Trust and Trustworthiness

There is something about going back to your alma mater for a reunion that is both exciting and a little surreal. On May 14-15, I attended the reunion for Princeton Theological Seminary. For me, it has been 5 years since I graduated. Sometimes that seems like a lifetime ago since so much has changed in my life over the last five years. Yet, in other ways it doesn’t feel very long at all. There was a mixture of both those feelings as I made my way across campus and sat down in the familiar pews for opening worship in the chapel.  The chapel was always a place of comfort and rejuvenation and that all came rushing back as we worshiped together in one loud voice. However, as I climbed the stairs of Stuart Hall to sit in the large lecture room I felt the distinct feelings of anxiety and dread that we associated with exams taken in that places. One thing did change – the food! They really feed the alumni well at these events!

It was a wonderful time to reunite with old classmates and catch up on their lives and ministries as well as meeting other alum who have attended PTS though the decades. One of the more interesting points of the event was the keynote speaker Dr. Miroslav Volf a professor from Yale Divinity School. He gave a lecture entitled – Trust and Trustworthiness. He focused on the theological understanding of trust and trustworthiness but he began with newborns as an example of complete and total trust. A newborn is dependent in every way on his or her caregiver. Their psychological, physical, and social developments are rooted in relationship they have with their caregiver. Studies show that the absence of trust can actually stunt a child’s growth. Because of this we know that trust is central to us as human beings. It’s foundations are formed in us as children and we continue to need trust and trustworthiness as we grow and mature into adults. Dr. Volf says,

A person who does not trust at all would strike us as inhuman. We are fragile, temporal, and dependent beings and so we must trust others in order to be able to live and to flourish.
— Dr. Miroslav Volf

Of course this is easier said than done because we know from scripture that all have fallen short and sinned so trust is far too often broken in our relationships with each other. And so if we are in search of someone or something in which to put our trust and we know that even our best relationships, like those with our families or spouses, can fall short of this need. So where do we turn? Well Dr. Volf says, 

For Christians the ideal case of a trustworthy person is God: omni-competent and all-loving and utterly stable in character. All trust and trustworthiness is bound up with God. God is the creator and sustainer of the world, the one who guides history and promises the world’s salvation and fulfilment. This is who God claims to be – faithful to God’s divine character and faithful to the world.
— Dr. Miroslav Volf

Some of you might have a strong and sure understanding of God’s trustworthiness. You are able to see the many blessings that God has showered upon you and you can see God’s hand in the world as clearly as you can see and feel your own hand. Others of you might be struggling to see God as trustworthy. You look around and see your community overrun with opioids, shootings in schools, natural disasters, or war and you think to yourself, “Is this God’s plan?” In good times and in bad we are called to put our trust in God completely and totally. The example of this way of living out our lives and relationship with God is of course Jesus. Jesus, God’s only son, had complete trust in God and spent much of his life showing and telling others about God’s trustworthiness. And so we too are called to follow Christ and put our faith and our trust in God. Now, I know this is not always easy. In those times, remember that Jesus too had moments when he cried out to God. So I encourage you to use Jesus’ own words, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” (Matthew 26:39).