3 Ways to Trust in an Unseen God

3 Ways to Trust in an Unseen God

3 Ways to Trust in an Unseen God

Trust.

So often we’re called to trust in God, to have faith that his plan is better than ours will ever be. We’re told to trust in someone we often haven’t seen ourselves or don’t fully believe can and will accomplish what we long for.

This distrust causes us to say we trust, to give lip service to the God of the universe and then end up acting outside of God’s instruction because of our anxiety.

This situation is shown clearly in Abraham and Sarah’s story.

Genesis 16:1-2 says, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’”

In that time, this was common practice. If a wife couldn’t have a child, they could select one of their maidservants to stand in for them as a surrogate. Legally, the child would belong to the wife, and he could be the heir to the father. We see this again with Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah (Genesis 30). According to the world’s customs, this was an okay way to carry on the family line. However, Sarah’s choice to give Hagar to Abraham was not made out of a desire for more children, but rather a distrust in God’s promise to grant her a son.

As we read on it becomes clear that Sarah regretted that decision. Even before she herself is pregnant, she abuses Hagar to the point that Hagar flees into the desert (Genesis 16). On and on this cycle goes, so far that Hagar returns to the desert after being sent away in Genesis 21. Sarah took matters into her own hands because she was anxious to have children. In the process, she gave herself a world of trouble, because she wasn’t patient for God’s timing, and didn’t trust that it could happen. We see her distrust again when angels come to warn Abraham of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. As they remind Abraham of God’s promise to give him a son through Sarah, Sarah laughs.

In the end, the Lord is faithful to his promise and Sarah bears Isaac. In our 20/20 hindsight, we see that she should have trusted God.

None of this makes it any easier to trust, however. So how can we start trusting in our Creator, in the God who has a wonderful plan for our lives?

1 | Look at what God has done in the past.

It’s easier to believe that someone will do what they say they will when you can see that they’ve done what they said they would in the past. We have the benefit of reading how God has been faithful to his people over and over and over again. Psalm 105 gives an overview of Genesis and Exodus, showcasing how God took care of his people. We can take comfort in knowing we are part of “his people” now, because of Jesus, and his promises apply to us as well.

2 | Release your anxiety to him.

Pray and be honest with God. Tell him what’s on your mind. What scares you, what you want to do to speed up his process. And listen. Bring him into the discussion room where you make decisions, and let his voice have a stronger say in your dilemma than your own. One of the first steps to trusting is to let God know what’s keeping you from trusting. The process of admitting your fears to him and letting him love you even in your fear can bridge the gap of your distrust.

3 | Make a conscious effort to wait for the Lord.

Put your desires on hold, and trust the answer you received when you told God what you wanted to do. If he says no, then you need to make the conscious effort to hold yourself back and not do what he told you not to do. This is one of the hardest parts of trust, but in the same way that you can look back and see how God has been faithful to you, your trust will be proven in your actions.

This isn’t an overnight change, and it won’t be an easy adjustment to make. But it can be done, and we’d love to support you as you move toward trust. We encourage you to reach out if you’d like to talk to one of our pastors or biblical counselors. You can send us an email here.

When You Feel Depressed

When You Feel Depressed

When You Feel Depressed

Dealing with depression is not cut and dry. Whether you know the cause of your depression or not, you are not alone in your feelings. It’s very real and it’s very difficult to climb out of. Hear these truths and encouragements from God’s word today:

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24

Psalm 31 begins with a declaration of who David trusts in, followed by a cry for help and confidence that help is coming. It ends with an understanding that “The LORD preserves those who are true to him” (verse 23), and a reminder to “be strong and take heart.” You belong to God, and he will take care of you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Depression is difficult no matter where you are, but it often feels worst when you feel alone. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone, or through your own strength. God is with you. He will strengthen you and help you.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

When everything seems to have piled up on top of itself, and it seems like one bad thing after another, we can find peace in knowing we will have trouble, but we have a rescuer from that trouble: Jesus. He overcame so we don’t have to. He fought the battle for us.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

