How Can You Trust God When His People Let You Down

How can you trust God? Girl confused and seeking to understand God.

On a good day the best part of your intellect may agree that God can be trusted. But consider your feelings and actions. Do you really trust Him? For most of us the answer is often No. How can you trust God when your heart pulls away? When His people let you down?

It’s nice to say that you should look to Jesus and not to people. And you should. But when you’ve been hurt in the name of God or experienced some deep church hurt your brain has a difficult time separating those two things. Trust is not only something you choose; much more it’s something you experience. And from your experience, are you truly able to say “He’s never failed me yet”?

This is why God takes so seriously those who hurt others in His name. Your internal sense of trust is broken–not just trust in general, but your ability to trust the very One who has healing available for you. Is it even possible to come to truly trust Him after you’ve been wounded in that way?

Yes, it is! But that doesn’t happen by simply making a decision to agree with a statement such as “God can be trusted.” You will need to rebuild some pathways in your brain.

So how can you do that?

Your Mental Template of “God”

Your mind has created an unconscious template around the idea of whether God can be trusted. The experiences you have with people purportedly representing God significantly color that template. Since you don’t experience God with your physical eyes and ears, the people you do experience with your physical senses can’t help but greatly impact how your brain feels about God. Church leaders or family and friends who supposedly are Christians, and your earthly father in particular, impact your internal sense of attachment to God.

The Western Christian church has focused largely on left-brain logical statements of “truth.” And that’s important. But logical pronouncements don’t make much of an impact on your internal feelings. God created you as an integrated human being–right brain just as much as left brain. Your feelings and intuition and memories are just as much a part of you as the logical thinking part of you is.

Left and right brain functions are an oversimplification of our human neurobiology, but that way of thinking about this is helpful in moving forward. I’m going to suggest a couple left-brain logical ideas for you to contemplate. And then we need to address the right-brain part of you also if you are to come to trust God after His people have let you down.

Truth for Your Left Brain

If you believe the Bible is true, that’s a helpful place to get truth. So let’s look at a couple Biblical ideas.

First, there are countless examples in Scripture of God’s people experiencing both breakthrough and suffering both individually and collectively. Yes, God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. But thousands of them were also killed in their battles to possess the Land of Canaan. Elijah called down fire from heaven and later rode to heaven in a fiery chariot, but Elisha suffered a long lingering illness before he died. John the Baptist was beheaded while Jesus was here on Earth and only a few miles away. The “faith hall of fame” chapter lists those who experienced amazing deliverance and also those who experienced unbelievable suffering–all with the same faith (Hebrews 11:32-38).

So your bank account, your physical health, your social status, or how others treat you is not a measure of your faith or of whether God can be trusted.

And second, the Bible demonstrates over and over that God’s very best friends bring their most challenging questions to Him. Moses (Exodus 5:22-23), Job (Job 7:20), David (Psalm 10:1, 22:1-2, 74:1), Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2), Mary and Martha (John 11:21, 32), and others did exactly that.

If you are a loving parent, you want your children to bring you their hardest questions. It honors God when You do that with Him. It’s OK to ask God Why?, to pour out your complaint to Him.

And if my words can mean anything to you at all, let me promise you that God is patient. He is not angry with you or rushing you. He has not turned His back on you. You can take as long as you need to work things through.

Soothing for Your Right Brain

Your right brain learns by experiences, stories, and connection with others. In order for your right brain to build new templates around trust and around God, you will need connections and experiences–both with other followers of Jesus and with God Himself.

The analogy is incomplete, but you can think of your experience of being hurt in the name of God as PTSD. PTSD does not have to be permanent; it can be healed. And your mental templates of whether God can be trusted can be healed too.

A few things that can help;

  • Healthy people. There are safe loving people who you can connect with. Intentionally look for them and allow yourself to be real with them. It will take time to trust them, but as you experience a few people being safe your brain will become more open to the possibility that perhaps God can be trustworthy too.
  • The Bible as food. Look at the Bible as soul food that you need to digest and take into your being. Find a Psalm that expresses some of the emotions you feel, and just sit with it for a while. In Mark or John find a vignette of Jesus that somehow resonates with you. Put yourself in the story. What would it have felt like to be there?
  • Attachment to God. Your attachment to God right now may be disordered, confused, insecure. That can change. You might even need a new God. Along the way just choose to be open to the possibility that God might be OK. He’s incredibly patient, so when you’re ready invite Him to come speak with you. Imagine that new experiences with God might be possible.

Your mental template of whether God can be trusted can become healed.

Brains change very slowly, but they do change.

I wish for you the courage the journey requires and the peace, joy, and healing that await you along the way.

Your Turn: How does your heart feel about whether God can be trusted? Where are you in the journey of finding a new template in your mind about God and trust?  Leave a comment below.

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Wrestling with how to trust again takes care, tending, and time. It is possible to find connection, growth, and healing regardless of how difficult things have been.

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