The first time I experienced the necessity of trusting God was on my first mission trip. The safety nets that I had taken for granted were all removed. I remember being keenly aware that they were gone. It began in the airport as customs rummaged through our luggage and the team circled there and began to pray. I battled fear with prayer, like a good Christian. But the need to pray for safety seemed more real. More desperate. I prayed fervently before eating and even before drinking water. The struggle to not give in to fear through prayer was intense and exhausting.
My need to pray became more poignant by the contrast in feelings when the plane bringing us home finally landed on US soil. I exhaled and unclenched my insides as I let go of my spiritual vigilance. I felt, being home, I could let my guard down; relax more and pray less. Or, at best, I could pray with less intensity. And so I did. But the experience left an impression.
The second like experience came from being the pastor of a church plant. When the initial financial support came to an end, we had to live by the giving of a small congregation. And, like an unwelcomed visitor, the familiar intense, and exhausting need to trust God returned. This time, however, there was not a scheduled flight home to comfort. There was no end in sight. You need to know before I go further, that although there have been many deeply stressful moments, God has been faithful. In fear and often great anguish, I prayed. There were times of despair, as we were taken beyond what we could bare. Only in hindsight can we see that His grace proved sufficient. Yet this too has left an impression.
Those intense times brought the sobering reality that I was unaccustomed to trusting God, and when I was forced to, I felt the need to retreat to the familiar ground of idolatry. The place were mammon ruled and the FDA never slumbered nor slept. The place where the social structure was the reason I feared no evil. I found when I was with God alone, I was uneasy and uncomfortable. I feared that, though He was with me, I would be more secure if I had more money, or if I could dial 911.
I am embarrassed by this reality, but it is a reality nonetheless. There seemed to be no need to hide from myself what God already knew of me. It simply highlighted my need to be more like Christ. It illumines the truth that He alone is my standard. O’ how far from Christlikeness I am. Yet I do not despair my condition, for the Father has promised to conform me to the image of His Son. I am grateful that He will finish what He has begun in me. And though my fear in mission and my anxiety in ministry belied my trust in Him, He proved faithful to me in both. So in a strange paradox, I trust that one day, in Him, I will trust in Him. And I identify with that desperate father who first said, “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”