Tag Archives: trust

Is It Trust or Denial? (Guest Post)

Pink tulips with text "Trust v Denial"
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Is It Trust or Denial?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do people who always seem at peace with whatever life may throw at them drive you crazy?

(Psst, that’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to share your answer. Maybe not so rhetorical actually … since you probably should answer it for yourself.)

Let me transport you back in time three decades or so. When I was a brand new mom, my family and I moved to a new city.

There were members in our new church home who were going through what I then considered unimaginable hardships, including one family whose young son had succumbed to cancer. As the mother of a two-and-a-half-month-old baby boy, I couldn’t imagine why God would bless a family with a child and then take that child away.

Oh, I could recite the cliches! But I didn’t know any of them to be true—not deep down in my heart.

As time went by and I got to know some of these people better, I realized they weren’t just spouting platitudes but actually trusted that God knew what was best—even when their situation was difficult and heartbreaking.

Trust, especially trust in the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), is a remarkable and precious thing.

But what we think is trust can actually be denial, a squashing of our feelings, doubts, and fears.

This summer, my second son is getting married. Because of COVID, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to attend the ceremony. (He and his bride-to-be live two provinces away.)

I’ve braced myself for this pretty much since Joshua informed me that he and Ericka had set a date. Still, it was more with a sense of fatalism than acceptance that I dealt with the reality of the situation.

And then, one day, I decided to be completely honest with myself. While I may have locked away my emotions, it didn’t mean they weren’t there. It didn’t mean that, if I gave them permission, the tears wouldn’t fall. It didn’t mean that I was truly accepting that God knows best in this, and every, circumstance.

COVID has taken many lives, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one or is facing an ongoing battle with this horrific virus.

But, as we all know, COVID has struck a fatal blow in other areas as well—job security, relationships, our peace of mind, and on and on and on.

There’s no denying it.

And yet, there is light in the darkness, hope in the despair, trust in the denial.

But the way to find real peace is not by denying the struggles we face—physical, emotional, and spiritual.

We don’t need to cling to platitudes or cliches.

We don’t need to deny how we feel—or that we’ve locked away our emotions.

We don’t need to paste on a happy face and pretend we’re a-okay.

But if we want to come to the place of authentic trust, we must press in and get to know the God of All Comfort better than we ever have before.

That’s what I plan to do. How about you?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Standoff, by Patricia Bradley

Standoff, by Patricia Bradley

Standoff, by Patricia Bradley (Revell, 2020)

Drug trafficking. Secrets. Murder. And romance. Standoff delivers all this and more.

Brooke Danvers is excited to follow her father John’s career path as a law enforcement ranger, but before she can be sworn in, John is found dead. Suddenly her childhood crush Luke Fereday is back on the scene, staying next door to her at his grandmother’s house. Luke can’t tell her that he’s working undercover to infiltrate the local drug ring—or that he blames himself for not being there to provide backup for John.

When the official verdict on John’s death is suicide, Brooke and Luke band together to prove it wrong and find the killer. Luke, meanwhile, is walking a dangerous line with the leader of the drug ring.

Luke’s grandmother, Daisy, has been a mentor to Brooke for years. I like her gentle support when Brooke is struggling with her father’s death:

“You may never get that answer,” she said softly. “But it’s okay to ask God why.” [Kindle location 1210]

As well as grief, suspense, romance, and faith, the novel also touches on identity and trust. And while readers know who some of the drug villains are, the identity of John’s murderer is a mystery for which there are a number of suspects.

I always enjoy Patricia Bradley’s novels. The suspense is strong but not overpowering and the characters’ relationships and their faith make them feel like real people.

The town of Natchez, Mississippi, and the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway are real places. The official US National Park site says the Parkway “roughly follows the ‘Old Natchez Trace,’ a historic travel corridor.” And “parkway” doesn’t just mean “highway”—the road goes through park land where people can bicycle, camp, etc.

The setting is a key part of the novel, and it’s well-rendered without that annoying travel-brochure feel that some authors give to real-life settings in their fiction. Still I wish I’d looked it up online first to have a better understanding. I think the word “trace” threw me off, because I’d never heard it applied to a road before.

Standoff is book 1 in Patricia Bradley’s new Natchez Park Rangers series. For more about the author and her books, visit ptbradley.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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Tested Trust

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13, NLT*

This level of trust isn’t a casual belief, nor is it taking something for granted. It’s an active, deliberate choice to trust God, regardless of the circumstances – or the consequences.

Trust like this seems risky at first, like sitting in a chair that looks rickety. You might lower yourself gingerly onto the seat, listening for creaks, leg muscles tensed to spring up if the chair collapses.

Gradually, you relax and let the chair take your full weight. It holds you well.

The next time you may still be cautious, but not as much so. Each time you experience the chair’s solidity increases your ability to trust it. The chair has been strong – trustworthy – all along.

With God, we have many proofs of His faithfulness, from His Word and from experience – others’ and our own.

It’s still up to us to choose to place our trust in Him in each situation. That choice locks out the enemy’s mind games and focuses us on our true Help. It’s a choice that sometimes we’ll need to make minute by minute.

