A Deeper Dimension of Trust in the Lord: “In the Shadow of Thy Wings”
by Darla Isackson
“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge.” Psalm 57:1
The big L-10-11 lumbered awkwardly down the runway. Cleared for takeoff, it shuddered with power that lifted its massive form off the ground and transformed it into a graceful flying bird.
Seated in seat 36-c, I was contemplating the enormous trust we passengers showed in boarding that plane. We literally trusted our lives not only to the skills of the pilot, but to the accuracy of the design of the engineers, the strength of the materials of which the plane was built, the competency of the craftsmen who formed the materials into an airplane, the skill and knowledge and detail concern of the mechanics who maintained the plane, the clear-mindedness and split-second decisions of the air-traffic controllers. . . . on and on.
I thought of other situations where many of us choose to trust our lives to others. Perhaps the most common is driving our cars. Every time we pull out onto a public road we trust that each of the other drivers will be alert, follow traffic rules, and stay in their own lane.
Even when airplanes crash due to pilot or mechanical error, we continue to book flights. Even when we are involved in automobile accidents caused by someone else’s inattention or poor judgement, we get right back behind the wheel. Why should we mortals continue to be so trusting of one another when we are all so inclined to error? I’m going to suggest that we continue to trust in the arm of flesh because it seems to be the only way to get OUR will done. We value our way of life and our freedom to go where we want and do what we want.
Why Is Total Trust in God So Difficult to Achieve?
Perhaps we find it hard to trust God because of this same inclination to want OUR will done. “Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.” (Helaman 12:6)
God never makes mistakes or errors in judgement, never betrays, abandons, or lets us down. So why do we often find ourselves struggling through murky fields of fear rather than staying anchored on the solid rock of trust? Is it possible our difficulty in developing unwavering trust in Him has anything to do with the familiar passages in the 12th chapter of Helaman that remind of the Lord’s chastening? Verse 3 says, “And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.” It would be easy to trust if our whole relationship with the Lord was being rewarded and blessed for doing good. However, his chastening seems necessary for our refinement. It has been my experience that many of our hardest trials come not by famine and pestilence, but by way of misuse of agency–our own and others. They chasten us nonetheless.
The week after the September 11th tragedy I wrote:
“While I mourn, I marvel how quickly America can look to God and plead for His help. No one is listening this week to voices questioning our “right” to pray in public. Reunited in minutes, our common cry became ‘God Bless America.’ I always knew intellectually that God had it right–this business of humbling people and bringing them to Him through adversity. Our current adversity came not through God’s hand directly, but because He safeguards all men’s agency–even if they use it to bring suffering and death to others. However, these few days have been astounding in clarity of the good God can bring from evil. Who hasn’t searched inward, realigned priorities, made new resolutions? Family seems more precious, tiny hours of daily life, like gems. Human rights to choose, to live and love together, priceless jewels. The widespread wish to help is heartening. Suffocating, polluted clouds of materialism and greed evaporated, instantly dispelled by fire and smoke and sorrow to reveal the goodness of our collective humanity. The world remembered brotherhood, and brightly reached out to comfort, lift shattered lives. Best of all, humbled, awed by our fragility, we as a nation turned back to God.”
I see in what has happened a clear pattern-sometimes it takes tribulation to wipe the film from our cloudy eyes. But do we trust that pattern? We hurt, we feel our need for spiritual help, but oh, how quickly we forget. And so the hammer strikes again, the refiner’s fire burns, and we remember. September 11th was the first experience many of our young Americans had with a tragedy close enough to home to be earth-shaking to them, close enough to cause them to assess the depths of their faith and the purity of their priorities. Thinking of them I wrote:
The Party’s Over
A generation in this country, raised to laugh, now learn to cry . . .
And strangely see they never really lived before.
The emptiness of toys and trinkets and TV sitcoms
Crashes to consciousness through images of pain and horror.
Strange how suffering burns away illusions
Revealing in an instant what matters most.