When you feel the weight of your troubles, it can help to talk to God about them. He is stronger than we will ever be, and he can carry the weight so you don’t have to. But you first have to give it to him, and he will sustain you.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12

When you feel depressed, it can sometimes help to intentionally remind yourself of all the ways God has been faithful for you and others in the past. Whether you journal about how you’ve seen him work in your life or if you simply go back and read the Old Testament, the reminders of God’s faithfulness and the ways he fulfills his promises can help bring hope into the times when you feel the darkness the most.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3

Lastly, I want to remind you that God hears you, lifts you up, and will put you on solid ground. In the future there will be joy again. Praise God for what he’s done and what he’s doing, even when you can’t see where he’s leading you. He is good, you are not alone, and there will be an end to your battle.

If you feel it would be helpful for you to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can send us an email or sign up for biblical counseling here. You don’t have to face depression alone.

What Are You Afraid Of?

What Are You Afraid Of?

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

Christianity is no spectator sport. There’s no sitting on the sidelines while trying to follow Jesus. Once we decide to follow him, Jesus invites us to join him in his mission of loving others sacrificially. Selfless sacrifice is what Jesus would define as “love.” In John 15:13, he tells his disciples,

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Most of us would prefer to keep the idea of “love” as far from sacrifice as possible, where more warm-fuzzies abound and fewer hard choices are made. Unless there’s something to personally gain in exchange, we often withdraw from self-sacrifice. Our natural reflex—if we allow it to rule us—keeps us from engaging Jesus’ mission or becoming more like him.

Instead, we can choose to love like Jesus did and that decision takes some rewiring of our beliefs.

CONFRONTING FEAR

First, we have to confront the main fear underlying our distaste for loving others sacrificially. Yes, it’s generally uncomfortable, but what are we really afraid of risking? What is lost if we choose to love like Jesus?

“If I sacrifice myself to love others, who will take care of me?” a small and fearful voice inside each of us asks. Whether it’s our time, energy, or money, we know that these are limited resources, so a choice to give it away leaves us with petty leftovers—if anything at all. Left to our own devices that small voice will grow until our desire to make sure we’re well fed and taken care of rules every area of our lives.

Is that voice telling us the truth? Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:25 reverses our implicit assumption:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

Tightening your grasp around your own resources won’t produce the outcome you desire. Giving your life away by loving others is the only way to receive what God is offering us: a life free from our own self-seeking.

BELIEVING WHAT IS PROMISED

God doesn’t just demand we try harder at being less selfish. He frees us from focusing on ourselves—even how to take care of ourselves. Promises about God’s care for his children abound in the Bible. Here’s one to hold tightly whenever self-focused fear rises and doubt of God’s care looms:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6: 25-33

We won’t let go of the fear that we need to take care of ourselves until we grasp the truth that God does care and will care for us. We will be free to lose our lives once we trust the one who has promised us eternal life.

Encouraging the Discouraged

Encouraging the Discouraged

ENCOURAGING THE DISCOURAGED

Despite our hopes and best efforts, we all know that walking with Jesus isn’t all mountain tops and smooth sailing. We understand that a combination of doubts and difficult circumstances could lead someone away from Jesus. Maybe you’ve experienced a rough patch in your journey of faith or continue to struggle with nagging skepticism. Or, maybe you’ve seen someone in your life make that choice and become less engaged with church and other believers.

James’ answer for our tough times is prayer and loving accountability. To close his letter, James reminds us,

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” | James 5:19-20

James reminds us that as a part of the family of God, we are each others’ keepers. We were meant to look after one another, just like you would your biological brothers and sisters. Instead of passively standing by as others wander from the truth, we can remind them of who they are and call them back to faith. We aren’t responsible for other’s decisions, but we are responsible to them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, what are some things you can do for your friend who is struggling with faith? Here are some good places to start:

Listen well

1 // Don’t make the mistake of Job’s friends by offering unsolicited (and ultimately unhelpful) advice. Allowing someone the space to express their hurts and frustrations can help them feel less alone and show you other ways you can best encourage them.

