The Secret of Trusting God
A Primer for Widows and Maybe Everyone Else
When life throws a curveball, people tell us to trust God. Widows know that trust doesn’t mean God will do what we want. What can we trust Him for?
Some moments reveal who we are. They highlight a little red arrow on the spiritual map of life that says, “You are here.” All widows have known such moments—we confront what we really believe about our relationship with God after our husbands die. After three years, I thought I had reached a good place. Then my daughter told me about the small mass that showed up on a medical can. She was only 21.
Helping equip my children for fruitful self-sufficiency had become my life mission as a widow. My oldest daughter was on a year-long break from college studies when Tom died. Her younger sister was halfway through her senior year of high school. Both planned to pursue healthcare degrees at a local college. Life itself felt so uncertain that I bargained with God for the sake of my children, “I need to live for three more years. Then if you want to take me too, I’ll go. Just let me help them get through!”
I could see that light at the end of the tunnel. Both my kids were weeks away from graduation when my daughter’s doctor ordered an ultrasound to investigate some recent medical symptoms. When the results came, it would be days until we heard from her doctor about the mass and then weeks of red tape with insurance for a follow-up with an MRI to confirm or refute the findings. It was enough time for God to teach me that trusting Him has nothing to do with bargains.
God Makes No Bargains
“Haven’t we suffered enough?” That was my first prayer response to God. Our family had lost more than we could imagine when Tom died unexpectedly. How could I face more tragedy? Theologically, I knew better. Suffering is subject to no quotas and is a respecter of no persons. Some people suffer much, and some suffer very little. But this wasn’t a theological question—it was a question from my heart.
Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, wrestled with this seemingly senseless distribution of suffering, meted out to the righteous while the wicked seemed to prosper.
Certainly God is good to Israel, and to those whose motives are pure. But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed] the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain; their bodies[h] are strong and well fed. They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do. (NIV, 2011, Psalm. 73:2-5)
The remainder of the Psalm draws us into a mire of envy based on Asaph’s sense of justice. The good suffered while the evil prospered. The bargain was skewed, and Asaph’s feet had “almost” slipped.
Would I slip?
It’s easy for me to know that God is good when life makes sense, but what about when your worst fears may be knocking at the door?
In the days waiting for the doctor to call, we researched tumors. “Approximately 80% of small, solid masses in this region of the body are malignant.” Those odds did not help my sense of hope. It’s hard not to jump ahead when the “the C word” is knocking at the door for your kid.
“You need to trust God,” advised a close friend, seeing me visibly distraught.Her words trailed off as I wondered about the idea of trust. What should I trust God to do?
Losing Tom had taught me that I can’t trust God to do what I want Him to do. I certainly couldn’t “trust God” now to grant my desperate plea: Don’t let her have cancer.
If she did, would I lose my faith? Would I lose my mind? Who was in charge of keeping me in this faith as my heart quivered? I moved in and out of these states of turmoil for three weeks and was again reminded that time alone is no healer—it’s an incubator for God’s work.
God Keeps Us
Years earlier, when my daughter was 6, she said, “Mommy, I learned in Sunday school that I should love God more than anything or anyone else.” And then she paused in obvious distress before blurting out, “But I don’t. I love you! I love you more than God!”
I tried to assure her that God gave her a mother to show her how much He loved her. And I expected her faith to grow—but that didn’t happen. As a teenager, she moved further away from God. At 14, she wrestled with doubt and said she preferred the idea of living and dying without God. Four years after that, her father died.
The week of his funeral, we were on an evening stroll. I expressed the “if only” regrets that come in the hindsight of tragedy. If only I had seen the signs of my husband’s illness. If only I had pushed harder for him to see a doctor. If only I had come down to his office sooner.
“Mom,” she interrupted. “God could have changed anything about Dad’s circumstances to prevent him from dying that day. He didn’t need you to see the future and stop what would happen. God could have intervened, but He didn’t. This is how it was supposed to be—even though we can’t understand, we need to trust Him.”
Her words both stunned and comforted me. God had granted my daughter faith even in the wake of profound loss. For her, faith transcended suffering and grief because God is trustworthy in what He does, including keeping her through the turmoil of doubt. God is good—and it is His goodness that we can trust.
The Secret of Trust
At long last, her MRI was finally approved the day before her graduation, and the results were given within three hours—the ultrasound was wrong. Her body was healthy and there was nothing actually there.
The next day I watched my girls graduate from college, and I was more grateful than I could express. I was also aware that for every happy ending, there are and will be endings that are not happy, and there are no bargains or quotas to manage suffering.
My prayers during the three weeks of waiting continued to be for good news, but with the caveat that God is good, even if the outcome is crushing. Believing in God’s goodness is the secret of trust.
Asaph nearly slipped. In verse 26 of Psalm 73 , he wrote, “My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.”
In this life, our flesh and our heart will weaken. We may struggle to love, to believe, and even to trust—but God is the One who is faithful to hold on to us because He is good, even when what we see isn’t.