The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is God really in control?” In order to trust Him, we need to know whether or not that trust is warranted. The Bible is clear that God’s will happens exactly as He purposes: “The LORD of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand’” (Isaiah 14:24). This should give us strength and confidence, knowing that He is omnipotent, and that when He promises a thing, He also has the power to make it happen. God is sovereign over creation—He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). What He says is going to happen, happens. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9b-10).
What about free will? If God is in complete control, but man’s choices are free and outside His control, how can He really be in control? The philosophy of open theism says that God is constantly reacting and changing to the decisions and choices of man—and that He doesn’t know what will happen in the future any more than we do. This cannot be true, because of Christ. A myriad of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. If God was reacting to the decisions of men, prophecy would not make sense. Why would God say “I’m going to do this” if He wasn’t sure it would happen? That would make God Himself a false prophet! He knew what would happen, which is how He could promise it. And the only way He could know what would happen is if He was in complete control. If the outcome of the future depends on the free will of man, we, not He, would be God. And that idea is eerily familiar; it is Satan’s original lie—you shall be like God (Genesis 3:5). God allows us choice and freedom only within the boundaries of His sovereignty. “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).
Once we understand that God is in control, we must look to His goodness. That is where true trust comes from. Just knowing that God is all-powerful is not enough. We need to know that when difficult or inexplicable things occur, He is good and these things have purpose, even if we can’t see that purpose. The key lies in trusting His goodness, His love, His mercy, His compassion, His faithfulness, and His holiness.
We come to trust God’s character the same way we come to trust a person’s character: by exposure. Paul exhorted the Romans to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). When we conform our minds to the Scripture, we become sure of God. This is not just a process of assimilating information about God, but it is a communion with His Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13) and that the Word of God is truth (John 17:17). The more that we expose ourselves to the Word, allowing that truth to be interpreted to our hearts by the Spirit of Christ, the more we will trust Him (Luke 24:27; Romans 8:9).