I’ve been learning a hard but wildly important lesson about trust lately.
In the weeks since we’ve been back from Ethiopia, I’ve been struggling with a mounting sense of fear. This fear has manifested itself in a number of different ways depending on the day – fear over fundraising, fear that I’m a terrible writer, fear of what people think of me because of this or that, fear that I’m not “good enough” to serve in this new position with Sports Friends, and fear that I’m alone because nobody understands the things I’m feeling.
The logical part of my brain acknowledges that this fear is not from God. There are hundreds of scriptures which command us not to be afraid. And yet, my heart is having a hard time catching up with my head and fully believing that I have nothing to be afraid of.
What I’m starting to realize is that this thing I’m struggling with is not really a fear issue at its core. When I dig a little deeper, I find that the real issue is trust. Oh sure, I might say I fully trust God. That sounds nice and churchy, doesn’t it? But real trust in God would produce freedom and peace and joy, not fear. Something is not right here and I know it.
I have been praying some pretty desperate prayers lately. The ones I’ve written down are choppy and disorganized and include a lot of repetition, particularly of the words “please” and “help.” The ones coming straight from my heart sound equally as distressed, and it’s obvious that I’m losing control.
Save me, O God!
The water is up to my neck;
I am sinking in deep mud,
and there is no solid ground;
I am out in deep water,
and the waves are about to drown me.
I am worn out from calling for help,
and my throat is aching.
I have strained my eyes,
looking for your help.
Like the Psalmist, I know I am in some deep water.
My plans aren’t unfolding exactly how I wanted them to. I can’t control this season of my life and it’s unraveling me. My unmet expectations are slapping me hard, wave after wave. As surely as this writer felt, I feel like I could drown in the defeat of it all. Because I realize I have no control, I’m operating in panic mode, letting fear driving my actions as I fight to stay above the surface.
It’s in this place, with the water up to my neck, that I have finally realized the only option I have left – to let go and trust. No amount of my own effort to control this season is going to get me to solid ground. I’ve kicked and I’ve flailed and I’m entirely exhausted. It’s time to give it up.
But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord;
answer me, God, at a time you choose.
Answer me because of your great love,
because you keep your promise to save.
Save me from sinking in the mud;
keep me safe from my enemies,
safe from the deep water.
Don’t let the flood come over me;
don’t let me drown in the depths
or sink into the grave.
This is such a hard prayer for me to pray – answer me, God, at a time you choose. It’s so unnatural for me to close my eyes, open my arms, and give up control like this, but I truly have no other choice. He’s brought me to a place where utter dependence is my only option because the way I’ve been doing things just isn’t working.
And yet, paradoxically, relinquishing control in this way feels sacred instead of scary.
The moment I throw my arms open in surrender, some of that fear that I’ve been unintentionally holding onto so tightly escapes. With my arms open wide, I’ve created space for God’s great love to emerge. I’ve created space for Him to show me how He keeps His promises.
Volcano Pacaya, Guatemala
It won’t be a one-time choice, this surrender. Again and again I will need to choose trust over the need to control, especially when the waters seem choppy and I feel unsure.
I know God will never force me to trust Him. It’s just not who He is and that’s certainly not the kind of relationship He’s after. Sometimes it takes breaking us to get our attention and beckon us back.
I will praise God with a song;
I will proclaim his greatness by giving him thanks.
Thank you, God, again and again for caring enough not to give up on me.
Is there anything you need to trust God with these days?