Why do we find it so hard to trust in God sometimes? I sometimes find myself asking that question. Lately, I find myself worrying so much about everything, especially money and my parents' health. As mentioned in a previous blog post, things have been pretty hard for a while. 2016 was a very, very hard year in so many different ways, and 2017 has been a little bit easier, but things have still been pretty hard. Sometimes I wonder if God will really provide me with what I need. Sometimes I doubt that my family and I will be able to keep our heads above water, to be able to obtain all of the essentials.
Thank God that He gave us The Bible because whenever the devil tries to plant this seed of doubt into my mind, I read God's Word and dwell on it and, as a result, my faith is restored. Recently, I've been reflecting on the issue of trusting God. There's no reason to doubt that God will provide for us if we are His children and we are living for Him. The Bible makes it clear that those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, those who receive The Holy Spirit into their hearts, are children of God. John 1:12 says "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—" and Romans 8:14-17 says "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
The Bible teaches that God is the Father of the born again. So, if God is our Father, why should we doubt that He'll take care of us? That's what good fathers do: they take care of their children. I never doubted that my earthly father would take care of me, and I never had any reason to. He worked every weekday, bringing in the income needed to make sure that I had food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over my head. I would come to him when something was broken, expecting him to fix it, believing that he could fix it, especially if something was wrong with my computer. I still go to him when I'm having PC issues. He's really good with computers. Always has been. He used to build them back in the 1990s. I've never had to call tech support because I always had him. When I was a small child, if a toy was broken, I would bring it to him, believing whole heartedly that he could fix it. Sometimes he could, sometimes he couldn't. I'm sure many of you can relate to what I'm saying. Dear old Dad was always there to give you what you needed, and even sometimes what you wanted. Why do we have so much trouble having this same kind of faith and trust in our Heavenly Father that we do in our earthly father? If I trust Ron Minton with my needs, why not Yahweh? I'm God's child! God is my Father! I should trust in Him to provide for me just as I always trusted in my earthly father to provide for me. It only makes sense, especially since my earthly father, though he was and is a good man, has a sinful nature. God doesn't though. He's morally perfect!
Jesus made this same point when He said “Which of you if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" - Matthew 7:9-11
Why do we expect less of our Heavenly Father than our Earthly Father?
In The Sermon On The Mount, Jesus said “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:25-34
In this passage, Jesus draws the ontological contrast between the birds of the air and us. God feeds the birds of the air even though they don't sow, reap, or store away in barns. They just fly around until they find something. So, Jesus says that if God does that for mere animals, won't He do that and much more for the ones who bear His image and whom He calls "my children"? If God cares for those who aren't made in the image of God and are not children of God, how much more will He do for those who are? Likewise, God The Son goes a little further down the evolutionary tree and compares God taking care of the field with taking care of us. He says that if God clothes the field, that which isn't even a sentient creature like the aforementioned birds, how much more will He take care of His image bearing children? If God would adorn mere grass with such beauty, won't He adorn His children with even more beauty? The point Jesus made in both the comparison involving the birds and the flowers is that God takes care of things ontologically lesser than humans (animals and plants), surely He'll take care of the "crown of creation". If your dad feeds the dog, surely he can and will feed you. Finally, Jesus says that therefore, we shouldn't worry about any of our needs (clothes, food, etc.) because God is well aware that we need these things. He is omniscient after all. Of course He knows! He wouldn't be a Max
Even though you know all of this, it can still be hard to have faith? Why? I think we need to examine the underlying reasons we sometimes wonder about God's intentions for our lives.
The Problem Of Evil and The Problem Of Unanswered Prayer
One reason we worry about whether or not we'll be provided for is that God does sometimes allow bad things to happen to people, even devout followers of Christ, you know, the ones who are His children (John 1:12). And while we Christians are aware that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evils He permits (even though we don't know what they are), the mere fact that He does allow hardship to befall His children causes us to wonder what hardships might be in store for us. Hunger? Thirst? Persecution? Unemployment? Homelessness? Moreover, sometimes, even many times, we ask God to do something for us and He doesn't do it. Both of these factors can make it hard to trust God to come through.
A Want VS. A Need
In this blog post, I've argued that God will provide what we need, but I never anywhere stated that God will give us what we want. God will give us what we need, but not necessarily always what we want. There's a big difference. Moreover, sometimes we think we need something, but in reality, it's a want in disguise. This is not at all surprising. Even earthly fathers frequently withhold things from their children what they want, but not what they need. A 16-year-old may want a motorcycle, but his dad won't get him one because he worries for his safety. Many times I wanted a toy from the local Wal-Mart or K-Mart, but I was denied my desire. Sometimes I wasn't, sometimes my Mom or Dad would buy a toy for me that I wanted, but often times they say no. I can't remember the exact ratio of yesses and nos, but the point is, they did say no on occasion. I wanted the toy, but I didn't need the toy. I needed food, water, clothes, shelter, and education.
