The telephone pole was eight feet tall, and there was a ladder affixed to the back of it. It was part of a high ropes course at a Lutheran camp not far from the seminary I attended. Someone, we don’t know who, thought it would be a great start to our first year as seminary students if the whole class went to camp for four days. We slept in the dorms with people we may or may not have met before. We ate in the camp mess hall. And then there was the ropes course. Each activity is designed to build camaraderie and create trust. We had walked across swinging logs, gotten everybody over a 12-foot wall and down the other side and put our whole team atop a spinning barrel. And now the telephone pole. The idea was to climb to the top of the pole, stand on top of it, fold your arms across your chest and fall backwards into the arms of your teammates standing below you.
Heights are not my favorite thing. There aren’t many people I trust with my life. And this, in no way, shape or form looked like fun. We asked the smallest people to go first to make sure we could catch them and then worked our way up to bigger people. When it was my turn, I climbed the ladder, stood up on top of the pole, crossed my arms and said a prayer. I was fairly certain I was going to go splat on the ground below. But they caught me!! Miracles do happen. But that wasn’t the scariest part of the exercise. Because we had a man on our team that weighed at least 300 pounds. Not only did we have trust issues about falling ourselves, we were terrified we would drop this man who was so large. He sweated his way up the ladder while we were sweating on the ground. He stood up on the pole, though to this day I don’t know how. He crossed his arms and asked if we were ready. His voice was sort of weak and shaky. We answered as a group in the same voice and then… he fell. And we caught him! I don’t know who was more surprised or relieved…him or us. It was the last exercise on the high ropes course. And there was reason to celebrate. I don’t know how much team building actually happened, but no one got killed. That seemed like a major victory in and of itself.
There are many things in our lives that cause us to have to trust. We trust our cars will run after we take them to the shop. We trust that the lights will come on when we flick the switch. We trust there will be water available then we turn on the faucet. We trust that eventually our kids will listen to what we say, that one day we won’t be the stupidest humans on earth anymore. We trust people will stop for the red traffic lights, that scales will weigh right, and our order of food will not have the green pepper we asked them to leave off.
But the most important trust we have is our trust in God. If we are going to have a relationship with Him, we have to be able to trust Him. We have to trust that He really does have our best interests at heart, even when things look insurmountable. We have to trust even though we cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch Him. We have to trust when His answer is wait, or even no. And it seems like wait is His favorite answer. But we only need look towards scripture to see that when God makes a promise, He keeps it, no matter how long we find ourselves waiting.
The Psalmist writes in 56:4, “In God, whose Word I praise; in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” We have never been promised smooth sailing if we believe in God. Or, if we put our trust in Him. What we have been promised is that He will be with us always. There will be obstacles and challenges. There will be trouble. Jesus warned us of that. But the Psalmist is confident, and we can be as well, that God is on our side. That with God any and all things are possible.
James reminds us, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind.” James 1:6. Abraham trusted that God would fulfill His promise of a descendant. Noah trusted that God would not leave he and his family on the ark forever. David trusted that God would be with him in the face of Saul’s persecution. The prophets trusted that God would be with them as they delivered His word for His people. Mary trusted God’s plan for her even though she didn’t fully understand the consequences. Stephen trusted he was doing exactly as Jesus had called him to do, even as they were stoning him to death. When we trust, our faith allows us to stand firm in whatever comes our way.
It isn’t always easy to trust. We know fear and doubt. The evil one does all he can to plant those seeds of doubt that cause us to not trust the Lord. We know uncertainty and struggle. So has everyone else who puts their trust in the Lord. But God is steadfast, never changing and sovereign. He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
This prayer is in the green hymnal, a part of the evening prayer service. It says this: Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but that only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
In His grip
Pastor Matt W