In listening to women share their stories, I repeatedly hear comments such as:
I don’t want to let my team down.
If I confide in someone, they will think less of me.
I have very high expectations for myself.
I’m a perfectionist.
I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.
At first the statements seem harmless but when you view the statements in light of heart worship, a question arises. Could it be that the counselee’s mistrust of God is stealing their focus off God and onto worldly opinions? A deeper look reveals a heart issue referred to as “fear of man.” In this blog, I will share the connection between fear of man and mistrust in God.
First, let’s examine a working definition of “fear of man.” According to Edward Welch, “We fall into fear of man when we desire the approval of others so much that we need them, (for ourselves), more than we love them, (for the glory of God.).”1Edward Welch, When People Are Big and God is Small, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, pg. 19 The comments above indicate a strong compulsion to crave the approval of the world. In Proverbs 29:25 fear of man is described as a “snare.” Paul tells us in Galatians 1:10 that we can’t please God and man and if we please man we are not a servant of Christ. God’s Word contains all we need to know to be rescued from this snare.
How should we as biblical counselors guide our counselees from mistrust in God to trusting God? It begins with giving them hope. Hope in the knowledge that with God there is no reason for doubt. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the assurance that what we hope for is guaranteed by God’s promises. However, the world’s hope offers no guarantees, or as one of my counselees said, “the world’s hope is like wishing on a star.” A believer’s hope leaves no doubt because it is grounded in the character of God:
• God will never leave us or forsake us (Romans 8:38-39, Hebrews13:5).
• God is our refuge and fortress (Psalm 91:1-2).
• God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
• God is faithful in all things 1Corinthians 10:13).
• We will have trouble but God has overcome the world (John16:33).
Working through these verses and others provides hope and encouragement for our counselees.
Keys to Trusting God
The three keys to learning how to trust God are understanding His sovereignty, His wisdom, and steadfast love. Having this understanding will lay the foundation for trusting God’s promises and not the snare of the world’s empty opinions.
God’s sovereignty is the supporting foundational piece to trusting God. Scripture informs us that God’s eyes have seen our unformed substance before the beginning of creation (Psalm 139:16). God makes both peace and calamity (Isaiah 45:7) and He made everything for His purpose, both good and evil (Proverbs 16:4). God created good work for us beforehand, and every one of our days are already ordained (Ephesians 2:10, Romans 8:28-29). God is in complete control of our circumstances and their outcomes (Isaiah 46:9-10).
God’s wisdom is the second key to trusting God. Scripture informs us that God’s understanding goes beyond all measure (Psalm147:5). Every decision He makes is perfect, pure, impartial, gentle, reasonable, and full of mercy (James 3:17). God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding, His judgments are unsearchable and no one can be His counselor (Romans 11:33-34).
God’s steadfast love is the final key for trusting God. Theologian John Oswalt speaks regarding steadfast love (hesed) and says that it is “a completely undeserved kindness and generosity.” God’s steadfast love is part of the nature of God’s character (Exodus 34:6-7). His steadfast love endures forever (I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 118,136), and even though the mountains may move, God’s steadfast love for us will not be shaken (Isaiah 54:10).
Understanding the three keys to trusting God will help counselees to trust in God’s promises and not the snare of the world’s empty opinions.
The Act of Trust
With the foundation of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and steadfast love our counselees will be prepared to embrace trusting God wholeheartedly. However, according to Jerry Bridges “trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold of the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seems to overwhelm us.”2Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, NavPress, Published in Alliance with Tyndale Press, pg. 202 Therefore, as counselors, we must emphasize how important it is to pursue God and His promises no matter what the circumstances.
Scripture informs us that whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25). That we will be filled with joy and peace as we trust in Him and our joy will overflow (Romans 15:13). When we trust in the Lord with all our heart, He will show us the way (Proverbs 3:5-6). God encourages us to put our trust in Him by reminding us that He does not grow weary, and His understanding is unsearchable. He will renew our strength and we will not be weary (Isaiah 40:28, 31). His steadfast love surrounds those who trust Him (Psalm 32:10). Be patient, the understanding of trust is a growing process that takes time.
Understanding the connection of fear of man to trusting God can be difficult for our counselees. God’s word contains the direction our counselees must follow to unravel their mistrust, put off their fear of man and begin to live their lives to the glory of God.
- Counselees may struggle with trusting God because they have put their hope in something or someone other than God.
- Counselees may crave after the accolades of others so much so that trusting God is far removed from their daily lives. Their desire for instant gratification is a strong snare.
- Counselees may not understand the extent of the power of our sovereign God.
- As counselors, our responsibility is to help them understand that trusting God requires them to actively place all their hope in Him. It means that they believe God is trustworthy despite their circumstances.
- Using Jerry Bridges definition of trust, design homework that allows them to not only memorize his definition but write one of their own to engage them in their understanding.
- Break down Bridge’s definition into smaller sections and have them explain how the phrases impact their daily life.
- Hope assignments can be creative in nature: journaling, writing a poem, drawing, etc.
- A gratitude journal or a timeline of events is a way for counselees to grasp the power of God’s sovereignty.
- Use Psalm 136 as a springboard and have your counselee meditate on God’s steadfast love. Have them journal their thoughts.
- Have the counselee give you examples of how right responses to God’s sovereignty brings comfort.
- Using James 3:17, have your counselee define the words perfect, pure, impartial, gentle, reasonable, and full of mercy.