Gratitude: Another Dimension of Trust
Once our priorities are realigned, how can we keep our face turned to the light, maintain our trust in the Lord? How can we remember daily, hourly, minute-by-minute whose plan this is, whose world this is, whose children we are? The old formula, scripture and prayer always seems to be part of the answer, no matter what the spiritual question.
A revelation given through Joseph Smith in consequence of the persecution upon the saints in Missouri is worthy of note:
“Very I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament–the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:1-3)
Experiencing the fulfillment of the promise that afflictions work together for our good has helped me learn to trust the refining process. However, the words “in everything give thanks” in the first verse quoted above, point to another, less understood key to developing this trust. Pondering on this commandment to give thanks for everything, I thought of my earlier tendency to thank the Lord only for the good, beautiful, pleasant, and uplifting even though my major growth has come from the hard times, the trials, the difficulties.
As I begin to mature spiritually, I become more and more aware of the epidemic sin of ingratitude in our country, in our culture, among some Church members, and even in my own heart. What does ingratitude have to do with trust? Just this; when we notice and appreciate the intervention of the Lord in our behalf and the amazing blessings that can come out of every trial, we submit to His will and demonstrate our trust in Him. When we rail against our circumstances and fail to remember that God is at the helm, we are not trusting the Lord, but pitting our will against His.
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21)
Remember, we are not only told in the scriptures to confess his hand in all things, but to give thanks in all things.
“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;” (D&C 98:1)
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:20)
My main thesis is that our degree of trust in the Lord is closely connected to our ability to thank him in all things–even the hardest, worst, most terrible things, the chastening things, even the tragedies. So often our best blessing is hidden in the least likely place–and becomes a Phoenix rising from the ashes of our most unwelcome adversities. Part of an unwavering trust is trusting the Lord to give us daily whatever we need to cope with and learn from and receive good from the current adversities in our lives.
Accepting the Lord’s Plan of Life
The world’s a scary place, Lord–but it’s Your world.
The plan to grow by trial and error brings pain–but it’s Your plan.
I want things easier, cleaner, nicer–but You want me to grow.
Mine is the way of worry
Yours the way of manna.
God Is at the Helm
An article by early Christian writer Hannah Whitall called “God is in Control,” offers some food for thought on the subject of seeing the Lord’s hand in all things and trusting Him implicitly. Hannah told of how she first recognized this principle in a meeting where a woman told of her difficulty in accepting the idea that God was in everything and we should thank him in all things. After praying for some time about this, she envisioned the presence of God like a light enveloping her in the darkness and she saw that nothing could reach her or affect her unless God’s encircling presence moved out of the way to let it (and he would let it only when it was for her ultimate good.). Never again did she find any difficulty in abiding consent to His will and an unwavering trust in His care. Hannah concludes, “This does not mean that we must like or enjoy the trial itself, but that we must see God’s will in the trial. It is not hard to do this when we have learned to know that his will is the will of love. Seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart. More than that, it gives a joyfulness that cannot be described.”
Hannah continued, “I am afraid some of God’s own children scarcely think He is equal to themselves in tenderness, and love, and thoughtful care. In their secret thoughts they charge Him with a neglect and indifference of which they feel themselves incapable.
“The truth is that His care is infinitely superior to any human care. He who counts the very hairs of our heads and suffers not a sparrow to fall without Him, takes note of the minutest matters that can affect the lives of His children. He regulates them all according to His own perfect will.” She gave examples, such as Joseph of Egypt. She said, “Joseph’s brothers undoubtedly sinned, but by the time it had reached Joseph it had become God’s will for him, and was in truth, though he did not see it then, the greatest blessing of his whole life. And thus we see how God can make . . . All things, even the sins of others, work together for good to those who love God. (See Rom. 8:28)”
Hannah says that when we abandon ourselves to Him in perfect trust that he will lead us into wonderful green pastures of inward rest and beside blessedly still waters of inward refreshment.
