(The first reflection in an ongoing conversation on this topic.)
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; Prayer for Our Country, Book of Common Prayer
In the day of trouble, let us continue to trust in God. Trust is at the very heart of our closest relationships, most especially our relationship with God. In God we can always trust, but when times are difficult or life is not proceeding as we wish, we can become angry or lose trust in God’s never-failing presence and love. We are called to remember God’s nature and open ourselves to trust. We can question God, express our pain and confusion knowing God’s love and mercy are constant, and we are secure in God. (See Psalm 62: 5-8 below)
Long ago I took to heart advice from one of my grandfathers to go against the grain. After listening carefully to my youthful, yet strongly expressed and under-informed views on the world, he urged me to take a radical step: love people and trust God rather than the other way around. He was, I think, mostly right. What I have learned over more years and experience is that we are meant to love and trust God and one another. That is a tall order, but it is the path to full life, to reconciliation, and to peace.
These days more people than ever say they no longer trust media, government, including courts, or one another. Once lost through betrayal, lies, or circumstance, trust is extraordinarily hard to regain yet much needed to go forward. Even successful thieves have built some trust with one another and their own system. Think of the bank robber cleaning out the safe deposit boxes trusting that the getaway car driver is still waiting outside. The enterprise, nefarious or not, cannot work absent trust even if it is only grounded in mutual greed.
In the end, regaining trust takes effort from both or all parties in a relationship. To go forward, we must as a nation and, more importantly, as followers of Jesus Christ, build trust by being trustworthy and by risking our hearts and opening our minds to assume the best of our institutions and people. Let me be direct:
First, let’s be trustworthy. We each are to speak the truth as we see it, fulfill what we promise, and treat one another with decency, fulfilling our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Let us ask our leaders to do the same, which leads to trustworthy institutions as well.
Next, let us become prepared to trust one another, our institutions, and God step by step. When others take steps to be trustworthy, let us give them a chance. Accountability is important, but so is the risk to trust when there is commitment to trustworthiness by the other party.
Violence and an overall lack of decency in conversation find their roots in lack of trust sometimes from legitimate experience of dealing with an untrustworthy person or one who refuses to hear another’s view. Trustworthiness and trust go hand in hand. When government institutions or people provide conflicting guidance, change without notice, or promote what we know is untrue, it leads to a larger breakdown of trust for which we are paying a price. When we lie to one another or ignore one another’s concerns or feelings, we damage the opportunity to create a safe space where we can listen to one another and come to a deeper understanding, reconciliation, and the ability to cooperate for good.
When we harm one another or allow institutions to harm others, we undermine trust and could be laying the groundwork for others to retreat into cults which seem to provide a certainty but are misplaced trust, into addictions which seem initially to cover the pain, or fear that assuages itself in violence or resistance to hearing other views. People start to feel that no one cares for their deep pain or their sense of lack of something they long for. They may sense no safe person to hear their deepest concerns.
Let us go forth speaking truth as we experience it while being receptive to hearing other views, acting with decency toward all, and creating safe space to listen to one another. Let us go forth being trustworthy and allowing ourselves to trust. Let us go forth in love, trusting God at all times, especially in the day of trouble.
Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety. Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each of your concerns. God is our place of safety. Psalm 62