Today I will share some of things that helped me on my journey to increased trust in God. I don’t mean for this post to be a guide to follow, but rather a testimony to encourage. We all come with our own ideas and inclinations and pain, and so our journey to a deeper trust in God will have its own stages.
I should begin by stating that ‘unshakeable’ is the aim, but perhaps it will not be a consistently sustained height of trust on this fallen earth.
Coming to a place where I saw God’s sovereignty over the earth as a positive rather than a disheartening fact.
Dealing with SSA is hard and it’s not my fault that I have this battle, so a question that reduced my predisposition to trusting God was: “if you are all powerful why have you allowed me to have this SSA struggle, which is so tough and lonesome and countercultural? Can you be good and let me struggle with this?” I could not mentally trust God with my decisions while I doubted that He was actually about my best. (Alternatively I could have chosen to pretend that this wasn’t an issue and embraced a fake and superficial trust.)
Several years ago I read a book called Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. He reasoned biblically for the idea that God is all-powerful with total control over everything including salvation. This led me believe in God’s total sovereignty as opposed to a theory like open theism where you can have your God and your control too. Part of Metzger’s book is dedicated to exposing our utter sinfulness and therefore God’s amazing graciousness and love in choosing to save us through Jesus’ work on the cross. This helped me realise that even with the difficulty of having SSA God had demonstrated great love for me. It helped me see God as good and loving. Once I trusted who God was. I could trust that all things really will work together for the good of those who love Him including my SSA. In 2008 this led to a moment of praise, which I expressed with these words: “Do I trust God? Do I trust Him? I’m a minority (Australians), of a minority (Christians) of a minority (dealing with same sex attraction). But wow; an exclamation of astonishment, and maybe praise, but definitely not delight. Wow. That this (SSA) is the way God would choose for me to know that He is enough. That Christ crucified took my sins. That such were some of you. That this (my sinful nature and my sin) is why the wrath of God was upon me. I’m not one to suggest that God takes risks or is ever surprised. If he is Sovereign and in control then somewhere along the way he allowed everything. Somewhere along the way God allowed SSA to come my way. “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen 50:20) Joseph says to his brothers in Egypt years after they sold him as a slave and pretended he was dead. If it wasn’t for SSA I’d probably be a Pharisee. But this battle comes up and knocks out my pride and self-sufficiency. If it wasn’t for SSA would I ‘really’ be a Christian. Maybe I’d just be a cultural Christian. It wasn’t for SSA would I know the depth of my sinfulness and brokenness. Sometimes it surprises me with how very bent my sinful self is. Do I trust God? Do I trust Him? Sometimes my mantra is a line out of Nine Day’s song, Bitter: “If I could change anything; I would change everything.” But these were the thoughts I had this morning.”
Actually knowing truth about God’s character as opposed to knowing bits and pieces about the church or being nice or whatever. This is kind of related to my previous point, but Metzger’s book wasn’t the only place I was learning about God, so I want to expand a bit on this point.
Growing up in the church meant that I had heard hundreds of sermons, but I had never been given a step-by-step explanation of the creation/fall/redemption/restoration narrative. Reading about this helped me understand my place in God’s story. It also helped me understand who God was by knowing what He had done and will do.
I also started listening to sermons by people like John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler. If you are unfamiliar with Chandler this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhS2-K1EUBI&feature=related highlights his outlook and the kind of thinking that was so helpful to me. I had grown up in a church with loose theology (the last minister before we left thought gay was okay and the one before that became a Catholic) and a menu of random sermons from here or there which didn’t instil a strong faith in God. So when I started listening to men who were passionate, confident about the gospel and who God is, and actually teaching the Bible, it awoke in me a greater trust in God.
Another thing was reading the Old Testament prophets. This may sound kind of kooky, but there is pretty much nowhere else in the Bible where God’s heart for His people is laid out page after page after page. They scream that God is involved, God cares and God will restore. I think they are particularly relevant for guys with SSA. We grew up as exiles in Babylon (and other places) from the surrounding Christian culture hiding our shameful attractions and feeling abandoned by God. We want to return to a metaphoric Judah where we are normal and blessed like the other 15-year-olds with hot girlfriends and peer approval. Also Romans 1 talks of God allowing men to go after other men as His judgement on creation (I would not say a judgement on us personally) and therefore our lives can be seen as representations of God’s judgement and His restoration (partly on earth; definitely in heaven), which is very fitting in line of the OT prophets.
The Holy Spirit’s work in my life.
While I was reading and listening and growing I wasn’t the only one at work. I believe the Holy Spirit worked to give me understanding and to melt my heart and to build a greater trust in God. He had prepared my path so that when I read books and listened to sermons I had an open mind and heart that was ready to receive the truth in them. Possibly going to church when I was 18 I had heard some good things about who God was, but at that time I was not ready to receive the truth and use it to trust God.
You have to want it.
Trusting God is counter cultural. Inertia in our thoughts and actions will slowly lead us away from God. This means there had to be a willingness on my part (which was really a willingness born of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life) to actually want to learn more about God and trust Him. If I dedicated my thinking time to pondering the unfairness of my situation I would have got bitter and sinned. I had to make the choice to let go of things my pride was holding onto and head the opposite way. I had to let go of my ‘right’ to whine and complain about my SSA or my personality or whatever and look to God and who He was and what He said. (I don’t think it’s wrong to bring these concerns about unfairness or issues we are thinking about in relation to SSA to light. If there are guys reading this who have those issues please write about them rather than keeping them to yourself, but we have to do it as broken people who are aware of our sin and aiming to do it so others can encourage us to a greater understanding of God in our lives rather than to indulge our unhelpful attitudes.)
Walking in it.
My trust in God needs to be fed. I need to keep praying and talking and reading and learning otherwise it could easily disappear. I need to keep reminding myself of where I am in God’s story, of who He is and how my life will work in relation to that. Temptation continues to come and sometimes I give in, but when I remind myself of who God is and what He is done it is easier not to.
I think the other key to walking in it as SSA guys is having close relationships with brothers dealing with the same thing. SSA is about as weird a struggle as you can get in Western civilisation in 2012. We need to know that we are not alone in choosing to trust God and that we are not alone in having dark nights and misfiring passions that sometimes create emotions despite all our attempts to rein them in. It’s amazing how much easier it is to trust God when I know brothers all around me making hard decisions and making life work with this burden. I am not alone. We are a band of exiles trusting God to redeem all the years the locusts are eating. (Exiled from cultural chrisitanity (the lowercase c is intentional) and exiled from gay guys who embrace their attractions.) We need to have people a few steps ahead of us beckoning us on to greater trust and obedience.