Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Do You Trust God?

Isn’t that such a good question? Isn’t that a hard question? For those of us who believe, this isn’t an easy question to answer either, despite what some would say. In the Protestant world, especially in the non-denominational, charismatic movement, trust in God is supposed to be easy to do; this is according to what several non-denominational charismatic Protestant Christian friends of mine have told me. If you have doubts you are “back sliding” on your faith and God is sorely going to test and tempt you to make you trust Him and follow Him even closer.

I don’t know about you, but this is a very frightening thought to me! God is going to *tempt* me? My mind races with questions and none of them have foreseeable or knowable answers: God is going to tempt me – what is He going to tempt me with? What if I fail? Will God love me if I fail? This makes me think that God is not a good and loving Father, but a vengeful angry deity who is out to cause me harm and send us to Hell because we have made a mistake. If this is the case, no wonder so many people think and believe that there isn’t anything they can do to be part of the Christian God’s Heaven and be safe with Him.

At the same time, God isn’t this deity that isn’t going to care what you do, and He will let you into Heaven no matter what you do or how you act. He has set forth rules, and we are to follow them. What are the rules? Well, that is a slightly different sort of question to answer, but the Bible is our rule book; however, it is not wise to try and follow the rule book without some training or guidance (this is why the Orthodox Church has priests: the Bible was never intended to be read solo). Since this is a question for another time, let’s get back to the original one….

When you become a Christian, especially an Eastern Orthodox Christian, there is a lot of thought put into the decision. You don’t come to one service and automatically become part of the body of believers. You usually have a year to learn about the Church and what the Church teaches and believes. If you are not sure you are ready to join, you can have another year, and another, until you can make up your mind and make your decision. Deciding on a faith really *should* be a conscious decision, because choosing a faith, choosing to follow one specific faith for the rest of your life should indeed be something you think about and never just “rush into”. When this emotional “rushing” happens, the person is more likely than not to find one small thing they dislike or disagree with and this gives them an excuse to go “faith shopping” to find something that “fits much better” with their lifestyle. Deciding on a faith, deciding to follow Christ, should be a life-changing event. Why? Because when you follow Christ He doesn’t conform to you – you conform to Him.

Even though we may outwardly conform to Christ’s way of life, which is usually the beginning of changing our inner selves; the inner-most parts of our being are still fighting to follow our favorite pastimes, and say this or that isn’t wrong or bad, or we shouldn’t do something. Our inner-most self, which really is our mind, our conscious self, doesn’t *want* to change. It wants to have fun and just go to Church and different services without having to think about our lives or our inner lives, because then we would find things we don’t like or are proud of, so we hide from inside.

However, at some point, our very Soul gets tired of running away from God. This leads to those long, dark nights of the Soul where we question everything we have ever thought or believed we knew about God and being a Christian. It also isn’t surprising when those “long dark *nights*” become *weeks*. It just keeps going on and on until we actually stop running away and look long enough inside ourselves, see all of the bad things about us, and make the decision to change them, with God’s help, of course. This is what leads to the ever-present trust issue. How can we trust there is something out there that really *will* help us get through these changes we need to make? How can we trust God won’t turn His back on us? How can we trust enough to actually give Him a chance to help us?

It all comes back down to conscious decision. In order to trust God, you have to make the conscious decision to do so – trust Him. But, you don’t trust Him blindly. You trust Him with Church services, with prayer, with reading the Bible, with talking to your priest, with working on your problems instead of hiding from them. Even though you do all of this, sometimes you stumble and fall (and fall down hard at some points), but this doesn’t mean you lay there and never get back up again. You get to your spiritual knees and you get back up, and you start walking again. You also don’t look back too often, because this distracts you from moving forward, toward Christ. (You know how it is – you look behind you and see something you’ve purposefully dropped and you start to wonder if you might really need that one day…?)

The path toward Christ is actually a difficult path, but not impossible, because there are people there to help us along the way. The most important thing about this path is that Christ Himself is also there to help us by sending us aid when it is required. As we learn to trust Him more, the more we can see just how much He is helping us and providing for us.

However, there are some people who have never gone through this troubled Soul time. Sometimes these people make a point of not wanting to break the status quo because that means learning something about themselves, but, despite this hiding from their very own thoughts, their Soul is tired of being confined in such a small place. The Soul wants to reach out for the Creator and does so no matter how hard we try to keep it from doing so. Because the Soul is that other half of us, that part that knows right from wrong and good from bad and *wants* return to the relationship we had before with God. The Soul knows how to trust God, even if our minds don’t.

BUT when the mind and Soul agree and work together, how wonderful is the transformation! How great is the peace we receive!

I have been an Eastern Orthodox Christian for eight-nine years now, and only recently did I quit trying to fight my Soul. I accepted its knowledge and I purposely made a choice to follow my path trusting in God. I made that conscious decision to trust. In making that decision there was a lot that had to change inside me, and I’m still working on the depths of my being, but God is there also, showing me, teaching me, guiding me, and proving to me He loves me and will take care of me. He also helps me prove to myself *I* can change. *I* can be the person I want to be in Christ’s Light. This doesn’t make me perfect, or even good. This is a journey forward and as I find the bad things and the things I don’t like, I work on them. Some things I am going to have to work on my entire life. The surprising thing is, I don’t mind so much anymore, because I know it is possible to get rid of them. It really is possible to have that quiet peace you hear about in the Bible. It really *is* possible to be the person I want to be, the person I *need* to be.

True, there is a part of me that is very afraid I might not have gotten rid of all of the bad things inside me to make it into God’s peace at my death. This is a good fear, though, because my ultimate goal – all of us should work for this goal – is to rest in God’s peace and love forever. How do I move forward with this fear before me? I trust in God. I trust He will help me and that He will forgive my faults and sins so I can be with Him forever. I have hope in Him.

So, how do you trust God? You make a conscious decision to do so, and then you follow Him in changing your insides, and your outsides to be the person you need to be. You pay attention to the services you attend and the words your priest speaks; you pay attention to what you read in the Bible and *think* about it all. You ask questions, serious questions, and hope for an answer. Answers do come, so pay attention to the answers and put them to use in your daily, no, your minute-by-minute life.

You work toward your salvation and you trust. And, somewhere in the middle of all of this working and trusting, you also learn to love Him as the very air you breathe. Not only do you learn to love Him, but you realize just how much He really does love you. Just as you get to know your spouse throughout the years of being together, you learn to know God, and just like loving your spouse and becoming close to them, you become close to God. This closeness to God, to Christ, to the Holy Trinity, gives you the peace you need to make it through the world without being a part of it, without jeopardizing your relationship with Him.

Trusting God, really, is the easy part in all of this and changing yourself to reflect Christ, to be the wonderful person God sees in you, is the hard part. Neither is impossible. The goal is achievable, and more beautiful the closer to get.

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