It’s easy to make wrong assumptions when we haven’t had to slough through deep waters. It’s one thing to teach children to apologize and ask for forgiveness. It affects us on a different level when we’ve been deeply, irreparably hurt by someone–especially when they don’t see or seem to care about the damage they’ve caused.
The path of suffering at the hands of another–however intentional or premeditated–is long, hard, and, dare I say, impossible? One woman asked, “So why is it up to me to forgive him? He’s the one who sinned against me. Why does he get off scot free? And why, all of a sudden, is the burden on me?”
Those are fair questions and it’s not wrong to ask. We need to ask. We need to question. God invites us to ask, seek, and knock. He desires our dialogue. He wants to help us wrestle the realities of life. He created us to depend on Him, not ourselves.
So where does forgiveness come in? And how is that different than trust? It’s in other posts here on the site (“Don’t Rush It;” “Certain Justice;” “Restoration or Reconciliation?“).
As it relates to trust, there are two elements. One is the person who gives responsibility or places her weight on another. The other is the recipient of that trust. A person who has been sinned against reasonably loses the ability to put her weight on or trust in the person who failed her. That is not the same as being resentful, bitter, or bearing a grudge. It is God-given common sense.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35), the Master forgives an unbelievable debt. He doesn’t turn around and give that same servant a comparable loan. He is forgiven. He has not demonstrated his ability to bear that level of responsibility.
God’s Word is full of examples from the natural world and trees are central to the Person and message of Christ. Along those lines, here’s a metaphor, based on biblical principles, of trust:
A relationship built on trust is like climbing a tree. I put my full weight on one branch after another as the relationship develops. However, when trust is broken–when a branch gives way–it would be foolish to continue climbing. The result of a broken branch, depending on how large and high it is, could be very destructive and damaging. (Side note: my fall does not affect the tree.)
In the natural world, a broken branch does not heal itself. Left untreated, it begins to rot. Decay, disease, and parasites move in, threatening the integrity and life of the tree itself. However, if the branch is cut back and treated, with time, nourishment, and care, new growth appears.
In the same way, a damaged relationship must begin with investigating and treating the site of failure. Trying to rebuild trust from a place of brokenness leads to discouragement, disillusionment, and further damage. Instead, by cutting back jagged edges, treating the affected site, and applying nourishment, support, and time, there is hope for new trust to develop and growth to occur.
It is helpful to identify specific areas of lost trust before trying to repair a broken marriage or relationship. Those who have been let down and sinned against as a result of lost trust can learn to put their trust in Jesus Christ, who never fails, regardless of others. When those who have been objectified, used, and violated place their trust in Jesus, they are able to move forward with or without the other individuals’ healing. However, reconciliation and the continuation of the relationship is dependent on the individual who extended trust, not the one climbing the tree.
Not trusting someone is neither sinful nor wrong. Trust is not a sign of forgiveness. We forgive others when we trust God with the punishment of their sin against us, the same way we trust God with our sin against Him. Unforgiveness is wrong. Distrust is not. Both take time. Both take God’s supernatural work in and through Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf. Forgiveness is something one individual can do on his or her own. Trust requires two people–the giver and the recipient.
God’s Word addresses trust in many places and settings: priests, shepherds, leaders. In each example and from each individual, He will settle accounts. I can trust God to provide for my needs, to protect me, and guard my soul. I can trust Him in and through all circumstances. However, I am a steward of my trust in others, wisely discerning who I give the responsibility to care for parts of myself and specific tasks that affect my life.
But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25)
…He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23)
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:9)