“When I am afraid,Iput my trust in you.4 In God, whose word I praise,in God I trust;I shall not be afraid.What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4 ESV
I learned a bad habit early in life that stayed with me a long time. Even though I left my old life to live the new life with Jesus, this habit refused to leave. All things do become new when we give our lives to Jesus, but the habits we bring with us can be hard to break. Maybe a better word is stronghold. Habit sure seems easier to say without the guilt. It rolls off the tongue smoother than stronghold. This habitual stronghold (see how I fixed that?) started when I discovered people will let you down. Good people, close people. Let me explain.
My father was a prominent attorney and politician. His schedule seemed to shift with the wind. A lot of people needed him, and in politics, you go where people need you. There were many times when we planned a trip or vacation only for it to be canceled or, at best, altered to fit his schedule. A couple of trips come to mind. One was a trip to Disney World. Everything was going great until I heard the news that dad was leaving early to attend business. I can remember feeling confused and vulnerable. Dads are protectors and besides, he had the wallet. The expression on my mother’s face didn’t help either. Plans had changed… again. Though we made the best of it, we all knew we were missing Dad. Another time was when we were going on a weekend getaway to St. Louis. That Friday we were to leave, I was pumped all day in anticipation. Cardinal games and swimming pools were in my future, and I was ready to roll. I remember the day getting later and later, and there was still no sign of my father. Mom had that look on her face again as we waited patiently in the living room for his arrival. Then the phone rang and sure enough, something had come up and the trip was canceled. No Cardinal game, no pool. The letdown was real. These are just a few examples.
I totally get flexibility and the reality that life happens. Plans do change, but in my home environment, we learned to not put too much hope in plans until we were actually doing what we had planned to do. As I got older, this trend continued. When I got married, sure enough, the same. When my kids came along, Dad did his best, but there were many plans changed and my kids learned not to get their hopes up when it came to Grandpa Bennett. Now, before you get an attitude against my dad, before he passed, we worked this out. He was simply doing the best he could with what he knew to do. Most was not intentional, just bad habits of his own he never corrected. He realized he would never get that time back and in the end, I still believe that was on his mind.
When it came to plans with my dad, our kids came up with the slogan, “Paper Promises”. We created this term from letters, text messages, and Christmas cards that promised adventures with Grandpa that never became reality. It was always my dad’s intention to do these things he promised on paper. The problem was finding the time to make it happen. We learned as a family, that to honor my father, we would simply celebrate the occasions when the plans did come together. We did not get our hopes up. We waited and when it happened, we had fun. One trip when everything went as planned was back to Florida. My son was participating in a National Fine Arts competition. He decided to go with us. He paid for much of the trip, and we made incredible memories together. There were more “Paper Promises” to experience, but having the attitude to take what you get helped. But where it didn’t help was in my habitual stronghold.
What is this stronghold? Trust. There it is, out in the open. It’s hard for me. It really is. It is one of the reasons I still see a counselor. After living so long wondering if I could trust my father and being let down, I developed the skill of being skeptical, critical, and simply did not trust him or others. Believe me when I say there is no joy in not trusting. Waiting for the shoe to drop, the plans to cancel, and the let down to come does not do good on a marriage and other relationships where trust is vital. The enemy keeps it going with making sure others let you down, even those closest to you, and before long you justify how you feel, which influences how you live. During a critical point in my mental health battle, I discovered trust was the root issue of my anxiety. For me to overcome, I had to learn to trust God.
God loves us so much. He can be trusted. He is a good Father. Jesus is a good Shepherd. He knows life has messed with us. He understands the hurt. That is why He is gentle when dealing with the trust issue. I found that when I was willing to truly get free, He was willing to show me why I was not free. For me, that was not trusting Him. We think we need to trust others, but that is hard to do when we do not trust the One who made us, dies for us and brought us into relationship with Him.
God’s promises are written on paper, but they are vivified and manifested in life. His Word can be trusted because He is the definition of truth. He will do what He says He will do. God’s faithfulness is proven. His love is too. Trusting in the Lord with all your heart is not possible in your own strength and that is why He gives us His Holy Spirit, His Word and of course through Jesus, His revelation and presence. If you find yourself holding back because you have been hurt, take it from me, it is not easy, but it is possible to trust again. God knows where to start with you, and if you go on the journey with Him to identify your source, you can begin to understand, see His perspective, and learn to trust again. True freedom is trusting again.