It appears on our money in the United States. It is our official national motto, “In God We Trust.” See article here But is it true?
In recent years, many people and groups have tried to challenge this simple four-word phrase. Some claim that it violates the “separation of church and state”. However, the phrase is not specific to any one religion– most of the major world religions (and most of those practiced in America) agree that there is (at least) one God, who can and should be trusted.
I actually worry a little less about those who are challenging the phrase than about those who simply ignore it or give it lip service. And I pray that I don’t fall into the latter group, but in certain moments, I can’t honestly say that I am trusting fully in God. Instead, I tend to trust in various “God-like” things:
- I trust my own intuition or my own reason
- I trust “experts”
- I trust “the science”
- I trust “the numbers”
- I trust in the money that bears the motto
- I trust in my own strengths and abilities
- I trust in my husband
- I trust my church
- I trust my family
- I trust what I read on Wikipedia or what I look up on Google
- I trust what my friends send me on Facebook or Twitter
- I trust what “they” say on TV
- I trust what I read on a cereal box or food label
- I trust headlines
- I trust photos and videos I see on the news
- I trust what I hear on the radio
- I trust celebrity endorsements
- I trust public opinion
- I trust my feelings…
Of course, some of the things listed above are obviously suspect; others seem reliable and true. It’s hard to argue against some of the things on the list– it’s hard to doubt what I see, what can be measured, or what has proved true in the past. And yet, I have been hurt and betrayed by many of these things– my feelings are unreliable; my friends or family give me advice with good intentions, but bad results; images and even eyewitness accounts don’t always tell the whole story, and, increasingly, honesty and integrity are being crushed out by compromise and expediency. “If it bleeds, it leads…” “The truth is evolving..” “We all have our own ‘truth’..”
God’s truths are eternal and righteous; that doesn’t make them easy or comfortable. Sometimes it seems as though God takes a stand on both sides of an important issue– or that He takes no side at all– leaving us confused and wanting quick and well-defined answers. I have friends who agonize about being on the “wrong side of history” with many current issues. Let’s face it– no one wants to be on the “wrong side” of anything. We draw lines and pick sides– both sides can’t be “right”, can they? So how can we know if we’re trusting God if God is silent or ambiguous?
In the end, there are a few guidelines that have helped me be more confident and have acted as anchors for my faith:
- Reading the Bible: not a verse here, or a chapter there to support a particular action or position–consistent reading THROUGH the Bible– from beginning to end, or at least through an entire book at a time.
- Asking tough questions: I would love to assume that I already know the answers or have the “right” opinions, but if I can’t handle being challenged; if I never have any questions or can’t ask the ones I keep pushing down, that should be a sign. Sometimes the more questions I ask, the more I have! But, as uncomfortable as it is in the beginning, it is better to ask, and chase after an uncomfortable answer than to ignore the question or pretend to have all the answers.
- LISTENING— really listening, whether to friends who seem to know all the answers (see above) , or those with really good questions. It also means listening to those with whom I am tempted to disagree, and to those with whom I passionately disagree. Listening is not the same as accepting or agreeing, but it is important for at least two reasons:
- Every person is made in the image of God– how I treat them is a reflection of my love for God. I will fall short; I will still hurt people’s feelings, whether or not that is my intention, but if I’m doing it through pride, hatred, or disdain, I am dishonoring God.
- Second, I cannot say I understand a person if I’m cutting them off, talking over them, and finishing their sentences for them. Often, while we may disagree on semantics or details, it turns out we agree on more than we assume we know about “the other side.”
- Praying for wisdom and discernment. It sounds odd to those who trust in their own understanding, but God WILL open your eyes, ears, and mind to truth, even if it’s being twisted, covered up, hidden, or falsified. God promises, again and again, to give wisdom freely to those who ask. He doesn’t want us to be confused and frustrated– but He does want us to seek out His truth instead of wallowing in the bog of “little white lies” and obfuscation around us.
- Waiting and listening for the Holy Spirit to prompt my conscience. This is much like asking for wisdom, but more subtle, and in some ways more dramatic. The Holy Spirit is our guide and counselor (think Jiminy Cricket, but much more spiritual and always right). Even if I’m not aware enough to know what to ask or what to question, the Holy Spirit will often prompt me. Have you ever been reading along, or listening to someone’s story, and suddenly you just get the sense that something is “wrong”– you’re not getting the whole truth; or there is a detail that stands out and doesn’t make sense, and it keeps niggling at your conscience? Yeah– that. Pay attention to that– even amidst the graphic images and angry voices surrounding you.
- Keeping track of God’s faithfulness– I don’t maintain this blog because I “wish” that God was faithful, or because someone managed to convince me that this is what I “should” believe. God has proven faithful through all my questions. I know I can trust Him because I have trusted Him through good times and difficult times; times when it didn’t make sense, when it wasn’t popular, and when circumstances pointed in other directions. I have seen God’s hand at work in history and prophecy and personal testimony in ways that defy expectation and explanation.
And whether of not it’s printed on my money; whether or not it’s popular or “patriotic” or punishable by law, I will continue to trust in God. He is trustworthy and true; faithful in mercy and love; sovereign and altogether righteous. In God I have trusted; In God I trust; and In God I will continue to trust.