Trusting God is good, even when life isn't

(Photo: Unsplash/Aperture Vintage)

If you're anything like me, you desperately want to trust God. You know you should trust Him with everything and more than anything right now, you need to trust Him. But when the rubber hits the road and you get the call from the doctor, discover your teen is cutting, or your brain's spinning with worry, it never turns out to be as easy as it seems.

Our brains question the logic of how God can be good, even when life isn't.

We long to be able to cast our burdens onto him, knowing he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and travel through life anxiety-free, confident He's got it and won't let us down.

But, especially in a year like this one, it doesn't seem to work like that and we're left trying to go it alone with God along for the ride, beaten down by the idea that if life is unpredictable and unreliable, God must be too.

After I lost both my mum and sister to cancer I was diagnosed and, as you can imagine, both my life and faith were shaken. When everything had been all rainbows and butterflies, I'd always planned to trust God no matter what, but with the family heat-seeking missile of death apparently locked in on me, it wasn't as easy as I'd assumed.

And here's why.

The bad news is our brains are working against us, eroding our trust in God.

The good news is we can fix it, making trusting Him easier than ever.

Here's why our brain's are working against us:

I remember exactly where I was standing and the way my six-year-old heart crumpled when my first grade teacher called me a liar in front of the class. She didn't believe my "news time" story and announced to the class that it wasn't good to tell tall stories.

I remember the night I found out my parents were divorcing, the conversation with my mum when she told me she had cancer, and sitting by my sister's bedside as she died from the same disease. I remember where I was on 9/11 and the day the tsunami hit Sri Lanka, where my sister was on holiday.

But the memories of my wedding day are fading faster, along with those of the day I first held our children and the sunset picnics that have taken my breath away.

And that's the problem.

Our brains are wired to recall bad memories not just more easily than the good ones, but with greater detail and hang on to them longer.

It makes sense as we've been trying to avoid pain and death for thousands of years.

But it works against us when it comes to trusting God. Our painful memories make trusting God harder, not easier. Experience has taught us to trust people and things who've proved themselves trustworthy.

I'm trusting this chair to hold my weight as I type because I've sat in it many times and, for the most part, chairs have proved themselves trustworthy when it comes to not collapsing under me. I trust that the guy who fixes our appliances will be on time because he's never been late before.

And that's where our memories erode our desire to put our trust in God, especially when life's at its hardest.

Sitting on top of our memory banks are all the tough, painful, hard moments that have broken our hearts, kept us awake at night, and left us feeling alone, unloved and forgotten by God. They're right there for us to revisit with just a glance, eroding our trust in Him, persuading us He doesn't care, is angry or has left us to figure it out alone.

Our happy, trust-building memories, on the other hand, are buried deep where it's harder to access. These are the ones reminding us how God's come through for us, how we've found comfort in his arms, and felt his peace in our most panic-stricken moments.

Happy memories build trust in God while hard memories erode it.

Since we lack a trusting-God gene, making trusting our creator our default mode no matter what, trusting Him takes intentionality and a bit of work.

To trust God when we don't feel like it, we have to boost our good trust-building memories of God until they drown out the painful memories of what we're dealing with.

Trusting God is a choice. You don't get to wait until your feelings are all smiling and willing to play. We must remember how good God is, how faithful He's been to us and others, and find ways to do this on a regular basis.

Since it takes intentionality and work, here are 5 simple steps to trusting God when you don't feel like it, and boy do they work because they bring our positive memories of God's faithfulness in the past into the present.

5 Simple Steps to Trusting God When You Don't Feel Like It

1.Check God's credentials:

Before we trust anyone, from a doctor to a car mechanic, we check them out. How are their references, what do friends say about them? With God, we can do the same. What does the Bible say about Him? Does he seem trustworthy in the stories we read about him in its pages? What do your friends who don't worry so much say about him?

2. Ask him for help:

No one said trusting God with our shattered lives is easy but God wants to help us trust him. If we ask, he will strengthen and build our trust. In fact, he's delighted to help. We just need to say: "God, I'm really struggling to trust you with this diagnosis right now. Please help me."

3. CHOOSE to trust:

Trust is a verb, an action, a doing word. Trust isn't something I can do for you. We have to do it by ourselves, for ourselves. It is a choice we have to make, even when we don't feel like it. We don't need to feel like cooking dinner to do it and in the same way, we don't need our emotion's permission to trust God. We just have to do it. I know it sounds harsh, but it's true.

4. Let Go:

Whether we know it or not, whether it's intentional or not, we all trust in something right now. What are you trusting? Yourself? The doctors? Other people? In order to fully trust God, we have to let go of trusting these other things and grasp hold of God with both hands. We can't hedge our bets and put all our trust in both.

5. Keep a record:

As we start to trust God, even with the small stuff, and we see Him come through, it's a great idea to keep track of how He shows up. Write in a journal, record it on your phone, but by tracking the ways we feel his faithfulness, it builds our confidence in him for the future, raises our expectations of what he will do and sets us up to trust him more as time goes by. It's like paying into a trust bank.

These five steps help to keep the powerful, trust-building good at the top of our minds, helping to make trusting God easier and more of a go-to response when life is hard.

To say 2020 has been a bit of a doozy is an understatement but this simply means we need to work harder to trust that our good God is still who he says he is. When we take him at his word, we don't deny life is hard. Instead we face it head on in the knowledge that he is good even if life isn't, that he loves us even if others don't, that he won't leave us, even if we've been abandoned.

That's when we discover his peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus