He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isa 40:29-31
What does it mean to trust God? And especially what does it mean to trust God when all circumstances seem to say that He doesn’t care whatever happens to us. These questions probably pop up in every one of us regularly. Whenever we look at the world, so full of troubles, and there is so little we can do. And also when adversities hit us personally, where is God then? I remember very well the time when a friend of mine made a deadly fall while she was on a hiking holiday in the mountains. A really young person, with a great faith, and her funeral was a great testimony to how she really lived and acted out of her faith in Jesus. I still have the card that we all received later with a part of her diary where she wrote that if we fall, we will fall into God’s hands. Her life and her trust in God showed me how it could be, but for me it was a really difficult time. Until then, I had the sort of simple view that God always protects us from harm, that His angels will guard us, as long as we don’t deliberately enter dangerous places. This view was shattered by my friend’s death, and left a crack in my faith. Lots of people experience dark times, and periods in which God seems far away. Some seem to think it is a normal phase, that happens to everyone sometimes. I have been thinking about these dark times, what could be the meaning of them, and I thought of two examples from nature that might help.
First I thought of how plants grow. Just as in the parable of the sower, the growth of the plant does not only depend on the seed, but also on the soil, which must allow the plant to make deep roots. For me it helps to think of ourselves as plants. I am not a really good gardener, but when I put a new plant in my garden, at first I will water it with a watering can. Later, when the plant has grown roots, that’s no longer necessary. I think perhaps our spiritual life is just like this. When we are children, God is like the gardener with the watering can: always close to help us, and make us feel His presence. But later, we will need to grow roots to tap from the underground water, that is: to cooperate, and open our hearts to the stream of grace that is always there. The time when God stops to use the watering can, so to say, can make it look as if we cannot really depend on God. Sometimes He is there, sometimes not. But in reality, God is secure, He is always there, but He is no longer forcing himself onto us. He gives us a choice. We would know that, if only we learned to open our hearts to Him.
Another example that came to my mind, is how young eagles learn to fly. At first, when they have just come out of the egg, they really can’t fly, because their feathers are of the soft warm type, that protect them from cold, but are not fit for flying. The parents bring food to the nest, until it is time for the young eagles to learn to fly themselves. Then the parents break down the nest. Also, they no longer bring food, but show it to them, tempting them to come out and catch it. As the young eagles are very uncomfortable, and nearly starving, the baby-fat will come off, making them light enough to fly. There are beautiful lessons to be learned from these examples1. For me the most important aspect is, that there comes a time when it is no longer safe in the nest, and we must dare to let ourselves be carried by the wind. It seems very much like a frightening time, and looks as if God left us, but in reality it is an invitation to leave the limited space of the nest, and go out in the real world. This first jump is very scary, for we need to let go of all our own ideas about what is safe, and trust that the wind will carry us, and depend on God to catch us when we fall. It is probable that most of us will never dare to jump, until after we fell and experienced that God did catch us.
Both examples show that we are in no position to judge by the circumstances whether or not God is trustworthy. Trusting God cannot possibly mean that this temporary world will always be safe according to human standards. But neither does it mean that we should just stick it out and wait for the next world which will hopefully be better, but already now we can learn that the temporary circumstances are not all that counts. Even now, in this world that is passing away, the most important thing is to feel loved by and close to God. In practice this makes it easier to go with the flow and just do the things that our hand finds to do (Ecc. 9:10 and Eph. 2:10), without forever worrying about the consequences or whether it’s enough, trusting that God is in control and loves us and our loved ones.
Now, just to be honest: I am writing this because this is something that I am just beginning to realize. I am worried about lots of things, and I am trying to find out what is really a solid foundation to trust. It’s not as if I am very experienced in ceaseless prayer. But I try to encourage myself with these examples. This way I can become more confident that God is always there, but there is something that we must learn to do. Trusting God means that we believe him when He says: I love you, it is wonderful that you exist2. I think that one of the consequences of the Fall is, that our capacity to receive unconditional love has been damaged. We might not even want that kind of love. Adam and Eve tried to keep some dignity before God and each other by clothing themselves with leaves. Like them we might also be asking ourselves how many good deeds will be acceptable, and so try to keep our own dignity, and alas, effectually close our hearts to God. This has enormous consequences, because without love we cannot thrive. There can be no intimacy between people who are afraid of each other, and a lover cannot prove his love to a suspicious beloved. Just so we cannot receive God’s love when we do not trust him. The only solution is that we face the fact that this is what is broken in us, and daily open our heart to Jesus, deciding to trust him, and surrender to his healing grace.
- When you search the internet for ‘eagle bible’, you’ll find some interesting studies, for example: http://www.eagleflight.org/cyberstudies/actions-and-attitudes-of-a-growing-church/157-with-eagles-wings and http://www.prophetic.net/eagles.htm
- The things I write here about love are largely based on the wonderful, but very philosophical and complicated book by Josef Pieper titled ’Love’