A few weeks ago, while on a trip, I heard in a radio interview the statement, “We are never commanded in Scripture to trust people, only to love them. We are commanded to trust God and to love people.”
This arrested my attention, and I have been chewing on it ever since. More than just pondering it intellectually, I have been seeking application, and finding plenty as I go about life and ministry.
Last week I became aware of an immediate need within my church family. A woman, I’ll just call her Jane, had begun attending recently. She had to be hospitalized for a few days, and when ready for release, had no transportation home. After various group texts between church leaders, it became clear that no one in that loop was available to help. But I was. I was just about to leave my office anyway. I didn’t have any place I needed to be right away. I even had a full tank of gas. So, I simply checked in with the Lord to ask whether he wanted to send me on this assignment of picking her up and getting her where she needed to go. I got a green light, so I headed in her direction.
The woman in question is quite a character. When meeting her, it doesn’t take long to understand that her body and mind have been ravaged by years of very hard living—drug addiction, prostitution, homelessness, trauma, disease. She is used to being neglected and neglecting herself. Now that she has been born again and is surrounded by Christians of good will, she is quick to ask for help, and she is persistent until she gets an answer. This can be experienced in church world as intrusive and inappropriate.
I knew this about her. I knew that she has probably learned in her difficult life to use manipulation to get her needs met. I also suspected that the assignment would take me far out of my way, to not the greatest part of town. I knew there was a chance that she would need more than just a ride—some cash, or some food, or another side errand. I knew that this mission of mercy could quickly become very inconvenient indeed. This is not a person I trust. At least not yet.
As I was on my way, I recalled the statement I had heard about trust and love. I thanked the Lord that he was completely worthy of my trust, and I was trusting him with my safety and welfare. I confirmed my trust in him to help me to establish a boundary with Jane if necessary. I reminded myself that I can trust God to be my strong tower and refuge at all times. Therefore, I was able to perform an act of love for Jane without concern about whether I trusted her or not. My duty was to trust God, and this would free me to love Jane.
It is possible to love people without trusting them. But it might be impossible to truly trust another human being without loving them. I trust my husband to a great extent, because he has demonstrated trustworthiness over almost 32 years of love and marriage. But I don’t trust him completely, because he is a human being. He has a very good track record with me, but not a perfect one. On the human level, he is the person I trust the most. I could list some friends and family members I also trust a lot. But not completely.
Only God Almighty–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—can be trusted absolutely. To speak truth, to uphold righteousness and justice, to administer grace and mercy, in just the right way at just the right time. Always.
We must never allow broken trust with people to damage our trust in the LORD. If we maintain steadfast trust in him, we are free to risk extravagant acts of love for people, whether we trust them or not.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:4-5, NIV).