Raised in the Southern Baptist church, I can sing the lyrics to “Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis by heart with the best of ’em. I have hummed the hymn for years, summing up the meaning in a juvenile way–I just need to listen to God and do what He says because it’s the right thing to do.
Well, yes. But…
I lived all of my adult life under the premise of “I believe in God, but I don’t quite trust Him to handle everything.” I served as my own God. I was the manager of my life. I was driving the bus, and God was relegated to the seat WAAAAY in the back. I prayed, but my prayers were simply orders. “Dear God, you say to ‘ask and ye shall receive,’ so I’m asking that you would do X, Y, and Z.” My requests weren’t founded in faith. They were based on my near-sighted needs and wants and my sheer brilliance in knowing what was right for everybody else, too. Surely God appreciated my assistance.
Turns out, as I discovered while going through a real soul-searching process, I didn’t really believe God. If I did, I would have been able to trust Him all along. I wouldn’t have placed orders with Him. I would have focused more on our relationship than on my own worries, expectations, fears, and failures.
Thankfully, I have learned (the hard way, I guess) that “trusting and obeying,” as the hymn goes, does not work for me. In this case, putting the cart before the horse is the only way I get it done.
What works is to take action in spite of my feelings—to obey even when I don’t feel sure that I can trust God at all. If I obey Him, in spite of my own worries, fears, and doubts, He comes through for me. I feel more grounded in my faith when I obey Him. I gain confidence in Who He Is because He does what He says He will do.
This builds my trust.
Then I’m more likely to obey the next time I’m faced with a sticky situation.
And then I build more trust in Him.
For those of us who are stubborn-hearted and Doubting Thomases, obedience always precedes trust.
And that’s not such a bad thing.
Whatever it takes to get me on the right path is what I’m willing to do. For me, that means taking action even if I don’t feel like it. It means doing the next right thing when I’d really rather sit and feel sorry for myself or stress about things, my mind like a gerbil on crack, spinning its wheels relentlessly. It means obeying God. And then He comes through for me, showing up like Gandalf at sunrise, defeating everything dark. He shines through, and I trust Him.
Now I can sing that beautiful song the way it’s written and really mean it.