Have you seen those team building exercises some companies use where staff members line up in two parallel rows while a colleague turns his or her back to them, and then drops backward, trusting the group to catch them before they hit terra firma?
I’ve never tried this – I think the back of my head is allergic to smacking the ground. But it’s an interesting test of trust. “Do I really trust these guys to catch me before I fracture my skull?” “Will Josh say, ‘Oops!’ and let me slip through his hands because of our disagreement last week?”
This definitely isn’t something you’d want to attempt with a group of strangers you have no reason to trust. They might think it’s hilarious to watch you bonk your head. But even with people you know, it’s preferable to have a trusting relationship established before you put it to the test. Do they like you? Are they reliable? Are they strong enough to catch you?
Which raises an interesting consideration: Do you find these folks trustworthy because you’ve already put their trust to the test? Or do you try to establish trustworthiness first before testing it?
In some respects, it’s probably both. The initial time we fly on a jet, we can’t know from personal experience the aircraft will get us there safely. But we know jets do fly, and most of them do arrive at their destinations without problems. And we generally place our trust in established airlines with strong safety records. Which is why if you’re wanting to give away frequent flyer miles on Malaysia Airlines, I’m not interested. No thanks.
Marriage is another of those trust-then-test endeavors. Everyone exchanges vows with idealistic sparkles in their eyes: “He’s going to make me so happy!” “She’s going to be everything I ever dreamed!” Uh, maybe – maybe not. Months or years later, couples often think, “Sure, I said for better or worse – but I didn’t know it was going to be this worse!” They start off with unlimited, unquestioning trust, but when put to the test, it falls short of their expectations.
Faith in God can be both trust-then-test and test-then-trust. Years ago I had a skeptical friend that liked the idea of having a God he could rely on to guide his business, but didn’t assume the Bible was true. Basically, his attitude was, “God, if I’m supposed to believe in You and what the Bible says, prove it.”
Bill would arrive at the weekly prayer meeting with a list of prayer requests, usually about some project or problems he was dealing with at his company. He’d ask the other men in the group to pray for his needs, then report the following week on if and how the prayers had been answered.
Finally, after testing both God and biblical principles in how he operated his company, Bill committed his life to Jesus Christ, concluding both God and the Bible could be trusted.
This approach worked for Bill, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Only one place in the Scriptures does God authorize His followers to put Him to the test. After instructing believers to bring the tithe (God’s portion of their resources) to the temple to provide for those in need, He says, “Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).
Here God invites His people to give freely, assuring them He can more than make up for what they have generously contributed for helping meet the needs of others. But in most instances, the Scriptures urge us to trust first and then discover the Lord indeed is worthy of that trust.
Years ago I adopted a passage I consider my “life verse” – Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”
Over the years, more times than I could ever recount, this promise has proved true in facing a variety of personal and professional needs: Career direction, marriage and family challenges, financial struggles, health issues, unexpected emergencies. Many times I’d run out of options and had idea what to do next. At such times, often in ways far beyond my understanding, God provided direction and the answers we needed.
Another verse makes a similar declaration: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5). Sometimes we don’t see God at work in our lives because we’re not truly committed to Him and refuse to trust Him. That doesn’t mean He won’t respond to our needs, but when we turn to Him in trust – what the Bible calls “childlike faith” – then He eagerly responds and says, “Now watch and see what I can do.”