Pray for them.

2 // Believe that prayer works and pray for your friend. Especially if your friend ask for you to pray for them, make sure you do it. If you think your friend would appreciate it, let them know you’re praying for them. It lets them know you care and want good things for them.

Connect with them.

3 // After you notice your friend stepping away, don’t simply expect them to come to you, even if you continue to invite them back to your study, small group, or Sunday service. Like Jesus would, go to them by inviting them to coffee or out to lunch—places outside of church or small group—so that you can have a one on one conversation and show that you’re personally invested.

At the end of the day, the most compelling thing is to show someone you care and to love them back towards faith. Resist the temptation to use guilt or begin to gossip. Instead, be the kind of person you’d like to experience when you’re in a tough spot: a friend who cares deeply, acts intentionally, and encourages your faith.

How to Discuss Tough Topics

How to Discuss Tough Topics

HOW TO DISCUSS TOUGH TOPICS

When was the last time you engaged in a discussion with someone you disagreed with? Our current culture is becoming more and more polarized and engaging in less and less dialogue. With each side creating an enemy of the other, it’s become more and more challenging to have a discussion—not a fight—about really important topics without risking damage to our relationship with one another.

As Christians, we can model to the world what it looks like to love one another even as we disagree. Because the body of Christ is blessed with lots of different kinds of people with differing backgrounds, perspectives, and personal convictions, we’re not always going to agree on every topic, even if we agree on main doctrines of faith.

Those conversations can not only be stretching but also God-glorifying, if we engage in them with these principles in mind. These guidelines come from Christlike Dialogue, a ministry dedicated to helping engage people with differing views in conversations that honor God.Keep in mind they are guidelines, not rules, or “steps to follow”. While they’re helpful in providing safe parameters for a discussion of differences, the primary goal is to prepare our hearts to be one in Christ before we begin to dialogue.

1 // PRAY Ask God to help you gain a greater understanding of each other, of what is true, and of what God might want to reveal about Himself through the conversation. – Psalm 18:30

2 // FIND COMMON GROUND Identify a common subject of interest for the dialogue. Read John 4:1-26 for an example. It can be anything you can identify as common ground (such as water in the example) that might help you relate to one another more clearly.

3 // BE HONEST Authenticity is highly valued. – Proverbs 24:26

4 // BE HUMBLE If one of the parties is in authority over the other(s),
it’s important to give people under authority freedom to respectfully discuss matters of concern without negative consequences. – Matthew 20:25-28

5 // BE TEACHABLE Remain open to the possibility of being wrong about your position, and to the possibility of being deceived. – Proverbs 3:5-6 | Jeremiah 17:9 | James 1:26

6 // LISTEN Learn from one another and don’t attempt to persuade others to your point of view or assume someone is wrong just because he or she doesn’t agree with you. Seek to understand and be understood as to why each of you believe what you believe. James 1:19-20 | Philippians 2:3-4

7 // PURSUE TRUTH Agree to give one another the freedom to speak the truth as each perceives it, without interruption from the other(s), except to ask questions for clarification. Agree to consider the Bible as a reliable source of truth and wisdom for life’s challenges. Psalm 51:6 | John 14:6 | 8:32

8 // PERSEVERE IN LOVE It is not important to agree with one another; it is important that you extend mutual respect and perfect courtesy to others, despite differences. This does not mean that you condone something about which you disagree; but it does mean that you don’t withdraw your love from others just because they don’t see things exactly as you do. Remember: the relationship is more important than the issue. John 13:34-35 | Titus 3:1-2

9 // JUDGE NOT Refrain from being critical or judgmental of others. – Matthew 7:1-5

10 // TRUST GOD WITH THE OUTCOME Agree to leave another person’s decision, and the consequences of that decision, between that person and God. (1 Peter 2:23 | 2 Timothy 2:24-26 ) Some situations may require church discipline to be administered in love. – Matthew 18:15-17

For more information about Christlike Dialogue and their mission, visit their website HERE.