When my mom was diagnosed with cancer six years ago, my faith was fragile. I wanted to reach out and grab hold of something to steady me, but it felt like grasping at air. I’d considered myself a Christian for as long as I could remember, but somewhere along the way my faith had faded into spiritual complacency.
While I had no desire to walk away from my faith, the place I ended up was almost worse: I just didn’t care. I was going through some of the motions (church attendance and occasional prayer) but lacked any kind of spiritual interest or fervor. I only thought about God when I felt that he had let me down in some way.
During my mom’s illness and subsequent death, I experienced faith deconstruction and reconstruction. I carefully examined the things I said I believed, while acknowledging that if I were honest, I didn’t live as if they were true. I knew I should trust God, but I struggled to believe that he was good to me, that he knew what was best for me, and that he had the right to direct me in how I should live.
As I wrestled through these questions, I realized one reason I didn’t trust God was that I didn’t know him. I knew some things about him and who he was supposed to be, but those truths had become distant to me and disconnected from the reality of my life.
I realized one reason I didn’t trust God was that I didn’t know him.
I knew God was love, but what did that really mean? Why was life so painful at times if he loved me? I knew God was good, but by what definition of good? Sometimes he didn’t feel good to me. The knowledge I had of God lacked depth; I couldn’t answer my own questions about what I believed.
God was gracious to me in that journey, giving me a hunger to pursue him and spend time in his Word. I realized how impossible it is to trust someone you don’t know. How could I trust God’s goodness if I didn’t even know what that meant?
A Simple Question
I began approaching the Bible with a simple question: What does this passage tell me about who God is? Asking God to help me know and understand him better as I read the Bible slowly became part of my daily habit. As I read Scripture—from the Gospels, the epistles, the psalms, and even Leviticus—I considered and briefly journaled what each passage indicated about God’s attributes or character.
I began approaching the Bible with a simple question: What does this passage tell me about who God is?
Sometimes observing truth about God’s character was simple. For example, when I read Deuteronomy 7, I could easily see that God is faithful and keeps his covenants. In Ephesians 2, I identified that he is rich in mercy and loves us. But some portions of Scripture required more thought. Sometimes I needed to take a zoomed-out view of the whole narrative of Scripture to understand why genealogies, blueprints for buildings, and prophetic judgments against other nations were included in the Bible at all.
For example, what about Exodus 25–27? These chapters focus on instructions for making the tabernacle, lampstands, and the courtyard around the tabernacle. What does that have to do with God’s character? When I read those chapters, I thought about how the instructions pointed to a greater truth: Our rebellion against God ruptured our relationship with him. Sinful humans cannot approach a holy God in the way we think best. Thus, the Old Testament instructions for the tabernacle laid out the precise way that God’s people could offer acceptable worship.
With this in mind, I wrote of Exodus 25–27: “He is God who made a way for his presence to come down and dwell among sinful men and women.” This truth magnified my affection for Christ, whose perfect, once-for-all sacrifice means that tabernacle and lampstand instructions are no longer required for us to approach God.
A Significant Effect
If you’d asked me what effect this practice was having on my spiritual life when I first started, I would have said I wasn’t sure—maybe none at all. It felt like such a small thing. The effects were not obvious each day, but became visible over time—in the same way that a steady drip accumulates water. Each drop seems insignificant on its own; but collectively, they can fill buckets and pools.
My confidence in God grew as my mind continually turned toward the truth about who he is. The challenges I had felt in trusting him began to slowly fade, because I knew him. His Word became the great revealing of himself to me, and as I poured my heart out to him in prayer, a real, deep, and meaningful relationship slowly formed.
My confidence in God grew as my mind continually turned toward the truth about who he is.
Many things over the years have contributed to my spiritual development, but this is one practice I plan to continue for the rest of my life. Trusting God doesn’t have to feel like a blind leap (as it did for me many years ago). Reciting truths about God’s goodness and love can be more than an empty ritual. God gave us his Word for the purpose of revealing himself to us and telling us how we ought to live in response.
Now, when I say that God is faithful, loving, merciful, and just, a deep, overflowing well of stories, insights, and truths bubbles up within me about how God has continually demonstrated these attributes throughout history and in my life.
As the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah,
Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. (Jer. 9:23–24)
Over and over again, I have learned that God is all that his Word claims him to be, and he is wholly worthy of my trust.