The camping trip had a rough start. While packing to go we got a phone call with a heart-stopping estimate for our car repairs, the first of two vehicles needing work. We were definitely feeling the financial crunch. My wife received her last paycheque before the summer break, we had other bills due, and we were preparing to go on a more-expensive-than-normal vacation we had committed to months ago.
We were overwhelmed and seriously questioning if some of our decisions were foolishly hopeful. Throw into the mix a grumpy, overtired, emotional, hormonal preteen, and her spicy, stubborn, sassy sister, along with the all-too-familiar first-day-of-camping grumpies.
It was not a fun first evening. We didn’t have a campfire; we just went to bed.
In all this, I try to remind myself of the importance of trusting. What I struggle with is not who I trust, but what exactly I trust, or maybe how I trust. Do I trust that God will swoop in like a divine superhero and ensure that, just like the widow’s oil, our bank account will miraculously always have just enough for the next day? Or do I believe that, by trusting enough and believing in God’s providence, I’ll be shown special favour as God’s child, a prosperity-promise kind of trust?
But doesn’t the rain fall on the wicked and the good alike? Or do I trust that God helps those who help themselves, an unofficial scripture verse in many people’s books? Or is trusting in the Lord different than all of these?
Proverbs 3, a text I’ve heard often preached on, and yet comically forget when I need it most, says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
So I’m instructed to acknowledge him in all my ways if I wish God to make my paths straight. Not easy, not struggle-free, not miraculously prosperous, not even without hardship or serious negative consequences. But acknowledging God will keep my path straight, my direction, my purpose, my trust, my steadfastness of faith, and my realization that, as Kate Bowler says, “Struggle is everyone’s normal.”
Trusting is not a promise that everything will work out peachy, but a promise that everything is within God’s vision, care, control and allowance, and that God will remain faithful in love, comfort and presence.
Does this even sound right to me? Am I letting God off the hook here, deluding myself, so that I’m not expecting any actual intervention or action from God? It might look like that to some, even myself at times, but the kind of presence and action that I’m beginning to anticipate and expect from God most often is subtle and steadfast rather than flashy and fantastical.
It’s something that is difficult to perceive from the outside, but it is held closely and sacredly deep within myself. I can’t explain this kind of deep trust, maybe partially because I only know it in part. I believe and know and have tasted that it’s present, it’s true, but I’m not very good at staying aligned with it or living within it. But I keep trying to wander aimfully toward it, struggling to hope for trust, knowing that I love the one who offers the straight path, desperate for another taste of that trust.
Our camping improved, our cars were repaired, and my bank account didn’t miraculously replenish. Things are still concerning, but my anxiety is dissolving as trust trickles in. l
Joshua Penfold (firstname.lastname@example.org) acknowledges the unending grace God bestows upon a trust-wrestler like him.