“You just don’t trust me,” my fourteen-year old-daughter screamed through clenched teeth. Her eyes were narrow, brows furrowed, and lines on her forehead seemed to spell some words that expressed that feeling in her heart. It was everything you would expect to see from a critically hormonally-fueled moment. In hearing words like this, the impulse of a parent is to suggest that this is not at all the case. So we try to explain away our concern, while at the same time convince our teen that trust is not at all the issue. But isn’t it?
She was right. And I told her so. I comfortably told her so. “You are right Natalie. I don’t trust you.” That is not what she expected to hear, but it was sufficient response from me to relax her some. I explained to her how not trusting her was actually good for her. “Can you imagine,” I coached, “if a parent trusted their toddler while camping on the edge of the Grand Canyon?” Now I had her attention, and the tense lines disappeared, and the eyes opened wider inviting me to keep talking. “Would you agree that the parents not trusting the toddler is actually a good thing?” I took the usual, “I guess so,” teenager response as her way of really saying, “Wow, you have an unbelievable point there. I am so happy you are my dad and that you have shown up at this critical moment in my emotional and spiritual development.”
I mentioned last week that God takes huge risks when he trusts us with a trial. There is a sense, though, where we have to grow in that trust. I wonder if he allows us to suffer so we can grow emotionally and spiritually to the point where, like Job, he can say, “See my servant Mitch. I trust him.” Trust has to be earned. An old hymn explains it well when it urges us to “Trust AND obey.” The more we obey, the more God will trust us. Not fully trusting us, because we are not quite ready for some things, is actually good for us.
I am convinced that trust is earned through suffering.
Am I suggesting that suffering is a badge of honor? A sign that God is ready to do more in our lives? I can only answer for myself. After all, our greatest example, Jesus, “learned obedience through suffering.” (Heb. 5:8) Had I not suffered; had I not seen one son die of cancer, and another son survive cancer; had I not walked with my wife through her cancer, I don’t know if I would be who I am today. Given the trajectory of my life at that time, it scares me who I would be today had I not suffered. I can say that God is trusting me with more today than he did fifteen years ago, but I have a long way to go. My part is to not complain or resist when he asks me to undergo the next season of difficulty.
Will you trust and obey him in your trial?