I wept when I first read the article several years ago. I saw that these principles, internalized, would wipe away my worries for my children, would give me the inner strength and peace I sought. “When the learner is ready, the teacher appears.” In this case, my teacher was a Christian woman who died in 1911–her words of wisdom reached across all those years and touched my heart when I was ready to hear and understand.
A book came in the mail the other day–a resource sent to me without charge for a writing project I’d been hired to do. Perusing that book, I could see it contained precisely the information I needed in order to move ahead on one of my dearest personal goals. The eyes of my understanding were opened and I glimpsed just one tiny piece of God’s infinite love for me, his interest in my progress and well-being
I recognize more and more the impossibility of coincidence in so many of the happenings of my life. The people who come into it who are the very people I need in order to heal from previous heart-wounds. The projects that come my way (even when they seem to be disasters) in retrospect are the very projects I need to add another piece to my puzzle, to prepare me for the next challenge in my life. This happens over and over and over, showing me God’s love with irrefutable clarity, showing me God’s caring, His infinite wisdom of what I need and when.
In retrospect, the Lord has given me a lifetime of see-able, solid reasons to trust Him in all things, but it still has been a lesson hard in coming. Only years after the fact, for instance, have I been able to thank the Lord for heart-breaking family trials. Only in retrospect could I thank the Lord for illnesses and injuries. It is very hard to recognize at the time how good and growth can come from such things. Somehow we must gain a little of God’s perspective to cure us of our short-sightedness.
Since a thousand years is only a day in God’s time, our struggles don’t seem to string out forever to Him–only to us. He must view our life as a quick progression of steps leading us closer and closer to Him. He knows that when we are headed in the right direction we are eventually going to make it, so he has no anxiety for us–only complete belief (actually knowledge) that we will follow the plan of eternal progression line upon line, here a little, there a little, until we make it back to Him. He keeps our setbacks and lack of trust in Him and stumblings along the way in perfect perspective because He trusts we will eventually overcome them. He certainly doesn’t identify us by them as we are prone to do. If I can get a small glimpse here and there of how God sees things, I can be so much more believing and charitable with myself and others. Perhaps I can even learn to be patient with myself when I have a hard time feeling gratitude for uncomfortable, painful, or irritating circumstances.
Thanking the Lord for Fleas
Many true stories from spiritually-based people verify the importance of developing sufficient trust to be able to thank the Lord in all things. Corrie Ten Boom told one I have always remembered in her book The Hiding Place .
Corrie, a Dutch woman imprisoned for helping the Jews, told how she and her sister Betsy suffered in Ravensbruk concentration camp. Their living conditions were despicable. They were given no comforts of life and many of the Jewish women around them felt they had nothing to look forward to except death. But Corrie and her sister Betsy had a purpose in their minds and hearts to reach out to the other suffering women and bring them the message of the Savior, the Atonement, Resurrection, and all the other beautiful truths of the gospel. Unknown to the guards, they taught the other women in their flea-ridden dormitory from one precious, smuggled copy of the Bible
One night Betsy read 1 Thes 5:16-18: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Betsy, knew there was one thing she had never given thanks for. In her childlike faith she knelt that minute and said, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the fleas.” Corrie responded, “This is too much, Betsy. I just cannot thank Heavenly Father for these horrible little creatures.” Corrie soon changed her mind, however. She and Betsy learned that the only reason they had been able to read and teach from their Bible without being found out was that the guards wouldn’t step foot in their dormitory because of the fleas. Those miserable fleas gave them the freedom to share the Bible message with women who needed it desperately, and to enjoy it themselves without harassment. Corrie learned in the most difficult of circumstances that even fleas can be a blessing!
Can we each learn to thank God not only for the fleas in our lives but also for the thorns and briars and noxious weeds that afflict and torment us? Can we repent of our short-sightedness and trust God’s all-knowing, infinite wisdom? I know for sure that kind of trust marks the path that leads to joy and peace.
“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:11-12)
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.