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Learn How and When to Trust in a World of Betrayal

Learn How and When to Trust in a World of Betrayal

Trust is the foundation of every relationship in life. But what happens when a spouse cheats on you, a friend betrays you, or a co-worker sabotages you?  Even smaller misdeeds - like a home repair worker who fails to show up when promised, then overcharges you - can threaten your ability to trust. 

Unfortunately, our fallen world is full of reasons not to trust. Yet God still calls on us to trust - not through blind faith, but through the wisdom He gives. Here are some ways you can overcome betrayal and fear to learn how to trust wisely:

Don't go to extremes.  If you've been hurt, it's easy to feel as if you can't trust anyone again. If you're trying to trust more, it's appealing to think you may be able to trust everyone all the time. But, in reality, you shouldn't distrust in all situations any more than you should trust in all situations. Remember that sometimes it's wisest to choose to trust, and sometimes it's smartest to choose not to trust. Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern when to trust and when to distrust.

Take an honest look at yourself.  Ask God to show you the hard truth about your own tendencies toward sin.  Consider the times you may have made a commitment only to back out later, been disloyal, deceived yourself or someone else, rebelled against authority, or presented different personas to different people instead of acting the same with everyone.  Understand that every person - including you - in our fallen world is capable of betrayal.  But also know that God stands ready to help everyone live with more integrity.  Don't get stuck blaming others for your problems.  Remember that you can't control what other people do, but you can choose how you react to them.  Rely on God to help you learn how to respond to others in healthy ways.  Also ask Him to show you how your past is affecting your present attitudes and actions.  Know that God is with you in the midst of your pain and will help you heal.

Don't be surprised.  Expect that our fallen world will be full of darkness, so when you encounter it, you won't be surprised.  But also expect that God will shine His light into the darkness when you pray, and that light will overcome the darkness.  Know that you can always trust God, but that you should have a healthy skepticism about people - yourself, and others.  Count on the Holy Spirit to help you figure out when you should trust people and when you shouldn't.  Expect good things to happen whenever you invite God to help you in any particular situation.

Take baby steps before giant leaps.  Rather than trying to take huge leaps of faith right away, try to trust in routine, relatively undemanding situations first.  Then, gradually, you'll be able to move toward exercising more and more trust.

Forgive.  Realize that you have a choice to make every time you're hurt.  Will you let your anger fester into bitterness and explode into revenge?  Or will you prevent it from poisoning your life and decide to pursue forgiveness?  Remember that God commands His people to forgive, because He has forgiven us.  Walk with God through the process of forgiving whenever you're hurt.  Remember your pain at being betrayed, your guilt for similar faults, your victory in Jesus' completed triumph over sin, your need to forgive, and your need to move on to the life God has for you in the future.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you at each step of the way.  Know that God can and will somehow bring good out of your pain if you choose to forgive.

Avoid foolishness.  Use the common sense that God gave you when deciding whether or not to trust in any given situation.  Don't put God to the test by deliberately doing something dangerous and expecting Him to perform a miracle to rescue you.  Beware of shortcuts, like following a get-rich-quick scheme instead of working hard for an honest paycheck.  Don't rush into decisions; be patient enough to give yourself time to fully analyze them first.  Take all the time you need to thoroughly think and pray about decisions, unless a true emergency calls for you to make them quickly.

Put down your shield.  Realize that it's useless for you to try to protect yourself from getting hurt.  Understand that only God can truly protect you from anything.  Don't lose out on rewarding experiences that He wants you to have.  Decide to take the risks He calls you take so you can live an abundant life.  Remember that your Heavenly Father wants only the best for you.

Turn your worries into prayers.  Every time you find yourself feeling anxious about something, say a prayer about it.  God will answer your prayers and build your trust as you build a habit of turning to Him more often.  Never minimize what God can do in and through you.  Know that He is always at work, even if you can't see what He's doing behind the scenes.

Saturate yourself in the Bible.  Read and meditate on God's Word often so that it shapes your everyday understanding and responses.  You'll find your wisdom for knowing when to trust and when to choose not to trust increase steadily.

Pursue a healthy vulnerability.  Be humble enough to be vulnerable with others, sharing your life with them in meaningful ways and building close, lasting relationships.  Drop your pretensions and show people who you really are.  Remember that God loves you deeply just as you are and wants you to reach out to other people without undue fear.  Know that God can use people you trust to help you grow.  But if you refuse to open up to others, you hinder God's work in your life.

Concentrate on God's promises more than on your frustrations.  Know that the more you think positively, the more positive change you invite into your life.  Understand that what seems hopeless to you can never be hopeless to God because anything is possible with Him.

Listen to counsel from people you respect.  Seek advice from people who have earned your trust already.

Listen to your intuition.  Don't discount the inner nudges you sense when trying to figure out how to proceed.  Pray for God to confirm whether or not they're promptings from His Spirit to yours.

Make prayer a constant practice.  Make a habit of talking and listening to God throughout every day. After a while of practicing frequent prayer, it can become as natural as breathing. Expect your sense of hope to increase as you pray.

Live in the present.  Let go of the baggage you're carrying from the past. Don't worry about the future; God has it in His hands. Make the most of all you truly have right now - the present.

Adapted from Who Can You Trust?: Overcoming Betrayal and Fear by Howard E. Butt, copyright 2004 by Laity Renewal Foundation. Published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.

Howard E. Butt, Jr., is a businessman and an early modern pioneer on "faith in the workplace." He is president of the H.E. Butt Foundation, the Laity Lodge Foundation, and the Laity Renewal Foundation. His radio spots, "The High Calling of Our Daily Work," are heard throughout the United States. His previous books include, The Velvet Covered Brick, Renewing America's Soul, and At the Edge of Hope.  He and his wife, Barbara Dan, live in San Antonio, Texas.