The Trust factor

“Trust me.  I won’t let you down.”  Have you ever heard those words? Has someone made that request of you? Did you trust them? How’d it work out for you?  If you were fortunate, the person who asked for your trust kept their word and you discovered someone you could rely on, at least one more time.  If you weren’t so blessed and the promise was broken, you quickly learned the painful lesson that people aren’t always as reliable and safe as you once thought they were.  You most likely discovered that trust is not a commodity that should be easily traded and that not everyone who wants it deserves it.  If the trust you gave was repeatedly violated by significant relationships throughout your life, giving trust away can be a terrifying proposition.  Someone asking for your trust can be like participating on Fear Factor, only you are facing the terror of “the trust factor.”

Neil was our Young Life leader in high school.  Neil was an amazing Christian man.  I know that because he took on the daunting task of bringing fifteen of the worst boys from our school on an overnight camping and canoeing trip.  I never asked Neil why he did it, but years later I now know he wanted those boys to find the God he so loved.  I was one of those boys.  After a momentous evening of camping and mischievousness (that description is an understatement to say the least!) that elicited at least one serious threat from Neil about packing up and taking us all home, we set out to tackle the rapids early the next morning.  Though I had a typical teenage tough veneer, I wasn’t much of a canoeist and was a bit nervous at the prospect of taking on the rapids with my novice friends. The trip down river was uneventful until we ran into a portion of the river that someone had blocked with branches and tree limbs.  The ensuing delay brought us into the worst thunder and lightning storm I have ever witnessed.  Back on the river and into the roughest whitewater, we made it about a half mile before near tragedy struck.  Panicked at the prospect of ramming into a fallen tree, my friend Brian dove out of our canoe swinging the rear of the boat wildly into the tree. I slammed into it but somehow managed to cling to a branch while my body hung half in the water.  With the torrential rain and ear-splitting thunder and lightning all around, I wondered if I would make it off the log or be pulled to my death into the raging waters.  As I looked for an escape route, I saw Neil on the shore of the opposite side of the river.  Sheer terror was in his eyes as he considered the possibility that two young men could perish before his eyes. Neil screamed to me, “Hang on Tom, I coming to get you!.” Without hesitation, Neil dove into the river in an effort to rescue me.  As I clung to the tree, my heart sank as a log hit Neil mid-river and carried him downstream.  He  floated with the log while several men, who happened to witness the events, came running along the shore to  where I was and climbed out onto the tree to drag me to safety.  Neil and Brian were rescued further downstream.

At the time of that incident, I had no interest in God.  I was a hurting, angry and rebellious young man who had not learned how to trust or be trustworthy.  However, even though Neil’s attempt at a rescue was unsuccessful, I witnessed someone willing to risk their life for the sake of mine.  After reaching the bus when the storm subsided, I was left humbled and curious about a man and his message that was backed up by a selfless act of sacrificial love.  Though it was several years before I turned my life over to the God Neil served, the seed of love he planted that day would one day sprout in my heart as I surrendered my life to Christ.

Trust is defined as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety of a person or thing; confidence.” Trust is as essential to healthy human relationships  as air is to our breathing.  Every person on the planet wants to trust and be trusted.  But as the saying goes, trust must be earned and not many are willing to pay the price necessary to be deemed trustworthy.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your steps.” Proverbs 3:5,6

As heroic as Neil’s efforts were that fateful day in my younger years, his rescue fell short. I am thankful for those who were able to help or I might have an entirely different story to tell.  As trustworthy as Neil proved himself to be that day, nature’s elements overpowered his ability to perform the rescue.  But there is someone who has proven Himself trustworthy, not only in intention, but also in execution. The God who became man proved His love and trustworthiness on a brutal cross to rescue us from certain spiritual death.  Jesus Christ asks for our trust. He says, “Trust in Me, first and foremost”…not in yourself or circumstances, not in or money, jobs, or governments, not in your own goodness, relationships, or any other created thing that will one day fade away.

For some, this may be a terrifying proposition because their ability to trust has been short-circuited by those who should have been trustworthy but failed because of the sin that infects us all.  Trust demands relinquishing control of life into the care of another. The One whose name is “Faithful and True” will never fail us.  He is worthy of our trust for He who promises to work in our best interest is faithful and has proven His love with nail pierced, outstretched arms.