Why God Can't Be Trusted

Heather Koop blogs at Sober Boots. Recently she wrote a touching piece with the same title as this post where she struggles with the tension of praying and not seeing answers. I suggest that you read it in full here. This passage from it reveals her thinking about the question:

After we hung up, I couldn’t help wondering how long he could hang on.

Or how long I could. Sitting there in my office chair, cradling the phone, something about this whole prayer-of-faith formula—at least as I’d been practicing it—began to enrage me. I just couldn’t bear the responsibility of praying hard enough to save my son anymore. Neither could I deny any longer the betrayal I felt about the very idea that I had to twist God’s arm harder to make Him care more.

I began to cry. More truthfully, I wailed. I told God that I was sick and tired of feeling like I was being forced to repeatedly watch my child about to fall off a high cliff, knowing that no matter how fast I got there, it would not be soon enough to catch him.

And then I felt myself being led where no mother wants to go—deep into the territory of worst-case scenario. In my imagination, and more important, in my heart, my son died. I cried and keened and wrestled with God. I don’t know how long this went on, but I finally arrived somewhere outside of and beyond my faith.

For the first time, I realized that I could not trust God to keep my son—or anyone’s son—out of harm’s way. Because God can’t be trusted to deliver a particular outcome. He can only be trusted with, or in spite of, any outcome. He can only be trusted no matter what.

But “no matter what” is a dagger to a mother's heart, because it means that your only hope is to surrender all hope. “No matter what” is a place you never want to go. Now I saw clearly that it would have to be everything or nothing. Either I trusted God with Noah’s entire life (and his death if it came) in a way that surpassed my understanding of what is good, or I didn't trust Him at all.

That morning, I decided to place my son and all my hope in the hands of a God whose love is so vast and incomprehensible that it encompasses everything— even tragedy. I decided to put my hope in a God so good that one day, if only in eternity, even death and suffering will make some kind of beautiful sense.

Of course, I didn’t resolve all my questions about prayer that day. But something shifted. I determined that I would no longer pray to a God who was a puppet on a string, His will being tugged this way or that, depending on how hard people prayed or if they managed to stay awake.

I still pray. I still ask God to intervene. I still think that kind of prayer has a place. Why else would “Help me!” fall from our lips so often and so naturally? In fact, my entire recovery from alcoholism rests on my belief that God does intervene, that He can and will do for me what I can’t do for myself.


  1. Learning to trust God rather than trust what he might do was a lesson I thought I had learned a few years ago. Now, I am having to learn it all over again. It's not easy.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Sobering reality. I think she has described the struggle and reality aptly ...
    "Because God can’t be trusted to deliver a particular outcome. He can only be trusted with, or in spite of, any outcome. He can only be trusted no matter what."

    Yet there is the paradox of real faith and hope rather than despair or bitterness.

  3. I'm still bitter about unanswered prayer and trust. If he can only be trusted in spite of any outcome, why bother praying? I still pray but its more like "hoping for the best" rather than expecting anything to change.

  4. Thank you, Bob. I also read some of Heather's other blog entries and I find her words enlightening, refreshing, and painfuly honest. I've been feeling like I am on the verge of a new direction in life, but what that direction may be I do not know. Heather's blog let me know that it's OK not to know.

    Hugs to you and Ann! I miss hearing how the two of you are doing.

  5. Well since I lost my battle (my daughter died) I'm not sure what to think right now. More questions than answers.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Sorry for your loss. Words are never enough at times like those.

      For me, life these past years is all about the questions. Most of the answers I once embraced are long gone. Uncomfortable but necessary.


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