Yesterday we observed a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus wanted to believe in something concrete, Jesus kept pointing him toward trust in God rather than belief that God was present. It may seem like a small difference, this trust instead of belief, but it has large implications for the way we pray, what we expect of God and how we decide to serve. Nicodemus can’t get past the literal. He needs something he can hold in his hands, something written in stone. Instead, Jesus offers up metaphors about rebirth and wind and spirit. At this point in the story, Nicodemus fades away.
We often hunger, wheedle or outright demand concrete signs from God. We struggle with wind and Spirit and being born from above. We want more than a baptismal promise of everlasting life and a Savior who will die for us. It is our nature. It is not easy to live “with the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) More unsettling, Paul says we “boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love is poured into our hearts …” (Rom. 5:3-4) This takes enormous trust in God.
This is where trust overrides belief. In what way? When we know we believe in God but do not understand God we have to decide if God knows what God is up to. It is not as simple as saying “there’s a reason for everything” implying there is a divine reason for everything. It is more complicated. It involves saying I don’t have the slightest idea why this is happening and still trusting that God does, that it matters to God and that God stand by us. We often don’t and sometimes never achieve an understanding of particular sufferings, senselessness or dark forces. But we do have the choice to trust that God will guide, love, support, forgive, understand and in the end, resurrect. This is hard to believe, sometimes impossible to believe. These are the times to develop trust. I believe in God, but I struggle to trust God. But when I do, I am relieved of the burden of trying to BE God, a fool’s errand if there ever was one.