Losing faith is heart-breaking. Relationships rely on faith. When trust dissolves, relationship does too. That leaves us feeling isolated, and it’s hard to trust again.
That’s just as true of our relationship with God. Aussies are facing a crisis of faith. Most of us no longer identify as Christian. Many say they have “no faith.”
Crisis might not be the right word. This is no sudden disaster, like a bushfire or a flood. It’s more like a climate change: rising sea-levels of unbelief gradually eroding our faith. Europe experienced this last century. America has yet to feel the full impact.
Perhaps we don’t lose faith, so much as misplace it. “Believe it enough, and all your dreams will come true,” Disney sings. And then we grow up to discover that I am not the centre of the universe, and it wasn’t designed to fulfil my dreams. Disillusioned I feel when my illusions evaporate.
Maturity knows we’re not dealing with certainties, only probabilities. We’re never in control of our relationships. To try to control the other is to damage them. We’re not jailors holding people in a prison of our own construction. To love is to treasure someone as they are.
We’re not talking about blind love, the kind that only sees what it wants to. We’re talking about informed trust — knowing someone, in community, and choosing to love them without the certainty that they’ll never let us down. Genuine love feels vulnerable.
Learning to trust again
I was at the lowest point of my life. Everything had fallen apart, and I was angry at God for not sorting it out. That’s when I began to understand that God doesn’t use his power the way I wanted him to.
With my relationships in tatters, I began meditating on how Jesus handled relationships. Even when he was really popular, Jesus understood the danger of trusting people (John 2:24-25). And yet, he chose twelve friends to spend his life with. It was a very careful, prayerful choice. Even so, one of his trusted friends became a traitor (Luke 6:12-16).
When Jesus realized he couldn’t trust Judas, he didn’t break off the relationship. As his friend John said, he loved them to the end (John 13:1).
So please picture the scene at their final meal together. It had been a crazy day, incredibly tense. They hadn’t even washed. Knowing his Father had entrusted everything into his hands, … Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet (John 13:3–4).
I imagined Jesus kneeling before each of his friends in turn. Peter was embarrassed. Others didn’t know what to say. But what happened when he knelt before Judas? I imagined Jesus looking up, Judas unable to return his gaze. To the very end, Jesus called him friend (Matthew 26:50).
Tears rolled down my face as I saw how Jesus loved. “I understand, Lord. You chose to love, knowing you would be hurt.”
His tenderness melted my heart. That was the day I began to trust again, even when it felt so vulnerable.
Learning to trust God again
What does this have to do with faith in God? We tend to look for God in all the wrong places.
Some children have imaginary friends. It’s a fun roleplay. A child has complete control over how their imaginary friend looks, sounds, and acts. It doesn’t last, of course. We eventually lose faith in someone we create in our own image.
Our ideal of God should use his power to bring the world back under control, to save us from those who hurt us, to enforce his requirements for people to do right. Then we’re disillusioned when we don’t see our god doing that in our lifetime.
The God revealed in Jesus takes a different path. Instead of forcing us to behave, he takes the pain and abuse we give each other, absorbing it in his own being as the ultimate means of removing all that is wrong and setting the world right.
That’s so alien to our expectations of how power could be used. The God revealed in Jesus is not a cosmic dictator. He’s a Father calling his children to come home.
Search for how God reveals himself, and you’ll find this everywhere in Scripture. When the nations went their own way, God didn’t crush them into submission; he chose a people to reflect him. God didn’t even force Israel to behave; he gave us one Israelite to reveal his character. God restores relationship with us not as a conquistador but as a crucified king.
The image of God we discover in Jesus is someone who, even when we’re trying to get rid of him, still calls us friend.
Can you trust someone like that?
What others are saying
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)
Unknown, Letter to the Hebrews:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (1:3 NIV)
So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. (3:1, Msg)
Paul, Letter to the Galatians:
The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith(fulness) of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (2:20)
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (5:6)
John, First Letter from John:
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (4:15-16).
- How do you know God exists?
- Incredible! What Aussies are saying to the church
- True believers, in the land of Oz
- Planting seeds is better than cracking hard hearts
- Making God known (podcast)
Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia
View all posts by Allen Browne