Trust vs. faith

I’ve been thinking about what I mean when I say that I trust God. My money says “In God we trust,” which I think is intended as a moral lesson teaching that money shouldn’t be foundation of life. I’m not sure how effective the message is. When I say that I trust in God, or I have put my trust in God, I’m saying something about the foundations on which I’ve built my life. I’m making a metaphysical statement that should affect how I behave, how I view the world, how I see myself in relation to the world.

What I found interesting is how many times the word trust is used in the Old Testament, and how rare it is in the New Testament. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 119 “I trust in your word” (v. 42) and “I trust your commands” (v. 66). Proverbs 3:5 famously says:

Girls walking to school

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

(Prov. 3:5, NIV)

The phrase “trust the LORD” is all over the Old Testament, but in Jesus’ day we hear much more about faith than trust. Jesus says to a woman “your faith has healed you” (Matt. 9:22), and to the disciples “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matt. 8:26).

The Hebrew word most often used for trust means to take refuge in something. Against a hurricane, I seek refuge in a strong building because I trust its strength to protect me from the storm. Faced with many doubts, pains, hardships, threats, fears, setbacks, etc., I take refuge in God and look to him to save me.

I seek protection from God because I believe him to be capable of keeping me from harm (trustworthy). It looks to me like many of the statements about trusting God in the Old Testament were based on God’s track record of past performance. He brought Israel safely out of Egypt, therefore he could be trusted for today and tomorrow. God’s past performance is an indication of his future intentions.

Faith is a bit different. Hebrews 11:1 says:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

(Heb. 11:1 NIV)

Faith is built on hope, not history. It drives our beliefs and actions even in the absence of some concrete evidence. It’s not delusional. Faith comes from confidence in the good character of God built on the revelations about God learned from the teachings, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, his son.

Faith may be more difficult than trust. If trust comes from looking backwards for evidence of God’s future intentions, it seems to me that faith is a bit less solid. Faith depends on confidence in God’s character and projecting that he will act in the present in a way consistent with our beliefs about his goodness and mercy and love.

But here’s my present struggle: I trust God, but I trust myself more. For the really important things, like the health, safety, well-being of my children, for example, I’m reluctant to take my hands off and leave them in God’s hands because I am more at peace when I’m in control. Not that I’m really in control, but I suppose I tell myself that I am.

But it’s a lie, isn’t it? No parent can be a perfect refuge for her child. They’re out there in the wild world where we can’t protect them, their bodies and minds and souls are subject to influences that we don’t understand, much less control.

If I truly have faith in God as I say I do, if I truly trust his goodness and love, I have to act on that faith and trust by letting go of the dearest things in life and putting them into God’s hands. I’m terrible at letting go, but I’m trying.

Image credit: Image by pvproductions on Freepik

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