Sunday, November 8, 2015

Do You Trust Me?

In our first reading and in our gospel today, there's this very clear call to trust God. We like to pay lip service to trusting God, but when push comes to shove, trusting God is not easy. Oftentimes, it's downright frightening. But as scary as it can be, it's still a better way to get through life than relying on our own means.

Do you trust me?
It reminds me of the scene early on in the Disney movie Aladdin, where Princess Jasmine has snuck away from the palace, and then the palace guards catch her and Aladdin. As the guards close in, Aladdin holds out his hand to Jasmine and says, "Do you trust me?" She tentatively says yes and takes his hand, and then he yanks her out a window, they fall several stories, and magically land on a pile of soft sand. This is what trusting God often feels like. It's not easy, it's not safe, and it's not predictable, but it's a whole lot better than not trusting God.

For Jasmine, trusting even when it was scary led to short term difficulties, but long term happiness. So in the first reading, this widow is in Zarephath, which is a town outside Israel. Elijah the prophet has been sent there by God because there was a drought in Israel. Apparently the drought is reaching out to Zarephath because this woman is almost out of food. She understands her plight well when she says that she's going to prepare one small meal and then go ahead and die. But she explains this to Elijah, this stranger who seems to be from God, and he says, "No, make me some food first." And she does it! As near as she can tell, this is a death sentence for her, because she's just given away the last of her food to a man who sort of said it would be ok.

Elijah certainly didn't present a very convincing argument as to why she should trust him, but some spark of faith in her led her to do it anyway. And what would have happened if she hadn't trusted him? If she had said the logical thing, "No, I'm going to keep the last food I have to my name," she would eaten it and indeed then she would have died. If she had chosen to not trust, she would have died, but because she had this radical trust where she held nothing back from God, she was able to live.

And then when we have this gospel reading, where this woman gives her last two coins to God. She trusts everything to God and holds nothing back for herself. She isn't leaving herself an out in case God doesn't come through. Again, we have radical trust, but it's a little different this time. This one might be a little more relatable to us because woman puts her two small coins into the collection, and then she just leaves. We don't know what happens to her. We don't know if someone comes forward to take care of her. We don't know if she found a twenty dollar bill outside. We don't know if she spent the next several days hungry, or worse.

But this is what the woman had going for her, if we assume the best of intentions for her: whether things turned out well or bad, she trusted herself to God. But let's imagine for just a minute that even though she trusted God, things don't turn out well for her. Let's imagine that no one steps in to help, and that she dies homeless. She trusted everything she had to God rather than take care of herself. Was that trust misplaced? Absolutely not, because trusting God is not a promise that things are going to turn out well in this life, it's a promise that things are going to turn out well eternally. We have a God who said, "Take up your cross and follow me," before he himself died on a cross. Trusting God is not a guarantee that we will not suffer.

When you and I trust God, when we decide to put our life in his hands and hold nothing back for ourselves, we have no idea how that will turn out in the short run. In the long run, it' an absolute guarantee that he will bring you home to Heaven, but it's no guarantee of an easy life in the short run.

Google Image: example
Trusting God is easy when things are going well. Trusting God is a whole different matter when things are going down the drain. If you do a Google image search for "trusting God" you get a whole lot of unhelpful pictures of serene looking people with their hands folded in prayer looking very content, but I just don't think that speaks to the reality of life.

Because just as soon as you think about trusting God at all times, then you have to consider the realities of life: what happens when you lose a job, when your marriage is on the rocks, when your kids are rebelling and taking their life down the toilet, when you're battling illness that you don't understand? That's when trust in God becomes almost impossible, but that's when it becomes the one thing there is to bring you through those dark places.

God allows so much suffering in this world that it can make trusting him actually quite difficult. There is no easy answer to that. There is only the cross. There is only Jesus Christ, the God who suffers with us so that we don't suffer alone. He never promised that we wouldn't suffer when we trust him, he only promised that we wouldn't suffer alone.

But the only way to actually grow in relationship with this God who loves us so much that he died for us, is to actually trust him. And that's scary. It's not scary because he might let you down, it's scary because you don't know what suffering he may ask of you. Not unlike Jasmine trusting Aladdin, if you choose to trust God, you don't know what highs and lows he'll take you on. But the end is secure.

So how is God asking you to step out on a limb today? Are you secure in life and is he asking you to take a risk with him? Are you in a dark spot right now, and is God asking you to hold his hand even tighter in the darkness? Whatever it is, go ahead and trust him today. Trust him more today than yesterday. Trust him even though you don't know how this turns out in the short run. In the long run he will bring you to eternal life.

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