Crushed by Trust, Comforted by Disappointment

Disappointment can be crushing.

We have all trusted someone who has let us down. Sometimes this is immediately devastating while other times it is slowly corrosive, gradually wearing away at our relationship while at the same time building to a breaking point.

Some of us have trouble trusting because we have experienced crushing disappointment. Someone we never thought would let us down failed us when we needed them. Maybe just once or perhaps repeatedly. And so we live in fear of trusting others because we don’t want to feel the pain of disappointment again.

It becomes no easy thing to trust others.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “To [trust] at all is to be vulnerable.”

Experience is an influential teacher. It shapes us in ways we may not immediately recognise because it operates on a subconscious level. This makes it very easy for our thinking to be informed primarily by our experience. When someone disappoints us we say to ourselves, “Why should I even bother trusting others when all they do is let me down? It would be better if I stopped trusting others altogether.” Over time we come to truly believe this and consequently live as if this were true because it becomes true for us.

If our whole understanding of life were to come solely from our experience we might be justified in thinking this way. However, as Christians we have a greater authority than our experiences. As Christians our ultimate authority in life is God and what he has said in the Scriptures. If we believe this then we need to view our life experiences the way God does and interpret them in light of what he has said about them.

What God has said about us overrules what we say about ourselves.

So then, how does God want us to interpret our experiences? How should we think about them and what should we tell ourselves about them? As we have noted above, what we tell ourselves about our experiences shapes how we live in light of them.

In order to rightly interpret trust and disappointment we need to consider them in the framework of the gospel.

Trust is foundational to the gospel. Unless a person trusts in Jesus they can’t be saved, it is a prerequisite for salvation (Mark 1:14-15). This trust, however, is not a natural trust; it is not something a person is capable of innately. Rather, it requires a supernatural act of God to create this trust in someone:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

This gift of faith (or trust) makes a person able to trust where they were once unable to trust. Furthermore, this gift of faith is exercised throughout the entirety of our life and is not limited to justification but is necessary for our on-going sanctification (1 Peter 1:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

Not only is trust foundational to the gospel but it is also essential in order to love. Love is built upon trust. Our love for God is predicated upon our trust in God. We would not love him if we did not trust him, likewise, we cannot truly come to love another person until we trust them.

Our love is only as deep as our trust.

If our greatest relationship, with God, requires trust doesn’t that tell us that trust is necessary for all of our other relationships?

Trust is part of the fabric of reality as God designed it; it’s how relationships, both vertical and horizontal, grow and flourish. Trust is therefore good and necessary but it is not easy. What is easy is convincing ourselves that it is better to not trust rather than to take the risk of trusting someone which may or may not end in the pain of disappointment.

Is it worth it?

It’s natural to be afraid of trusting others if our experience is characterised by disappointment. Nevertheless, the question of whether we will trust or not comes down to whose reality we accept as true: God’s or ours?

In God’s reality, as in ours, people will let us down. There will still be pain and disappointment. However, in God’s reality that pain and disappointment does not degenerate into bitterness because in God’s reality because of Jesus we are able to forgive and reconcile with those who disappoint us and break our trust as God has forgiven and reconciled with us because of Jesus.

Before you decide on whose reality you want to accept consider these words from John Calvin,

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us…. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions… as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.”

(Institutes 3.7.1)

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