Sometimes a father says no to his child. But we must remember that there's always a reason behind it. In the above-mentioned example, the dad may have known his son was a reckless driver. Maybe he crashed the family vehicle on account of it, so the dad reasons within himself "If he gets into an accident on a motorcycle, it will probably kill him.". He loves his son and doesn't want him to get injured or killed, so he denies him the motorbike. He may even deny him a car for that same reason. In the case of other fathers, maybe they want to teach their children the value of hard work, so they make them get jobs to earn up money so they can buy their own cars, knowing that the car will mean more to them if they have to work for it than if it was just handed to them. As a result, they'll put more effort into taking care of the car. When we have to work hard for something, we try harder not to lose it than if it was just handed to us. As the old saying goes, "easy come, easy go.".
Likewise, our Heavenly Father will not always give us what we want, but it doesn't follow from that that He won't always give us what we need. What we need might in fact require lots of hardship. You may be lacking in some virtue, and Father God wants you to grow in that virtue, so He may allow some hardship to come into your life to grow that virtue in you. As Romans 5:3-5 says: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (ESV) Moreover, Romans 8:28 tells us that "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And the story of Jacob's son Joseph in the book of Genesis shows us an example of how God can bring good out of evil (c.f Genesis 50:20).
Sometimes what we need is to go through some stuff. Sometimes God will provide for us through our suffering. In the case of Joseph, God provided for him by allowing his brothers to sell him into slavery, knowing that if He intervened and stopped the sin from occurring, Joseph would never go to Egypt, Joseph would never be falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and therefore never be thrown into prison, and therefore he wouldn't have been able to interpret the prisoners' dreams, and therefore when the prisoner who was a chef was let out, he wouldn't have told the Pharoah about Joseph's ability to interpret dreams, and therefore Joseph would never be brought before Pharoah to interpret his dreams about the 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows (which was a symbol for 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine). All of this meant that the Pharoah would not have known to store up food during the 7 years of abundance so that they would be able to eat during the 7 years of famine. This would mean that many, many people would die, including Jacob, Joseph, and the whole family. The family the Messiah descended from. God saved Joseph's life and the life of many others through his hardship.
Still, this doesn't totally prevent worry and anxiety. We may trust in our Father to do what is best for us, but we may wonder whether God will let us suffer in order to get us what we need. I more often struggle with this kind of worry than the kind I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. I sometimes fall into doubt about whether God will provide, but 8 out of 10 times, I don't worry about what. What I worry about is whether what I need will be gained through sorrow. C.S Lewis voiced my thoughts well when he said “We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be”
To return to the comparison with earthly fathers, sometimes you got to let your child hurt to build them up. For example, you need to vaccinate your kids so that they don't things like chicken pox or other viruses. You allow the doctor to inject the vaccine into your child. The child feels pain and cries. You hate to see this because you love your child, but you permitted these tears to flow because you knew that if you didn't let this happen, your child would likely get sick and suffer far more. You gave your child what you need by allowing them to experience pain. Or again, fathers and mothers may let their child fall several times in learning to walk. Walking is a necessity, you know. You literally can't get anywhere in life without it, unless you can master a wheelchair. Every time the child falls, he cries, but you keep letting them fall because you know that eventually, they'll get to the point where they won't fall anymore. They'll have mastered the art of walking.
Fortunately, The Bible tells us that although God won't always calm the storms in our lives, He will calm us. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." (Proverbs 18:10, KJV). "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18, ESV). "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28, ESV). So even if our problem is worrying about whether God will give us what we need through suffering, rather than worrying about whether He will provide at all, the comforting hand of our Father will lift us up and get us through it. He can give us a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Another example that comes to mind is discipline. None of us would be the good citizens we are today if we weren't disciplined when we tried to force our way. This is, I believe, what's wrong with many of the people of my generation. Unlike me, they probably never heard the word "no" in their entire lives. They always got what they want, they were told they were special, and they got trophies just for participating. The millennial typing this blog post did not have that kind of upbringing (Praise God) and I'm all the better for it. Every tantrum was met with a few warnings and then a spanking when the warnings went unheeded. The Bible says that God disciplines His children too.
Hebrews 12:4-11 says: "Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
If you have some sin you won't give up, if you're not living the way that you should, God will discipline you. That is what you need in that case. And, as even the author of Hebrews admits, it will be painful. But it is what you need. God needs to get you to surrender that sin so you can fully give yourself to Him.
The ultimate point I want to drive home is that sometimes we think we need X, when we really need Y. So when we ask for X, God says no, and gives us Y instead. We shouldn't think God has failed us. We should trust Him. He is good and He is omniscient. We are sinful and limited in knowledge and foresight. We should, therefore, trust God's judgment infinitely more than we trust our own.
I'm not sure if I wrote a blog post or a mini sermon, but I needed to get this out. I think it's important that we all learn to trust God with our wants, our needs, our lives. He is our Father, and He loves us. If I did write a mini-sermon, know that I was preaching just as much to myself as I was to my readers. Trust our Father. He's a good, good Father.