Learning to Trust God
In his classic novel, Robinson Crusoe (1719), author Daniel Defoe has his leading character, Crusoe, cast upon a deserted island off the coast of South America following a violent shipwreck. For more than 28 years he languished under conditions that most would consider unbearable. On a certain occasion, however, the isolated Englishman reflected upon his circumstances — perhaps more deeply than he ever had. Defoe has Crusoe say:
“I sat down to my meal with thankfulness, and admired the hand of God’s providence which had thus spread my table in the wilderness. I learned to look more on the bright side of my condition, and less on the dark side, and to consider what I had rather than what I wanted. And this at times gave me such secret comforts that I cannot express them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have!”
It would scarcely be possible to overstate the concern that Jehovah has for his people. Job once rhetorically asked: “Does he not see my ways, and number all my steps?” (Job 31:4). Or as David expressed it, “You number my wanderings. Put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8).
Another of the Lord’s prophets declared: “For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
This does not mean, of course, that the child of God will never suffer deprivation, or pain, or even death. It does signify, however, that the Creator is working in our lives, and no matter what comes our way — even when such appears to be tragic — he still is with us and he helps us work towards an ultimate destiny of glory.
The dull skeptic can never fathom such a wonderful concept; the one who walks by faith happily embraces it.
Every child of God should set aside periods of reflection wherein he meditates upon the operations of divine providence in his life. What an amazing comfort it is.
Providence is a mysterious process; one that clearly is affirmed in scripture (cf. Genesis 45:5,7-8; 50:20; Ruth 2:3; Esther 4:14). And yet, the steps of providence are not definitively traceable in the particular events of one’s life. In the final analysis, one can only say, “perhaps” this is the operation of God (Philemon 15), though he may devoutly believe it, and thank the Lord for it — even if it has to be through tears.
Jesus himself affirmed God’s providential operation in the lives of his people. Reflect upon one of his admonitions in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV).
The word “anxious” is a term that, in its present grammatical form, suggests the idea of “don’t keep on worrying.” It acknowledges that some “anxiety” is natural to the human mind, and at times, depending upon its object, may even be justified (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28).
But the admonition cautions that one must not let his heart become enslaved by such. Rather, greater levels of faith in God will allow the devout soul to be bathed in a sweet confidence that wonderfully assists even in the most rigorous days of human existence.
Life is much more than mere externals, e.g., food and clothing. The Creator has provided us with wondrous bodies and incorruptible souls. Does it not stand to reason that his operations in our lives have a greater goal than the physical aspects? It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. Therefore, trust him! (Job 13:15).
The Lord proceeded to introduce several supporting arguments, designed to assist the turbulent mind (read the entire segment, Matthew 6:26-33). Let us briefly note the points made by the Savior in the context just cited.
(1) If Jehovah feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field, surely he has concern for those made in his very image (Genesis 1:26-27). In another place Christ emphasized this very point. Jesus taught that Jehovah’s interest in even the smallest of his creatures is genuine proof of his concern for those who serve him.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father: but the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
Worry is illogical.
(2) Worry is useless for it cannot add to one’s life — either in the quality of that life, or in actual longevity.
The truth is, medically speaking, anxiety can precipitate numerous illnesses that shorten one’s physical life. Dr. S.I. McMillen, in his book, None of These Diseases (Fleming H. Revell, 1963, Chapter 10) has a most informative discussion of such matters.
Worry is impractical.
(3) Fretfulness is basically pagan in sentiment. As Christ noted, “for after all these things the Gentiles seek.”
“Gentiles” here fundamentally stands for the philosophy of heathenism, i.e., those who have no covenant relationship with the Lord. Materialism is the main thrust of the pagan’s life. Unfortunately, far too many, who profess a relationship with Christ, live like the heathen on a practical level.
Worry is distrustful.
(4) Anxiety over material things is a reversal of life’s priorities. God intends more for those made in his image than a mere physical existence.
Our earthly sphere is important, but only as an end to a greater goal — the kingdom of heaven. Those who do not recognize this are robbing themselves of life’s greatest treasure. Thus, we are to “seek first” God’s kingdom, and then be confident that he will supply our needs to implement the greater purpose in life.
Worry is distractive.
(5) One must recognize that all problems do not have to be dealt with instantly, or at the same time. Handle life’s difficulties one day at a time.
The mistakes of yesterday are gone; correct them. The problems of tomorrow have not yet arrived; wait for them. Meet the challenges of today. Face the ones that will come tomorrow (and they will come) on tomorrow! Jesus did not promise that there would be no difficulties tomorrow; only this, you don’t have to deal with them until then. Each day has its individual challenge.
Worry is futile.
These principles are not a magic formula that makes pain and heartaches vanish. If, though, these concepts are absorbed into the “pores” of one’s soul, they can elicit a quality of character that makes human existence much more delightful as we play out earth’s temporary drama.
Crusoe knew it; do we?
[Note: The core of this article was written thirty-two years ago. I extracted it from the “moth-balls” of my files, and gave it a “fresh coat of paint.” I can say this confidently; the principles enunciated therein have grown increasingly precious over the past three decades.]
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.