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Trusting God or Self? (Jeremiah 17:5,7)

by Julia Bruce
CEO, Author, and Conference Speaker

Trusting God- even in difficult times

Trusting God when everything is going right in life is easy. But what about when horrible things happen? What about when there is pandemic and racial unrest? What about when the world around us walks further and further away from God? Do you still reach out to a hurt and lost world and help them bear the unbearable burdens they face? In your most difficult and heartbreaking moments are you still point people to Christ because you have a hope and peace that the world doesn’t understand?

Trusting Self or Trusting God

The prophet Jeremiah recorded the Lord’s words in chapter 17 about both the man that trusts in himself, who God says is cursed, and the one who is trusting in God, who God says is blessed.

In verse 5, the Lord says: Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

In verses 7-8, the Lord says to Jeremiah: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Trusting God leads to Hope

The blessed man (or woman) not only trust in the Lord, but their hope is in the Lord. In our English language when we use the word hope it carries the connotation of a “feeling of desire for a certain thing to happen.” It’s like us Floridians saying “I sure hope it snows on Christmas” but knowing the likelihood of that happening is very slim…and slimmer the more south you go. Biblical hope is something totally different. It is a hope that is a confident belief and expectation in the truths and promises of God. 

Biblical hope not only desires something in the future – it expects it to happen and is confident it will happen based because God said it would happen. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 we find that those who hope in God find “a firm foundation” and are able to “take hold of the life that is truly life). That firm foundation is built on the power, provision, promises, and personality of God. We know that God is capable of doing exactly what He says He will do because nothing is impossible for Him (Genesis 18:14, Luke 1:37). We know that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). God can make a way to provide when there seems to be no way (Isaiah 43:19). He is the one who helps us (Isaiah 41:13).

God is 100% trustworthy. We know that He cannot lie. He doesn’t make a promise and then change his mind. He doesn’t speak but then does not act. God fulfills every promise He makes. (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2). His personality – or His character – is who He is. He is not just merciful – He is mercy. He is faithful. God is good. He is righteous. He is love. God is justice. He is strength. He is comfort. And we can trust Him. Our firm foundation is solid and trustworthy and that is why He is our hope and we can put our trust in Him.

Trusting God leads to Blessings

God said to Jeremiah that the person who trusts in the Lord is blessed. He or she is like a tree that is planted alongside of a river with a strong and deep root system. In Revelation 22:1, John wrote that an angel showed him the river of the water of life that flowed from the throne of God and the Lamb. In John 7:38, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

Watered by the Living Water

As a Christian, when we are trusting God, our roots are being watered by the living water of Christ. As we dig into God’s Word, meditate on it, and apply it to our lives, our root system becomes more firmly entrenched in the nurturing soil of the Bible.

A tree with a strong root system is able to withstand calamity. The “hurricanes” of life can blow through but when our spiritual root system is firmly and deeply buried in the promises of God, we will withstand the storm. We will have no need for fear or anxiety, because we know that God works all things out for our good (Romans 8:28) even if we don’t understand it right now.

It doesn’t mean we don’t grieve a loss or feel the effects of the storm. We will still feel the wind whirling around us and hear it howling at ever corner. But as we stand on the solid foundation of Christ, we are able to still praise God in the storm and trust that His promises are true. Even in the middle of the storm, our leaves will stay green and we will keep producing the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The shrub in the desert

However, if we back up a few verses in Jeremiah 17, we find that God also said to Jeremiah that when we trust in ourselves and our own strength, our heart departs from the Lord and this person is cursed. (Jeremiah 17:5). God likens this person to a shrub in the desert, dry and parched. He is so thirsty that he isn’t able to see good when it does come. All he can expect is to “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, which is not inhabited.”

Parched without any Living Water

God created us with a soul that is always seeking Him. But when our trust is not in God, it is parched and without any living water. Desperately seeking the living water, we turn, instead, to every cesspool of the world to try to find what our soul is longing for. We will turn to sexual relationships, drugs and alcohol, pornography. Or we might turn to things not as bad, such as money, careers, political power, or family.

However, none of these things will satisfy the thirst of our soul. And because these are the things we have placed our trust in, when the storms of life come the things of the world will fail us. These things to do not provide soft, fertile ground for our roots to sink deep. In the desert, the ground is dry and hard and the tender roots of plants find it difficult to break through the hard ground so they can be nourished. Even if a plant or shrub springs up, it generally will die quickly because it is not being nourished. It’s roots are very shallow and when a storm comes, it is uprooted and blown away.

So which is more like you? Are you more like blessed man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord. Or are you more like the man that departed form the Lord and is parched in a dry and weary desert? If you’re not sure which is more true for you, then think about how you react when the storms of life show up. It’s easy to trust God when everything is going well. But where our trust is when life becomes unbearable will show our true loyalty – are you trusting in your own strength or do you trust in the Lord?

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