The more we rely on God, and the more fully we do so, instead of keeping our options open, the more we will prove His faithfulness. This is when we discover the hope and confidence He gives.

God our Rock and our Salvation, our Help and our Sustainer, be our Source of hope. Give us the faith to actively trust You so we’ll be open to your infilling of joy, peace, and confident hope – for our own sakes and for the sake of those who need to see that You’re real.

Our song today is “In Christ Alone,” sung here by Geoff Moore and Adrienne Liesching.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

What Qualifies Us?

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5, NLT*

Paul has plenty of educational background and other accomplishments, which he elsewhere refers to as “worthless” in comparison to knowing the grace of God. It’s not that he’s not qualified, but that any credentials, official or unofficial, would not be enough if he didn’t also have the Lord’s anointing on him to do the job.

He’s writing here about his ministry, about sharing the good news of Jesus, and nurturing believers. This is serious Kingdom business.

What about you and me, in the daily details of our lives?

Who you are today, with the background and abilities you have… is there something you need to do that’s generating anxiety? Something that’s too hard, or it’s a stretch, or messing it up could cause problems?

Maybe it’s major, like Paul’s work, or maybe it’s smaller. Nothing is too big or too small for God’s notice.

I have a few minor things hovering around me this week, trying to sap my courage. Objectively, even if every one of them goes wrong, no major harm will be done. For you, the stakes may be higher.

What we need to cling to is this: it’s God who makes the difference. (And it’s God who works with us when we’ve failed, too. He’ll never leave us, and He can work good out of our messes.) He never intended us to do life on our own.

God our Creator and our Equipper, help us repeatedly choose to rely on You. You promise to give wisdom when we ask, so help us to ask and to believe. Give us what we need to conduct ourselves worthy of Your Name, and to carry out our responsibilities competently. Help us to not allow fear to rob us of our peace and to distance us from You, because You are the Provider of all we need.

You Raise Me Up,” sung here by Selah, is one of those songs that can encourage and re-focus us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Belief and Trust

“Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.
Luke 5:12b-13, NLT*

Imagine the fervent, desperate hope in the leper’s voice – in his heart.

There was no cure for the disease at the time, and Luke calls it an “advanced case.” He might have been missing fingers, toes… part of his nose.

He believes – he knows – Jesus can heal him.

So he asks. Luke says he begs. There’s no sense of entitlement here. He’s lost all that a long time ago.

Jesus touches him – touches a potentially contagious untouchable. And Jesus heals him. Instantly.

The man is now whole. Clean, as opposed to unclean. Once the priests confirm it, he can go back to his home, his family. He’ll even be happy to go back to work.

Two things stand out to me in this man’s example: his belief and his trust.

He has no doubt that Jesus has the power and authority to heal and cleanse him.

If You are willing” suggests that he knows not everyone who asks gets healed. Even if he doesn’t know that, we do.

Unbelief can cripple our prayers. Remember the father of the demon-possessed boy? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief”? (Mark 9:24, NLT*) But even believing prayers may be answered with a “no.” Remember how the Apostle Paul’s believing pleas for relief from his “thorn” were denied because it better served God’s Kingdom purposes for the thorn to remain. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

We need to pray “if You are willing, You can…” but we can’t let the “if” become doubt of God’s goodness.

In one sense, of course He’s willing – as in, He doesn’t want to see us hurting, and He loves us. But because He loves us so much, loves the whole planetful of us, sometimes His wisdom chooses to allow an unpleasant situation to continue, for the ultimate good – for us or for others.

“If You’re willing” must never become “If You’re good” or “If You love me” … or even “If I deserve it.” It simply means “You can, so I’m asking, but I don’t know Your full plan.” And we need to trust His heart, however He answers.

Almighty and all-wise God, Your plans and purposes are beyond our understanding, but You have clearly revealed Your heart in Jesus’ life and death. You’ve revealed Your power in His resurrection. If You are willing – if You choose – You can do anything. Forgive us for the times we doubt Your power, and for the times we doubt Your love. Help our unbelief. Teach us to trust You and to live and pray with confidence in Your care.

Trusting the God we know when we don’t know the details or the future… Here’s the Newsboys with “Lord (I Don’t Know)“. I’ve used this one as a prayer before.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Believing the Lord

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
Genesis 15:6, NLT*

Abram believed God. Sometimes it’s that simple.

By now in Abram’s journey with God, he’s seen God protect and provide for his household in amazing ways. He’s had conversations with God and recognizes God’s voice.

Here, he’s been lamenting to God that all the riches he’s acquired are hollow… he has no son to inherit them, and they’ll pass to a servant. I’m sure the man is a well-trusted servant, but still, Abram longs for a son.

He’s honest with God about his pain.

God (who’s just been accused of not providing Abram a son) says that not only will Abram have a son, he’ll have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky.

Abram knows the facts. He’s old. His wife Sarai is old. If they haven’t conceived by now, it’s not happening.

Abram knows God. What God says, God does.

And Abram knows God’s voice.

