I recently had the opportunity to talk with Abby McDonald on an episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson (Hope When Life Knocks You Down – Episode 42) about how we maintain our hope when life doesn’t go as we plan. It was a great episode. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, I hope you’ll take the time to go back and soak in all the goodness that she shared. I’ve asked her to share a little more of her insights on trusting God when life doesn’t make sense.
Why We Can Trust God Even When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
By Abby McDonald
I rocked back and forth on the futon and stared at my hands, as if they contained answers I didn’t yet have. Outside my in-laws’ basement window, I heard a bird call. The first sign of spring after one of the coldest winters on record.
How many times had I sat in this same spot, praying the same prayer?
Our little family had moved two months earlier to pursue a job opportunity for my husband. After living in northern Utah for over four years and building a life there, we didn’t take the decision lightly. We spent much time seeking guidance from God and counsel from others we trusted.
But now, after our second cross-country move in five years, our home sat over two thousand miles away, unsellable. Miscommunication with my husband’s employer left us with no place to live near his new job, and my in-laws made a gracious offer to take us in on a temporary basis. With a new baby on the way, the clock was ticking. Suitable renters for our old house were nowhere to be found, and every time we received a glimmer of hope, another door slammed shut.
I wasn’t sure how many words of prayer I had left to offer.
Sometimes, when we make a big, life-altering decision or leap of faith, we encounter detours. We face problems and interruptions that can make us question whether or not we heard God in the first place. We reach a crossroads in our faith journey where we can either continue trusting God or turn away from him.
When I reach this place, I often focus on the lack of an answer rather than on God. My expectations of what I think he should do overshadow my knowledge of who he is, and my heart grows callous.
For the first few months in my in-laws basement, this is what happened to me. I became so fixated on what we lacked, I couldn’t see God’s grace all around me. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was approaching him through a lens of legalism.
If God cares, he will answer this way. Check. If he doesn’t, he’s abandoned me.
Do you see a problem here? This isn’t the type of relationship Jesus desires for us. He desires something much richer and more meaningful, but entering into this fullness means approaching him with a heart of trust, even when life doesn’t make sense.
In John 15:15, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
When Jesus tells his disciples everything he learned from the Father, it is an act of trust. For years, I didn’t pick up on this distinction. But the more I looked at this passage, the more I realized how significant this declaration was. This intimacy wasn’t something he offered to just anyone. It was special. It wasn’t offered to perfect men, either, but men who would later abandon him. Yet, Jesus saw their hearts and the people they would later become.
If we’re his followers, we’re his friends too. That means the same trust he extended to the first believers is extended to us as well.
So the question is this: If Jesus trusts us, shouldn’t we trust him too? If he places confidence in us and whispers secrets that are straight from heaven, shouldn’t we be confident he is going to direct our lives?
When we approach God with a legalistic lens, we think lack of a clear answer means he has abandoned us. Our trust goes only as far as our answered prayers take us. But when we approach him with a heart of trust, we know he loves us no matter what. Even during the wait, we know God is for us and is working. We keep coming to him like a trusted friend, because we know life’s difficulties do not mean he’s left.
After six months of living in my in-laws’ basement, I finally surrendered to God’s plan. It was Easter morning and I was tired. But I was also hopeful.
I finally realized that surrender didn’t mean punishment or lack of desire for an answer. It means trusting his way is better than my own.
Five weeks after that Sunday morning, we closed on a house I’d looked at months earlier. It was on top of a mountain in a quaint little neighborhood, and perfect for our growing family. When I first saw it, the price was out of our range, but during the wait, the owner lowered it.
Only God. He was working, even when I didn’t see it.
Friend, I’ll be the first to tell you, I still need reminders to choose trust over worry. But this experience taught me that we can keep coming to him like a friend, even when those detours come. We can know he cares about each detail of our story, and is weaving each piece together.
More resources on trusting God:
About Abby McDonald:
Abby McDonald is a blogger, speaker, wife and mom whose work has been featured Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, For Every Mom, and more. Her passion is to empower women to grow in faith and hope, even when life is messy.
She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of South Carolina, and loves to teach about writing at conferences each year. Abby lives with her husband and three children in western Maryland.
About Abby’s New Book:
Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God by Abby McDonald
“If we want to see God in the midst of our struggles, we have to change the way we look for him. There is no denying that miracles, answers to prayer, and abundant blessings testify to God’s presence. When the desires of our hearts are filled, it’s easy to see him. But what about the seasons when he seems invisible? Shift explores the life-changing truth that when we adjust our lens to focus our eyes on God rather than on what we wish we were seeing in our lives, he reveals himself to us. In fact, those moments when he seems invisible to us are often when others see him the most in us.”