Friday, August 10, 2012

Overcoming Trust Issues

Recently I was teaching a large group of teenagers about the concept of trust. I asked them a series of questions to help them think about this issue.

The first question was, “My parents can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A small number said never. A larger number said always. But the vast majority said sometimes.

The next question was, “My teachers can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A small number said always. A larger number said never. But the vast majority said sometimes.

The next question was, “The leaders in my church can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
No one said never. Some said sometimes. The vast majority said always. This surprised me a bit. Though it is possible that they were just trying to make the youth leaders feel good, I think it has to do with the fact that that particular youth group has really good youth leaders who invest themselves a lot in those teens and therefore the teens are more honest with them than they might be with other adults.

The final question was, “My friends can trust me: Always. Sometimes. Never.”
A few said never. A few said sometimes. But the overwhelming majority said always. A key lesson to be learned in this exercise is that teenagers stick up for their friends and place high value on their relationships with their peers.

I then led the group in a discussion of what happens when someone we trust lets of down. Several teens shared stories of how people they really cared about broke their trust. This is painful for people of any age, but particularly painful for young people who are still trying to figure life out. But the reality of life is that people will often let us down. Even friends and family, whom we thought we could always trust, will sometimes fail us. Even leaders whom we respect and admire like teachers, pastors, and coaches will fail us from time to time. The reason people will fail us from time to time is because people are not perfect. We are not perfect either. Just as others will fail us from time to time, we will also fail them.

This is not new to the human condition. Solomon wrote about this human tendency thousands of years ago. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

In this scripture, Solomon is pointing out that the only person who will NEVER fail us is God. But learning to trust God can be a challenge because we cannot see God with our eyes and God does not always do things the way we want Him to.

These verses point out that the key to a strong faith in God is learning to trust Him with our hearts instead of trying to figure everything out in our heads. Trusting someone with our heart means that sometimes we have to believe even when we do not understand. That does not mean that we will NEVER understand, or that we should not TRY to understand, it simply means that sometimes we trust even though we are unable to understand.

Since it is hard to trust God with our hearts, instead we often expend a lot of energy trying to figure everything out on our own. We use our own human understanding to try to sort out why things happen in our lives and what it means for our existence. But it can be dangerous to rely on our own understanding because our knowledge of the world is so limited. We do not see the whole picture of what God is doing in the world around us, and therefore, our own understanding is limited.

Though we should always strive to increase our understanding of life situations and learn as much as we can, we will never be able to learn enough to figure EVERYTHING out. There will always be some things we just do not understand, and those are the times when we must trust God. 

Part of learning to trust God includes thinking about Him all of our activities. When we think about the Lord, we might ask ourselves what we think He would do if He were in our situation. Though we may not always know the answer to that question, when we spend time thinking about it, it does tend to help us make better choices.

God wants to help us find the right path in life because if we find the right path, our lives will be easier and more fulfilling. That does not mean that we will never have challenges or struggles, it simply means that we will have less struggles and more purpose than if we are on the wrong path. People often lead us down the wrong path, but God will always lead us on the right path.

If we have not yet made the commitment to follow God through becoming a Christian, that is our first step. Then we should start reading our Bible and praying daily, attending church as often as possible and get baptized as an expression of our faith. Once we start doing those things, then we will be more able to sense what the Lord wants us to do in various situation in life. Our trust in Him will grow and our choices will be better and our lives will be more right. Trust is important. Though there are few people in life in which we can trust, we can always trust the Lord. Today is a good day to start trusting.

Note: Some of the questions I asked this group were adapted by a great lesson on Trust I found in Talksheets: 50 Creative Discussions for Junior High Youth Groups by David Lynn. Though the teaching techniques in the book are a bit dated, the questions and group activities are just great. I highly reccomend the book.
This practical resource can help us increase our trust in the Lord by discovering hope in the midst of adversity.