At the start of a new year, after what was for many a difficult 2016, I thought it appropriate to look at some passages from the Bible on hoping and trusting in God. What has struck me time and time again is just how much God wants us to look to him as our life’s foundation. We might be tempted to trust in other people such as our family or our friends, money, status, work, or ourselves. But the Lord wants us to relinquish the throne and instead look to him for guidance, meaning, sustenance, and life.
As we move from the Old Testament to the New, we see themes emerge. Trusting the triune God can be challenging because he is unseen – yet real. But as we look to him, our faith grows when we see how he answers our prayers. We begin to realize that the foundation of our life is built on the hope of his promise of a life everlasting. But as especially the letters of Paul reveal, a component to hope in our world is suffering. The world is not now as God made it, and thus we will face pain, mistreatment, testing, trials and death. But as we look to God and seek his strength through his indwelling Holy Spirit, he will strengthen our hope and resolve. And even in the midst of suffering, he will give us joy.
A gratitude journal can be a practical way of bringing to mind the mercies of God, which are new every morning. Throughout the day, we could write down one, two, three or more things for which we give thanks. The crunch of the snow under our feet. Tea with a friend. A hot water bottle to warm our toes. The smile of a stranger. As we name these little things, they will over time turn into a big thing, as Ann Voskamp found as she committed to making a list of one thousand reasons she was thankful (see One Thousand Gifts).
As we become mindful of God’s mercy and moving in our lives, we will begin to trust in him even more. The snowball will gather more snow. May we look expectantly to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to bestow on us his true riches.
And now, over to our first devotional in this series.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? …But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1–6)
When we feel that God is silent, we can find it difficult and disheartening to keep the conversation going with him. We might decide it’s easier to curl up under the duvet and ignore him, or lose ourselves in our work, our kids, our volunteering, our leisure pursuits. Or if we’re really hurting, we may turn to addictive behaviour – eating, shopping, gossiping – to mask the pain.
But look what King David does in this psalm. It’s only six verses long, and he spends the first two-thirds saying, basically, “Hey God – are you there? I’m here talking to you and you don’t answer! My enemies are winning and you’re silent!” But he suddenly changes his tone, saying that he’s going to trust in God forever. And not only that, but that he’s even going to rejoice and praise God, for the Lord has been good to him.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t so easily make the jump from asking God where he is to affirming my trust in him. I more readily let my feelings rule my thoughts, and either keep up the whinge-fest or shut down the conversation all together. But here I’m reminded of “stop thoughts.” We can train ourselves to cease our complaining and ask God through his Holy Spirit to change our feelings. We can remind ourselves of a favorite verse; perhaps even a modification of Psalm 13:6: “The Lord has been good to me.” We might still feel rotten, but as we remind ourselves of God’s loving attributes and how he’s created us for himself, we might see our emotions catch up and change. Even as putting a smile on our face can actually make us feel joy, so too can affirming God’s truth help us reorient ourselves emotionally.
Prayer: Father God, I’m sorry when I let emotions get the best of me. Please help me change, that I might reflect your goodness and love.