Abram believes. And that’s all God wants here: believing faith.

As the story progresses, we see that Abram isn’t perfect. He falls into Sarai’s plans to “help” God by producing an heir through her maid. But his belief never wavers. God will provide.

Holy, Creator God, Your ways are beyond our knowing. Sometimes they don’t make sense to us. But You ask us to trust You. And You’ve already proven Your trustworthiness, power and love. You speak to us in many ways through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit. Teach us to recognize Your voice, and help us to believe what You say. Your Word says so much about how You see us, what You promise us, and who You want us to be. Help us to trust and obey.

This song from the band Fee reminds us of truths to hold onto: “Everything Falls.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Taking God for Granted

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.
Romans 1:21, NLT*

Knowing God but not worshipping Him or being thankful leads to terrible depths. God lets us find out the hard way, and what’s saddest is that some never see and turn back.

The context here is people who turn away from God. They know about Him but don’t care. I wonder how many start out with that intent and how many drift away because they aren’t paying attention to God.

That troubles me, because I know plenty of good people who believe in God but don’t seem to think about Him. Sure, He’s there to turn to in a crunch, but what if their spirits harden and they won’t call out to Him for help? What if they believe the enemy’s lies about God and decide there’s no point?

And what about those of us who know and love God? This is a warning for us too, not to take God for granted and let our relationship stagnate. It takes discipline and intentional effort to keep a strong, daily connection with our God. There are so many distractions and drains on our time.

Father, I don’t want to slide away from You even a little distance. You are life itself. There’s so much more of You to know; draw me deeper into relationship with You. Let me know You better so I can more fully trust and obey You. And please, by Your grace, draw back the ones who are slipping away. Help them see, help them choose Your life. Our whole world needs You, Lord. We’re no good on our own. Open eyes, soften hearts, draw many to Yourself.

I know we’ve had this song last week, but it fits so well today: Here’s Michael W. Smith with “Draw Me Close to You.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Obeying Because We Trust

All [God] does is just and good,
and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.
Psalm 111:7-8, NLT*

We may struggle with obeying God, but we never need worry about the quality of His leadership. He’s not like a human leader who may be mistaken or manipulative.

When I think of “all His commandments,” I think of the Ten Commandments and of Jesus’ teachings, not of the hundreds of legalistic man-made rules the old teachers of the law made to teach people how to apply the law.

Some of His principles seem upside-down to our thinking: give to receive, die to live, humble yourself to be exalted. They don’t look sensible to our eyes, but they work. Will we choose to trust what God says, or what we see?

God who is enthroned above the heavens but yet whose Spirit dwells in our hearts, You’ve proven Your character, authority and goodness time and again. Help us choose to trust and obey the commandments and principles You’ve set out, because we trust that You are good.

What if we really lived like we believed everything God says? Be inspired by Matt Redman’s song, “We Could Change the World.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Choosing to Believe God

The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.
Psalm 106:24, NLT*

The Psalmist is recapping Israel’s history, and this verse refers to the first time God brought them to the edge of the Promised Land, when they believed a frightening report of the dangers ahead instead of remembering how God had kept them safe thus far.

“They wouldn’t believe His promise to care for them.” I’m sure that’s not how they saw it. They’d probably say they were being realistic, facing facts. After all, the scouts reported giants in the land. What chance did they have?

They forgot they had God on their side. The same God who’d broken Pharaoh with plagues and destroyed his army after parting the Red Sea. The same God who’d given them water in the desert and daily bread from heaven.

The same God who disciplined them when they disobeyed or got too demanding.

They forgot. We do, too.

All-powerful and holy God, Your promises are true and Your hand is mighty to defend us. Forgive us for the times we trust our own eyes and ears instead of trusting Your word. Help us remember what You’ve revealed about Yourself, and  help us choose to believe You.

Jeremy Camp’s song, “Walk By Faith,” is a good reminder for us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Stop, Look and Listen for God

…they did not believe God
or trust him to care for them.
Psalm 78:22, NLT*

The Psalmist is reviewing Israel’s history, as a parable to teach the people. He looks at what God did on the journey out of Egypt and until the time of King David, and he looks at how the people repeatedly rebelled, “stubbornly tested God” and complained.

All God wanted them to do was believe, trust and obey Him. You’d think He gave enough proof of His power and love that they could discern the pattern: God was leading, and He would meet their needs.

In these verses, they’d complained that God could give them water but couldn’t feed them. He proved them wrong, and it wasn’t pretty. (See verses 23-31)

They had a cloud leading them, and they saw God’s miracles. Christians today have the Holy Spirit leading from within us, and we sometimes see His miracles too. If we pay attention, we see His touch on our lives. But these verses remind me how important it is to stop, look and listen for God, and to deliberately trust Him. It’s how we’re designed to live.

Holy and powerful God, how much easier it would have been for the Israelites if they’d been able to believe and to trust in You. You know our weaknesses, and that we’re no stronger today than they were. Please give us faith to believe You, and help us choose to trust You.

Since we’re as wayward as sheep, I thought this was a fitting song: Todd Agnew singing “Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.