I startled awake, inexplicably terrified. God, I said to the strange stillness, help me trust You. It didn't come. Trust as I've known it will never come again. Before, when I hadn't experienced crushing tragedy and life was more or less the way I wanted it, the way I planned it, trusting God somehow equated to nothing really bad happening to me. I would fulfill my part of the bargain, do the right things, say the right prayers. God would then do His part - send His angels to guard me and those I loved in all our ways. We wouldn't even strike our foot against a stone.
Now, in spite of all my right living, the prayers prayed and churches attended and Scriptures endlessly read, the worst has happened. There's no guarantee the worst won't happen again - if anything could be worse than this. I am face to face with the reality of evil and death despite all my trust. I am afraid. I am angry, and I am broken. What will He do to me next? How can He expect me to trust Him now?
The bedrock of my trust has been revealed. It wasn't so much God - His character and His promises - as it was my safety and security which I naturally chalked up to God taking care of me because I did all the right things to make Him happy. I've found that this God, the one I spent my life believing in, doesn't exist. There is no such thing as an obliging Genie in the sky who keeps his end of the deal I've imposed on him through my so-called righteous living. As Elisabeth Elliot said, if God were merely my accomplice in my pursuit of a safe, happy, fulfilling life, He has utterly betrayed me.
But the God who has called me to trust Him - to trust Him even now - is so much more. This world, and everyone in it, is all about Him: His story, His plans, His eternity. Either God is real or He isn't. If He is real, then everything He says about Himself is either true, or it is one lie after another.
I don't want to survive this. I don't want it as a part of my story. But I have been left here, and it is for a purpose. I cannot live one more day on this earth if God isn't here. I can't draw my next breath if He is a liar. So I repeat Steven Curtis Chapman's words to myself, over and over again. Sometimes it is a silent anthem in my head; other times I say it aloud, through clenched teeth:
I know Your heart is good
Your love is strong
Your plans for me are better than my own
And I will trust You.
All I can conclude about God in the aftermath of this devastation is that He is incomprehensible. He calls Himself good and loving, then does what feels like the opposite of good, the opposite of love. To trust Him now will never look the same as it once did. Naivety was obliterated that early morning on the freeway, and in the aftermath there is no such thing as blind faith. God's promises for good and not for evil are still the same as they always were. He has not changed. What has been completely rewritten is my definition of good. "Good" is not the things I wanted, planned and dreamed for myself. Good is God. God, somehow, even when all of my senses scream otherwise, is good. And in that goodness I pray that I will someday, with more surety and conviction than ever, relearn to trust.