Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God. –John Stott, Christian scholar and author
Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 1 Samuel 23:26-28 (ESV)
Mark and Sara found themselves mired in the midst of difficult financial circumstances. Many of us can relate. Having recently moved from one state to another due to an employment change, their financial landscape looked bleak for the next several months. Repeatedly, they crunched the numbers, hoping that perhaps they had made a mistake. Their efforts were to no avail—they had too many bills and not enough income. The only logical option was to somehow borrow enough money to make it through to their next paycheck.
Sara approached Debi and me to ask our opinion about their best course of action. Should they try to borrow money from her parents, put the expenses on a credit card, or borrow from their 401(k) plan? Each option had obvious drawbacks, but they needed to do something to navigate their grim financial landscape.
God as our Provider
“Have you considered asking God for help?” I queried. Sara stood there staring at us with a far off look—the kind of facial expression a person gets when confronted with a new and different idea. A slight smile formed as a fresh gleam of hope entered her heart. No, they hadn’t really considered prayer as a reasonable approach, and the thought of their heavenly Father providing for their needs was certainly more favorable than borrowing money. Mark and Sara had been momentarily blinded to what I like to call The God Factor.
Several weeks later, as we spoke with Sara, her face beamed with excitement as she explained how God had mysteriously provided for their every need. The numbers didn’t make sense on paper, but they actually had an excess in their checking account at the end of the month. Just as God had delivered David when fleeing from Saul in the wilderness, and just as He has miraculously intervened for so many of His children through the course of history, so the heavenly Father had delivered Mark and Sara’s from their financial jam.
The Danger of Self-Trust
As humans, we have a natural tendency to lean heavily, if not exclusively, on our own abilities to figure things out. This pattern is especially pronounced with highly intelligent people, as I learned firsthand through my years as a campus minister. During this time, a consistent pattern emerged. A student would invariably be trapped in some type of undesirable circumstance, for which no amount of brainstorming could produce a favorable solution. Discouragement and despair then followed—often to the point of hopelessness.
Some of their problems were self-inflicted due to self-centered behavior, or a lack of godly wisdom (wisdom and intelligence are very different from one another). Other unfavorable circumstances were the consequences not of their own sins, but of the actions of others over whom they had no control. Of course, there are always those painful situations that are simply the fruit of living in a fallen world. Life is rarely one-dimensional, and so combinations of factors are often to blame. I knew of at least two or three intellectually brilliant students who were so blind to God’s hope that they considered suicide to be their only “logical” (the taking of one’s own life is anything but logical) option.
As a general rule, cranial activity is not something I discourage. Our problem is not rational thought but self-trust. Regardless of IQ, most people, I have discovered, base their confidence on their own ability to see and understand. No matter what expression it takes, self-trust is a form of pride—a vice which is entirely offensive to our Creator. As long as our confidence is in our own selves, we will remain blind to the illumination of God’s ways and susceptible to the dead end trails of human wisdom.
Living by Faith
If a wilderness season is to become a journey of transformation rather than a time lost in oblivion, something must change within us along the way—especially in the arena of self-trust as opposed to Biblical faith. Our journeys must sometimes, then, by necessity, take us to places that don’t make logical sense. Only in those dark valleys can we learn to account for The God Factor. Only then does the human heart begin to grasp that God is so much bigger than our circumstances, so much bigger than our ability to understand, and so much bigger than our pitiful solutions to complex problems.
Faith in our loving Lord always serves as the foundation for true wisdom. Obediently, we move forward, step by step, even when our circumstances don’t appear to make sense. If we are careful to account for the unseen God Factor, everything will come into focus in due season. He is, and always will be, our “Rock of Escape” from seemingly hopeless situations.
This post is drawn from Chapter Twenty-Two of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.