Trusting God Without the Packing List
We’re delighted to have Melissa Reeser Poulin as our guest blogger today,
sharing her honest and insightful thoughts on trusting God.
Trust is a scary place for me. It is a location, a landscape—a windy and high hillside without much vegetation, where I can see for miles all around me. I often feel alone there, and I’m not sure what I’m looking at, or where I’m going.
Right now, following early pregnancy loss, I’m slowly emerging from several months of grief. I’m not sure what’s ahead for my family and me. A sea of questions kicks up in my stomach when I wake in the morning. Where will I find the strength to be present for my 1½-year-old when sadness suddenly hits me during the day? When will we welcome a second child into our life? How long will I have to wait? What if it happens again?
Now and during many other times of change in my life—through loss, transition, or a shift in identity— when I am invited to trust in God, I draw a blank. There’s a stubborn image of God in my mind that is only comfort and closeness, and the landscape of trust feels like the total opposite.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned over the many, many seasons during which God has called me to deepen my ability to enter into trust: it doesn’t feel safe, and it’s rarely the kind of trip I’d plan for myself.
If it were up to me, my checklist for traveling through grief, change, or growth in my life would look like this:
- I get to decide what my life looks like on the other side
- My sense of myself and of God will look more or less the same
- I’m familiar with all of the stops along the way, and they’re places I’m excited to visit
- I will feel totally comfortable and calm and “at peace” all along the way
- I will not feel pain, anxiety, worry, or fear
If you have experienced upheaval in your life, you know that you don’t get to check any of these boxes. Walking through change with God doesn’t guarantee any of this—in fact, it’s usually the exact opposite.
For a long time, I figured I was doing it wrong. Trust is supposed to bring me peace, right? I’m supposed to hold God’s hand and actually be able to feel its callouses and tendons. God’s presence should feel so real and constant that it keeps me from feeling my fear and uncertainty. Trust should feel comfortable. It should feel safe.
Instead, what I have come to learn—ever so slowly and through more repetition than I use with my toddler—is that trusting God plunges me more deeply into life, more deeply into my humanity.
In trust, I am alive to every sensation and thought passing through me. My emotions feel close and raw. I walk closer to them not because I feel comfortable or at home, but because I want to know God more fully, and that means allowing God to show me unfamiliar places in my heart. I enter into trust not to get what I want (though I sometimes really wish that was how it worked) but to put myself in the hands of the One who wants nothing more—or less— than my whole heart.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you,” Jesus tells us from the hillside.
He walks with us up the mountain of our pain and fear, and what he tells us isn’t exactly comforting. It’s truth. It’s our checklist flipped backward, turned upside down. God wants us to bring everything within us on this journey he has invited us to share, including our very human emotions. If we’re scared and unsure when we put our hand in his, then we’re probably doing it right.
Melissa Reeser Poulin is a poet, essayist, and freelance writer. Her most recent work appears in Hip Mama, Mothers Always Write, In Good Tilth, and Ruminate Magazine. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. More at melissareeserpoulin.com.
 Matthew 5:4, The Message (MSG)
Hi Joy, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am with you and I appreciate your encouragement, in turn. You’re right that there is hope and beauty to be found through trust, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
This is right where I’m at right now…thank you so much! These words resonate–” loss, transition, or a shift in identity” (check!), ” trusting God plunges me more deeply into life, more deeply into my humanity” (another check!), “isn’t exactly comforting. It’s truth.” (more checks). Then the beautiful hope in it all, “If we’re scared and unsure when we put our hand in his, then we’re probably doing it right.” God has been giving me His word –to trust Him. I long for that all-out-peace thing but there’s a deeper work He’s doing and this post helped put some words to what is going on. I’m so sorry for the losses we’ve faced but thank you for sharing out of those and encouraging another fellow traveler.