Hello, Easter. Goodbye, Lent. During the last 40 days, we've journeyed with Jesus from isolation toward community, distraction toward mindfulness, arrogance toward humility, judgment toward mercy, and attachment toward freedom. Today, for our final stop on the train … the one that drops us off at an empty tomb on Easter morning … we wander with Jesus from fear toward trust.
"Don't be afraid." In the Gospel of Luke, angels said these words and Jesus said them, too. People were invited away from the all-consuming nature of fear. Jesus understood the antidote for fear, and one of the ingredients in that antidote was trust.
Fear, left to its own devices, takes over our brains. It is defined as, "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger … whether the threat is real or imagined." There are a lot of parts of life that can lead us to feelings of fear: weather, violence, economics, politics, war, personal insecurities, and financial uncertainties, to name a few. Trust puts limits on fear's power and potency and prevents fear from taking over our lives.
Trust means different things to people; there is no one universal understanding of the concept. Our life experiences heavily influence our understanding of trust and trustworthiness. If you grew up in an environment where people behaved in consistent, reliable ways, then trust will likely feel more natural to you than if you grew up in an environment where people behaved in inconsistent, unreliable ways. I mention this as another way of saying: if it's hard for you to trust (God or other people), you're not alone.
I used to have a lot of misconceptions about trust and therefore resisted it mightily. I perceived trust as a naive willingness to relinquish care, concern, and control and then "give it all to God" instead. I have never felt especially comfortable with that idea because I find it exponentially easier to trust myself than to let go and trust anyone or anything else.
After I was diagnosed with a chronic platelet condition in 2010, several people told me not to worry and instead to trust God. It irritated me to no end. "Trust God" has always seemed like the kind of thing well-intentioned people say when they've run out of words.
Since then, a lot of life has happened, and trust and I have gotten reacquainted. I wish I would've trusted God a long time ago because I've wasted a lot of energy feigning influence over that which I had no control.
I believe the main issue was that I didn't actually understand trust. It isn't actually about being naive or uninformed. It's about getting comfortable with uncertainty. Trust takes an unflinching look at life's guarantees and says, "OK." Everyone dies. OK. No one knows when. OK. Difficult things happen. OK. Beautiful things happen. OK. Change is inevitable. OK.
These are all inescapable parts of existence. Fear tends to fight these realities but trust leans in. Trust says, "OK. I understand. I can continue on."
Within individual faith traditions, there are specific theological tenants and deities in which practitioners are invited to trust. God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit. Buddha. Mohammad. Vishnu. Across many of these traditions is an overarching invitation to shift from a life of fear to a life of trust in the Creator of Everything.
There is a scene in the new movie "Jackie" in which a priest has a conversation with the first lady, Jackie Kennedy, shortly after her husband's death. He speaks with her about the nature of uncertainty, doubt and spiritual questions. He says that everybody wonders, and Jackie is surprised at his transparency. The priest goes on, "Every soul on this planet does. But then, when morning comes, we all wake up and make a pot of coffee."
That's trust. It's waking up, making another pot of coffee and continuing on down the path.
Jesus invites us to step toward trust not because trusting is easy but because it's one of the ways he equips us to deal with the realities of being a human. Come what may, God will be present in it all. And no matter how dark and despairing the tombs of this life, the sun will keep rising. Trust enables us to enjoy the view and appreciate the journey.