Trust

Trust in God.

Everyone says it. I say it, and I mean it.

But I don’t know what it means.

How can you trust when you don’t know what it means?

There is a theory in psychology {yes, I trained as a psychologist; shoot me now!} that suggests we learn about the world from a very young age.

Even as babies, when we’re not old enough to process information formally – to think the way we think of thinking – our brains are processing information, working like little statistical calculators, keeping track of the world like so much data to be processed.

{I joke with my students that our brains are so much better at math than we are. And they are. Because they track things and tally how often and how much.}

At any rate, this psychological theory suggests that our brain registers all kinds of information. As babies, when we are wet or hungry or tired, we cry. In each of those instances, our caregivers either meet our needs or they don’t. And our brains, our statistical data collectors, tally each time our needs are met and each time they are not.

Caregivers aren’t perfect. Nor should they be. Quite frankly, sometimes nature calls out to caregivers and they must relieve their needs at that exact moment, regardless of whether baby’s diaper needs to be changed also.

No one is perfect, and no one’s needs are met perfectly. But our baby brains calculated, in general, whether our needs were mostly met or mostly unmet.

If our needs were mostly met – that is, we were changed, fed, held when we needed to be – our brains translate that in terms of the universe around us. We learn that, in general, the world is a trustworthy place, that we can trust people to meet our needs, and that our needs are worthwhile. We learn that we are worthwhile, because when we have a need, the “universe” meets it.

On the other hand, if our needs go mostly unmet at these young ages, we learn the opposite. The world is not a trustworthy place and people cannot be trusted to meet our needs. Sometimes our statistical calculators translate that into unworthiness, especially as we grow older and see others’ needs being met. Apparently my needs are not worth meeting, our brains tell us, so I must not be a worthwhile person.

Or so the theory goes.

It makes some sense to me, this psychobabble theory. Although, like most psychological theories, it is a rough estimation that does not account for all the intricacies of life – no one theory ever does – including the role one’s own personality plays in this soap opera called life.

But it does lead to some interesting questions.

How can you learn to trust God if you don’t trust other people?

True, Jehovah God, Creator of the Universe, is more trustworthy than other people, He being perfect and them being, you know, human and all. I believe that God is trustworthy. I believe He can be trusted.

But I don’t know how to trust.

Trust requires faith. Faith that things will work out for the best, that the universe (God!) is on your side and will meet your needs.

Trust requires vulnerability. It requires hoping for, no, assuming the best. We’re told we can move mountains if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, that it is our lack of faith – our lack of trust in God, really – that stifles us.

But what if we never learned to trust? What if our statistically-calculating brains learned from a young age that fathers don’t stick around, that mothers’ needs are always more important than our own, that husbands can choose to fall out of love? What if the message we keep receiving, over and over, despite our study of the Scriptures (and sometimes because of it), is that others’ needs are more important than our own? That our needs are not worthy of being met, that we are not worthwhile?

How do we fully trust God, when we never learned how to trust? How do we believe God’s promises? And if we believe them, how do we know they were meant for us and not just for other people? There are certainly many examples in the Bible of God hardening the hearts of some individuals (the Egyptian Pharaoh and Judas Iscariot to name just two). How do I know that I can trust Him with my needs? Is it just my faith that determines that – the more I trust, the more likely my trust will be rewarded? If so, how do I have unwavering faith when I don’t know how to trust?

I wish I had the answers, but today I mostly have questions.

I don’t want to post this. I want there to be a tidy Bible verse or personal vignette to tie it all together into a beautiful package – my gift to you to uplift and encourage you on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

But sometimes the answers don’t come right away, in one tidy package. Sometimes the answers come bit by bit, over a lifetime. It took forty-five years for me to hone this level of distrust. Perhaps it will take forty-five more to finally put it to rest.

All I can do is trust God in this moment.

To know that He is good and kind and wants good things for those who love Him.

To look back on all the ways He has rewarded me for my trust in the past.

And to have faith that if I love Him and trust Him – in this moment – that eventually my statistically-calculating brain will add the moments together and know, somewhere deep in my soul, that I can trust Him and that He thinks my needs are worthwhile, that I am worthwhile.

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