She didn’t answer my email. We were co-leading a project; she had emailed an idea full of passion and depth which I felt was not the direction we needed to go. I had replied as kindly and respectfully as I could, or so I thought. Maybe she was mad. Probably she was hurt. Ideas are our babies; when they’re criticized, we ache a little.
I drove to our next planning meeting scared. In the 20-minute drive I convinced myself that because I had disagreed with something that was important to her, she would no longer trust me. It was the first time I could remember doing that in our friendship. Had I damaged us beyond repair?
She came in and sat next to me. A good sign, I thought. I leaned over and whispered, “I’m so sorry if I offended you in the email,” and you know what she said?
“I haven’t had a chance to check my emails.”
I had convinced myself our friendship was on the rocks and she didn’t even know she was supposed to be mad at me. I had created the whole scenario in my head. As it turned out, she came to the meeting with an even better idea we instantly adopted, which made all our emailed thoughts null and void, forgotten.
Later I wondered why I had so quickly accelerated to thinking I had lost her trust. As a “recovering perfectionist”, I struggle to trust those who have disappointed me and so I tend to assume other people feel the same way toward me. If my friend had read her email there’s a chance she would have been disappointed. But why did I assume she would have stopped trusting me? If I’m going to learn from my struggle, I need to remember that there’s a huge distinction between disappointment and mistrust. They are not equal.
You know who I have trouble trusting? God.
Trust is based on knowledge of someone’s character. We trust those who prove to have integrity, and we distrust those who seem to be without it. We might get disappointed in someone who does not treat us the way we wish they would, but we can overcome this if we still find them trustworthy. But if they repeatedly disappoint us, though, they rightly lose our trust.
Despite my doubts, I believe God has a character which can be trusted. So I don’t think I suffer from a lack of trust so much as disappointment; He hasn’t acted toward me in ways I want Him to. There’s solace for this struggle in the words of Psalm 42:5:
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.
The Psalmist had to figure out how to trust in a God who disappoints. The Psalmist’s answer has become my answer: I choose to tell myself (sometimes out loud even) that God’s character has not changed. God is trustworthy because God is good.
People will disappoint me. I will disappoint them. My loved ones will fall short of my expectations, and I will fall short of theirs. Even God doesn’t escape my sharp eye and relentless words. Despite this, I’m pretty sure I haven’t disappointed God. Not because I’ve been perfect but because God just doesn’t get disappointed in us. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. But disappointed? No, because He knows exactly how far He can trust us, which is… not that far. If God knows we need Him for the very air we breathe, He also knows we need Him for every good thing we think or do.
In the struggle to trust, I choose to not throw away my relationship with God because of disappointment. I will believe that God can handle my feelings toward Him. I will remember that God is not disappointed in me. I will remember that God is trustworthy because God is good.