In first-century Palestine the question dominating religious discussion was, How do we hasten the advent of the Kingdom of God? Jesus proposed a single way: the way of trust. He never asked his disciples to trust in God. Rather, he demanded of them bluntly, "Trust in God and trust in me" (John 14:1). Trust was not some feature out at the edges of Jesus' teaching; it was its heart and center. This and only this would bring on speedily the reign of God.
When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.”
She firmly said, “No, I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
“We ourselves have known and put our trust in God’s love toward ourselves” (1 John 4:16). Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.
We often presume that trust will dispel confusion, illuminate darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, "into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
If we could free ourselves from the temptation to make faith a mindless assent to a dusty pawnshop of doctrinal beliefs, we would discover with alarm that the essence of biblical faith lies in trusting God. And, as Marcus Borg has noted, “The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of heart. The first can leave us unchanged, the second intrinsically brings change.”
The faith that animates Christian community is less of a matter of believing in the existence of God than a practical trust in his loving care under whatever pressure. The stakes here are enormous, for I have not said in my heart, “God exhists,” until I have said, “I trust you.” The first assertion is rational, abstract, a matter perhaps of natural theology, the mind laboring at its logic. The second is “communion, bread on the tongue from an unseen hand.” Against insurmountable obstacles and with out a clue to the outcome, the trusting heart says, “Abba, I surrender my will and life to you without any reservation and with boundless confidence, for you are my loving Father.”
Though we often disregard our need for an unfaltering trust in the love of God, that need is the most urgent we have. It is the remedy for much of our sickness, melancholy, and self-hatred, The heart converted from mistrust to trust in the irreversible forgiveness of Jesus Christ is redeemed from the corrosive power of fear. The existential dread that salvation is reserved soley for the proper and pious, the nameless fear that we are predestined to backslide, the brooding pessimism that the good news of God’s love is simply wishful thinking-all these combine to weave a thin membrane of distrust that keeps us in a chronic state of anxiety.
The decisive (or what I call the second) conversion from mistrust to trust – a conversion that must be renewed daily – is the moment of sovereign deliverance from the warehouse of worry. So life-changing is this ultimate act of confidence in the acceptance of Jesus Christ that it can properly be called the hour of salvation. So often what is notoriously missing from the external, mechanized concept of salvation is self-acceptance, an experience that is internally personalized and rooted in the acceptance of Jesus Christ. It bids good riddance to unhealthy guilt, shame, remorse, and self-hatred. Anything less – self-rejection in any form – is a manifest sign of a lack of trust in the total sufficiency of Jesus’ saving work. Has he set me free from fear of the Father and dislike of myself, or has he not?
Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust
Even though he slay me, yet will I trust him – Job 13:15 kjv