirit, and was friendly to everyone. When we learned of his death, everyone was shocked and very saddened. My friend still grieves for him today, as many of us do. When she shared that this was a time, or perhaps the time, that she trusted in God, no matter what, I understood that this statement of faith is crucial to our ever deepening relationship with God. To trust God, no matter what, may be difficult when we are faced with the unthinkable, but yet the invitation is there. The invitation for God to gather us under God’s wings just as a hen gathers her chicks is always there- that image of trust, that expression of faith in that trust is ours for the taking.
My experience of trusting God, no matter what, was when I found out I was moving here to be your pastor. We United Methodist pastors go through a lot of change in our vocations, and each time, we take a leap of faith and say, “God, I am going to trust you, no matter what.” If we couldn’t lean on our trust in God, we would probably have a very dysfunctional group of pastors and churches. Taking that leap into the unknown, leaving behind the people and places that you have built your life around, and being uprooted is scary. Not knowing who you all were was scary (good news: you’re not so scary! 😉 ) Putting my trust in God is what got me through that time of transition, and what kept me sane while Corey was trying to find a job for that first 9 months. And placing my trust in God was not always easy. But it was comforting to know that God was there, and was placing trust in me. Any change in life can be scary. And as we have talked about many times in this series, stuff happens. But through all of that stuff, we are invited to trust God, no matter what.
Through all of that stuff, we are invited to experience these three simple truths:
-God is good, all the time
-God works for good, in everything
-Trust God, no matter what
The next steps are up to you. How have you experienced these simple truths in your life? How will you share them with someone else? How will you experience them in the future? My prayer for you…for all of us, is that we experience and live out these truths for our ongoing lives of faith, that we may experience the steadfast love of God and know without a doubt that these three simple truths ring true in each of our lives. God is waiting, inviting, calling us to experience them for ourselves. Are you willing to open your heart to them?
Let us pray (68-69):
Gracious God, we thank you that we can trust you with all our heart, that we can use our own understanding, though we cannot always rely on it. Loving God, we thank you that we can trust you, no matter what, when life is going reasonably well, and when life is going horribly wrong. Help us, O God, to accept your invitation to trust you with all our heart, as we think about it, as we talk about it with you and with others, and as we embody it in our lives…no matter what. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.