Maybe you still struggle with the question, “Can I trust you, God?” After all, when we sin we are telling God we don’t think we can trust him.
It’s a question Jonah wrestled with as he prayed in the belly of the fish in Jonah 2. The disciples wrestled with trusting God in the New Testament.
What is helpful for us is how people in the Bible handled it. When they came to this question, they looked backwards. They looked to their past to see how God worked not only in their life but in the lives of others.
If you’ve grown up in church, you know the story of Abraham, and our knowledge of his story kind of takes away some of the amazingness. In Genesis 12 we have this man named Abram. He all of a sudden appears in the pages of Scripture. He is out in the desert and he hears a voice, a voice he may have heard before, but maybe not. We aren’t told. This voice, God from heaven, tells him to pack up what he has and move “to a land I will show you.”
Now picture this: Abram goes home and tells his wife Sarai that they are to pack up and go to a land that this voice (God) will show them. I always wonder what that was like. If she was like most wives, she probably asked him how long he’d been hearing this voice. Has it said other things? Did it give any directions? Any hints on what lay ahead?
No, Abram would tell her. Only that we are to start walking and stop when he says.
What God does tell Abram is that he will one day be a great nation and that all the people of the world will be blessed through him. The irony of this is that Abram has no children and is 75 years old.
Finally, as he walks to this land, there is a fascinating promise given to Abram in Genesis 15. Time has passed, and Abram and Sarai still do not have a child. From their perspective they are not any closer to being a great nation than when they left their home. So Abram does what we would do. He whines to God. Complains, actually.
God takes it and is incredibly patient with Abram through this entire conversation. As Abram unloads his feelings of despair, lack of faith, anger, and hurt over his desire to be a father, but yet not having this desire met (are you beginning to see the connection between not trusting God and giving in to temptation or other sins?), God tells him to look to the heavens and number the stars. Abram can’t number the stars, as there are too many of them. “So,” God tells him, “shall your offspring be.”
God doesn’t just stop there. He tells Abram what he (God) has done. What is interesting to me is that when God gives commands in Scripture, in particular the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, before giving a command, he reminds the people of what he has done. God is about to make a covenant, a promise with Abram, but before he does he reminds Abram of what he has done so far. He hasn’t just led him to a new place and promised him a son; he has guided, provided, and protected him and his family.
Then and only then does God give commands or make covenants. In Exodus 20, before giving Moses the law, he reminds him, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (20:2) This is the foundation of the commands of God, his promise and the freedom that he provides.
In Genesis 15, after reminding Abram, he makes a covenant with Abram. We aren’t told in Scripture if Abram asked for it, but he was at least doubting and wondering if this was going to happen. He was complaining to God, as we would do. This has always been a comfort to me, that God doesn’t strike down questions in the Bible, but listens and answers them.
God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Abram did and cut them all in half. In this time period when two people made a covenant, they would kill the animals and cut them in half, and then they would walk through the animals, saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the covenant, may I end up like these animals.”
It was getting late and Abram fell asleep. Then God made a covenant with Abram, while he was asleep. As the sun set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and flaming torch passed between the pieces. Abram never passed through the animals; only God did.
This is the extent to which God goes to keep his promises as our Father. He makes the promise and keeps it, even when we don’t. Even in our moments of failure, doubt, and fear, he is still strong and sure.
The prophet Habakkuk is another one. One of the things that I find most fascinating about Habakkuk chapter 3 is how Habakkuk reminds himself of how God has moved in the past. He recalls how the nation of Israel began, how God brought the nation of Israel out of slavery in the book of Exodus and gave them the 10 Commandments.
What Habakkuk is doing is reminding himself of how God has moved in the past. Often our struggle is with trusting that God will show up. Habakkuk is showing us, “God worked in the past, so I can trust He will work now and in the future.”
This doesn’t mean that God will work in the same way as he did in the past. It doesn’t mean He will work on our timetable, but we do know He is at work.
You may be in a place where you need to remind yourself of how God has worked in the past of your life. Maybe you need to journal or make a list of things he’s done and prayers he has answered. If you are new to faith or maybe your list isn’t very long yet, look at the lives and faiths of others. How has God worked in their lives? How has God worked in Scripture that you can hold on to?