The Lutheran preacher and poet Gerhard Frost once illustrated what it means to trust God by telling a story about a friend’s family. The friend was married and the father of four children. He was planning a three week family vacation to Europe. He spent many hours with maps, itineraries, and other travel information, all of which he had spread out on a large table ahead of him. A few days before they were to leave, the youngest child, a preschooler, came into the room where her father was working on the trip plans. She peered over his shoulders at the many maps and brochures. She watched for a while as he went from one stack of papers to another, taking notes, and adding to the growing lists he was making. Finally, she climbed up on his lap and said contentedly, “Daddy, I’m so glad that all I have to do is go along.”
That is what it is like to be a trusting child. There is the willingness and the ability to trust mommy and daddy and feel secure in their hands. This child was about to leave her secure home and go to faraway places she had never been before. She had no idea where she was going or what she was going to do or where they would stay or what they would eat. Her future was very uncertain, but she had someone she could trust, someone who was getting everything ready for her. She was going with her parents, and so she was confident that she would be all right. A child of God can also have this kind of trust. With faith in God, we also can have a willingness to go into an uncertain future, committing ourselves to the certainty of God’s care.
If you saw four small children seated in the family car, dressed and ready to go on vacation, you would not ask them, “Where will you be going? Which highways will you be taking? How long will you drive today? Have you thought yet about where you will be sleeping tonight and all the other nights? How are you going to pay for all of this?” The children would probably not know any of those things, and the questions would only trouble them. It would be better to ask, “Who are you going with?” and then they would all answer cheerfully and with great confidence, “With Mom and Dad.” That is good enough for them. The children will trust their parents for a good vacation, leaving everything in their hands.
Adults have much more to do and be concerned about in their lives than children on a family vacation. They are not just along for the ride any more. Every day they have responsibilities to tend to, choices to make, and decisions to ponder. God has given them strengths, talents, abilities, and the freedom to use what they have been given to do the work they must do.
But beyond those few things we can control in our lives are those many things we can do nothing about. There is so much in day to day life that is out of our hands, and there is the future that we cannot predict or determine. It is when we enter this domain that we must be willing to admit our total dependence on our heavenly father. We are in many ways similar to the children in the family car, ready for vacation. We also are not real sure where we are going, or how long we’ll be traveling, or what is in store for us along the way. But the Bible says we can be confident, we can be content, we can trust God, and we can depend on him to get us through. And this can be a cheerful dependence, like it was for the children in the story. We can be secure and confident in the fact that we are in God’s hands and that we can just ‘go along,’ knowing that he will get us to the right destination. The way may be rough and full of danger, but God has assured us that we will reach his home, that heavenly destination he has promised us. Like children on a long journey, we will be quite ignorant of the details, but we can know who we are going with, and that makes all the difference.
And since we are ignorant of so many of the details we may have many questions along the way, also like children on a vacation. Children on a long car ride will ask things like, “Are we there yet? Can we stop now? When do we eat?” and so on. And on our journey through life we will have many questions such as, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why is faith so difficult? Why are you and your ways so hard to understand Lord? Are you even there?” Trusting God does not mean we will never ask questions. We can ask all the questions we want, but faith understands that we might have to wait a long time for the answers. Until then, we can ask and keep trusting at the same time. Children in the back seat of the car keep asking, “Are we there yet; why can’t we stop now?” They aren’t getting their way and they aren’t liking it, but they aren’t afraid. They are not doubting that their parents will get them to their destination safely. They are just tired and do not understand. And we also will get tired and we also will not always understand, but we can continue to trust in God’s loving care.
In the novel Diary of a Country Priest George Bernanos wrote: “Why does our earliest childhood seem so soft and full of light? A kid’s got plenty of troubles, like everybody else, and he’s really so very helpless, quite unarmed against pain and illness. But that very sense of powerlessness is the mainspring of a child’s joy. He just leaves it all to his mother, you see.”
Matthew 18:3 — Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Isaiah 12:2 — Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 9:9-10 — The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —Book of Common Prayer