Our sphere of control is comically small: this is what we all learned in the early months of the pandemic. As we bumped up into our new reality—not knowing how long quarantine would last, being unable to make plans for the future, feeling the stress of uncertainty every day—we faced our own extreme limitations.
During those months, I learned to trust God in a way I hadn’t before. For the first time in my life, there was no other choice but to trust God because I had control over nothing. Others of us have had to learn to trust God in other hard situations: unwanted diagnoses, sudden job loss, family members battling addiction.
Trusting God when I don’t have to
It seems to me that trusting God is easier in the midst of life’s catastrophes, when we recognize that we have zero control. We turn to God because we have no other choice. But what about the myriad of ways in which we do have a choice? What about all the ways we are able to exercise our agency, make decisions, take control… do we trust God then?
I’m reminded of the oft-quoted verse in Proverbs:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and we will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6, ESV)
Or this version:
“Trust in in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Prov. 3:5-6, NLT)
It’s that little world “all” that jumps out at me: in ALL your ways. We are to trust God in each of life’s moments, in every daily scene, even when things are running along smoothly, even when we’re under the assumption that “we’ve got this.”
I want to argue with this verse because it seems to contradict everything I know about exercising agency and living with intention. After all, we must use “our own understanding” in order to make the daily decisions that comprise our lives. But the writer of Proverbs cautions us against leaning on our own understanding. When we lean on something, we put our whole weight against it, trusting it to hold us, whatever “it” is in that moment. And our own understanding just isn’t that dependable of a thing to lean on.
But God is.
Belief is cheap
God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving, is the only one worthy of our complete trust, who is worthy to lean against with all of our weight. It’s far easier to believe in God than to trust God. Belief is an intellectual exercise but trust involves action.
Consider the royal official in Capernaum whose son was on the brink of death. When he heard that Jesus was in town, he came to beg for his son’s healing.
“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” (John 4:50, NIV)
This verse is a shocking example of trust. This broken-hearted dad believed that Jesus could help, but not only that—he trusted Jesus so completely that the was able to turn away and walk back home in anticipation of his son’s healing. He took action.
What radical acceptance.
Acting on our trust
What would it look like in my own life to take Jesus at his word? What would it look like if I trusted God more than I relied on my own understanding? What would it look like to surrender all the outcomes of my daily decisions to God? What would it look like to become a Proverbs 3:5-6 kind of woman?
I think the most dramatic change it would bring about would be a disappearance of anxiety and worry. If I truly believed and acted upon the goodness and sovereignty of God, I would stop fretting about the details of my day. I would release the outcomes of all my decisions—big and small—with ready, open hands.
(Sidenote: there is a type of anxiety that impairs your ability to function on a daily basis. God provided therapists for those instances, and if you suffer in this way there is healing to be found in the hands of a trained professional!)
There seems to be a certain amount of regular, run-of-the-mill anxiety that goes along with being human. Jesus once said not to worry about our lives, about what to eat, drink, or wear. He told us to be like the birds and the flowers, who God feeds and clothes on a daily basis.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” Jesus concludes. (Matthew 6:34)
Author and theologian Peter Enns puts it this way:
“Worry will be as impossible for you as it is for insentient plants and clueless birds. When you trust, when you let go of your life and lean on God with your whole heart, worry will fade from your vocabulary. You will be as oblivious to the cares of this world as are plants and birds. And then you will be free—free of worry.”
Imagine trusting in God so completely and wholeheartedly that you are incapable of worry. I want that kind of freedom. Why is that so hard? Why do I seem to have a low level of anxiety constantly humming in the background? Maybe it’s because I’m operating under the assumption that it’s all on me, that I must rely on my own understanding for things to turn out well.
A spiritual practice to release anxiety
As we approach spring, I’d like to incorporate a simple spiritual practice into my days: to notice every bird around me, to become aware of new leaves budding on trees and flowers starting to bloom. I will let these insentient plants and clueless birds speak to me, reminding me that whatever situation I’m currently fretting about can be released into God’s loving care.
In this way, the flowers and birds will prompt me to seek God’s will in ALL that I do, to trust God with ALL of my heart, and to lean on God with ALL of my understanding.
Need another resource to help you focus on trusting God? Check out this set of 12 coloring pages featuring Bible verses about trusting God, and corresponding Bible verse cards! These are available to print for instant download in my shop!
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*Feature Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash
4 thoughts on “Trust God More With This Simple Spiritual Practice”
I have been struggling in this area the last few days, a relapse if you will after a couple of setbacks. This verse is THE verse I’ve been meditating on. Your newsletter popped into my box this morning. God is so good.
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I still have to re-learn it every day! Thanks for your comment, and I’m so glad this resonated with you!
This spoke to me strongly this morning Sarah! I look forward to letting those birds and blooms remind me to trust with my whole heart. Thank you for this timely message!
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I’m glad this spoke to you! Trusting takes so much practice, but luckily the birds and flowers abound here!