Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why's it so Tough to Trust God?

At the risk of being a broken record, I want to again say we need to trust God for everything.  I suspect you are the same as I am in thinking this is easier said than done.  You may have also noticed how I endeavor to distill things down to root principles.  I do this because even though the details are important, we easily become overwhelmed and lost in the minutia.  And yes, no doubt I can be guilty of oversimplification.  I'm willing to take the risk, though, because I firmly believe simplification can lead us to fresh perspectives of what we claim to believe;  if I make an oversimplification, you jolly well know it because the exercise provoked you into thinking more deeply on the subject; and that's a good thing.

To remain true to my form, then, I propose we struggle with trusting God because we are afraid.  When we peel back all the layers of the onion of our complex lives, the flag we find at the core of our soul--flying motionless, I might add, like the American flag on the moon--that had been planted there by the first of our race to explore that cold desolation, has written on it in large bold black font the obscene four letter "F" word, FEAR.

I could end this posting right here and now by telling you to stop being afraid!  trust the Lord!  But I don't think that will help you much.  I mean, the angels who have visited various persons during the course of millennia, what is the first thing they always say?  Don't be afraid.  And how often did the visitee actually do that?  You know, how often did the person so visited relax, put his arm around the angel's shoulders and say something such as, "Que passa, dude, what's comin' down from on high?  Ah, say, Gabe.  That's your name, isn't it?  Yeah, ah, Gabe, I have, or should I say had this uncle Wooly.  I think he's up there someplace.  I don't suppose I could impose on you to ask him something for me, when you get back and aren't busy?"  The answer is never.  All of us would have been shaking in our boots.  And we will continue to shake in our boots until we successfully pull that flag from its moorings in our soul and replace it with one bearing the beautiful five lettered "F" word, FAITH, which in essence is trust.

Therefore, the way to trusting God begins with recognizing we are all afraid.  But it won't do to simply admonish each other to not be afraid; it's true, of course, but it ain't gonna pay the bill when it comes.

For me, it always helps in praying for matters such as fear, if I can approach God with some idea of what I am up against.  This is not universally the case; sometimes all I can say to God is "HELP!"  That's good, too.  However, knowing the landscapes helps me to pray intelligently and--and this is most important--more clearly recognize God's wise responses and direction.

First, then, we pray for understanding of what feeds our fear. Here are seven back-stories of fear that God might reveal to us.  Please comment on others I may have overlooked; the more insight into this fear gripping us, the better.

1) Someone we should have been able to trust, let us down.
2) I, who should have my best interests in mind, have failed myself.
3) I don't want to suffer.
4) I don't want to die.
5) I don't want to be ostracized by my people.
6) I have an inflated ego (either self-deprecating or narcissistic).
7) I need to be in control.

Hmm, some of those categories seem pretty obvious, but the others--in the words of my beautiful wife--not so much.  Let me quickly demonstrate how I might contemplate a couple of these in order to better identify the fear in my life and so better know what to pray about.

Point 5 is fear of estrangement, but the more fundamental issue is where one is placing his/her loyalty.  Certainly we all want to be accepted by our people; and our people should accept us.  But when we curry their favor at the expense of truth, which is a response of fear, we drive ourselves further into fear because the basis of trust--that is, our peoples' good favor--is wholly unreliable.  If however, we submit to God, loving our people out of the desire to please God, fear will be replaced by love.  In other words, instead of seeking what we can get from our people, which will lead to fear of their disapproval, we seek to please God, and therefore, seek what it is we have to offer to our people--fear turns to love.  Understanding our situation this way helps us to pray more effectively and expectantly for God to help us overcome our fear.

Point 6 is fundamentally fear of being found out who the real me is, or more precisely, fear of exposed inadequacy.  In his novel, Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse wrote, "...self hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same isolation and despair."  I would only add that the same fear is behind both self hate and sheer egoism.  And it is this fear that leads to the despair Hesse describes.  Ironically, both types of personalities are accomplished in one or more things; indeed the more accomplished either person might be the more they actually fear their inadequacies, and defend themselves from possible exposure through sheer egoism.  The extreme offensiveness of the narcissist and the false humility of the self-hater are defense mechanisms in response to the same fear of inadequacy.  And just as in point 5, the fear responses only serve to intensify the fear.  Only when they see that their talents--and we all have talents--are a gift from God to express and act in love for the profit of others, will the fear that grips them begin to turn to love.  Understanding this will help them to focus their prayers to overcome their fear.

The apostle John quite correctly wrote, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.  We love because he [God] loved us first." [NET]