Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Is It Easier to Obey God Than To Trust Him?

Book Review:

Trusting God Even When Life Hurts

By Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges begins this book with the assumption that it is easier for us to obey God than it is for us to trust Him. When God commands us to do something, it usually makes sense to our rational minds. Usually. But often when God brings us through experiences of suffering, it isn't clear to us why. And it is in these times that He calls us to trust Him most. Trust seems to imply that there isn't a clear explanation that our minds and heart can peacefully rest on. Trust requires that instead we rest our hearts and minds in God Himself.

Bridges spends the rest of the book explaining why the only way we can trust God fully is if He is completely sovereign, if there isn't a single movement of an atom in the universe that happens apart from His careful, purposeful design. If there is anything that can happen outside of God's control, Bridges argues, then we cannot trust God. We have no ground for that trust. And we would be fools to do so. When confronted with the problem of reconciling the seemingly contradictory attributes of God's goodness and God's absolute sovereignty, we cannot abandon either. A God who is good but not sovereign by necessity cannot exercise that goodness in and through every circumstance of our lives. A God who is sovereign but not good by necessity will not exercise that sovereignty for our good. The good news is that the Scriptures, our final authority, show us that both of these attributes stand together even if our minds have much difficulty in grasping how.

Bridges begins by showing God's absolute sovereignty over every aspect of His creation: nature, people, nations, and such. He then relates this absolute sovereignty to the wisdom of God and the love of God for His children in order to show why God can and should be trusted no matter painful or difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.

Bridges is uniquely qualified to write this book as a man who has walked with God through a lifetime of unique trials. And he does so masterfully. He writes with winsome clarity, simplicity, careful attention and faithfulness to Scripture, and the warmth of a pastor's heart. In light of the different opinions held regarding the sovereignty of God, this book couldn't be more biblically balanced in its approach to the topic. This would be a good book to recommend for someone who is beginning to grapple with or trying to better understand God's absolute sovereignty over all things, especially if the topic has hit close to home.

Here are some of my favorite (most helpful for me) excerpts from the book:
Trusting in God does not mean [that I] do not suffer grief, that [my] heart does not ache. It means that in the midst of [my] heartache and grief [I] can say something to the effect of, “Lord, I know You were in control of this dreadful event. I do not understand why You allowed it to happen, but I trust You” (p.51-52).

Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will. I never feel like trusting God when adversity strikes, but I can choose to do so even when I don’t feel like it. That act of the will, though, must be based on belief, and belief must be based on truth. (p.52)

I will say this next statement as gently and compassionately as I know how. Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting Him. We tend to make our first priority the gaining of relief from our feelings of heartache or disappointment or frustration. This is a natural desire, and God has promised to give us grace sufficient for our trials and peace for our anxieties (see 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:6-7). But just as God’s will is to take precedence over our will (in Matthew 26:39 Jesus Himself said, “Yet not as I will but as You will”), so God’s honor is to take precedence over our feelings. We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don’t understand what He is doing or why He has allowed some adverse circumstance to occur. As we seek God’s glory, we may be sure that He has purposed our good and that He will not be frustrated in fulfilling that purpose (p.52-53)
We must see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances (p.160).

While growing up in Texas, I enjoyed my mother’s buttermilk biscuits made from “scratch” every morning before breakfast. But there was not a single ingredient in those biscuits that I would have enjoyed by itself. And even after they were mixed together, I would not have cared for the raw biscuit dough. Only after they were mixed together in the right proportions by my mother’s skillful hands and then subjected to the fire of the oven were they ready to be enjoyed for breakfast.
The “things” of Romans 8:28 are like the ingredients of the biscuit dough. By themselves they are not tasteful to us. We shun them. And we certainly shun the heat of the oven. But when God in His infinite skill has blended them all together and cooked them properly in the oven of adversity, we shall one day say it is good (p.162).
Father, is this not why Your Son taught that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom of God? Oh to become like a child! Please give me such childlike trust that I do not have, trust that doesn't require clear answers but rests in Your infinitely trustworthy love and wisdom with unshakable confidence that You do all things well. Rescue me from the unbiblical notion that as we grow into greater maturity in Christ we are becoming less like children. Thank You that it isn't so in Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Jerry Bridges was a keynote speaker at the 2007 Desiring God National Conference on the theme "Stand: A Call For The Endurance Of The Saints." I highly recommend his message from that conference. Bridges gave four main points in explaining how we can cultivate lives in which we endure to the end:

1) A daily time of focused communion with God
2) A daily appropriation of the Gospel to ourselves
3) A daily offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice
4) A firm belief in the sovereignty of God

You can watch or listen to it here.


Mel said...

I love the way you put this post together. For a long time I've wanted our church to have a book-review meeting. There are so many books that have profoundly impacted my life, and so many books that have profoundly impacted the lives of others. I won't ever have time to read all of them, but to have the high points highlighted and to have people share what parts of the books meant the most to them -- I learn from that almost more than I would from reading the whole book.

Do you mind if I borrow your format for my own posts about some of the books I've read?

By the way, this sounds like a great book. To trust God is such an indescribable gift. A true anchor in all of the storms of life.

Bless you!


pilgriminconflict said...

This is the first one of these that I've done. I praise the Lord for any blessing that it is. I hope to start doing more. Please feel free to use the format and do let me know if you find ways to improve it! Hope the step away from distractions has been rich with blessing so far!


Lee said...

Chris - Thanks for the review! I have a couple of questions for you, including one related to this review, over here on ConnorWatch.

Lee said...

Whoops - that was supposed to be a link to Eric's post titled "My Atrophied Faith - Part 2".