Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it? 10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. (Jeremiah 17: 5-10)
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (who died in Egypt in 586 BC) gives us two ways of living. You can trust in “mere mortals” (verse 5). Or you can trust in the Lord (verse 7). No other options. Trust in man, earthly things, human wisdom. Or rely on God.
The first way is the path of control. You look at your life, your surroundings, and you trust in what you can see and do. You try to control your career, your relationships, your health, your children, your world. You fix things. You send articles to people to convince them to see things your way. You offer unsolicited advice to people. You use formulas and strategies to get things to come out your way. Jeremiah says if you live like this, you’ll be like a “shrub in the desert.” That’s a lonely picture. This is because, as it turns out, people don’t like to be controlled. In addition, you quickly come to find out, control is an illusion. The sure-fire investment goes south. You are not able to have children. Acute depression forces you to leave college. Your daughter chooses the artists’ commune over business school. And despite your faithfulness to the gym and organic food, you find a lump. Just ask this Chinese government official who just missed his flight (for the second time):
The other path is to trust in God. You realize that you are not in control, and God is. There is a yielding, a resting here. This is the place of non-anxiety. You allow God to save you (that’s what the cross of Jesus is about, after all), rather than trying to save yourself.
When I tell people this, they immediately ask, “Well, how do I do that?” They want a formula to make it happen. They want to “do something” to trust God more. This is what the human heart does—assert its own autonomy. As Jeremiah says in verse 9, “The heart is devious above all else.” (Pink paraphrases this in her current single, “Try”: “Funny how the heart can be deceiving/more than just a couple times.” Check out Pink’s gymnastics-infused multi-colored dance-fighting in the video ()). The heart lies and says: “You can control things. Why don’t you give it another try?”
But that’s going back to the old control mindset. God is not ours to control. So what to do? Wait. Rest. Let things go. Pretend like the world isn’t on your shoulders. Many times, trusting God means you do less. And I bet you’ll find that God is already at work, through the circumstances of your life, to loosen your grip on things you can’t control anyways. The more you see things not yielding to your attempts at control, the more you can be sure that God is teaching you to trust him. So what do you do to trust God? Don’t worry—God will get you to a place where you don’t have any other option. And then, as the Psalmist says, you’ll finally find rest for your soul.