February 8, 2019 -

The Definition of Trust

Dr. Ed Delph, shares in podcast #8 some summary statements about trust that can be very helpful. They are short and practical and give us something to focus on. Here are just a few:

         Those who created yesterdays pain do not control tomorrows potential

Whatever you can tolerate you can’t change

The broken become masters at mending

When we lose trust we need to remember, “when you can’t see God’s hand, trust in His character.” Why? Because He is faithful and never changes. He can be trusted because He is trustworthy. If we put our hope in the one who is trustworthy, then we will soon be able to believe that he will help us work through all of life’s situations.


What Is Trust?

In our book Learning How to Trust we say, “if we are to make any progress toward reclaiming trust in our lives, we must all be working with the same definition of “trust.” Words are critical to our thinking. Words define, characterize, and become a substitute for the idea or thing to which we apply them. Words actually create the reality of what they symbolize for us.

In her autobiography, The Story of My Life, Helen Keller describes her experience as a blind and deaf child. With only her senses of taste, touch, and smell intact, she groped through her family’s home like a wild animal. Unable to define her needs or what she desired to meet them, she flew into tantrums and rages in her frustration. Without a word attached to an idea or object, she could not effectively think about either one, let alone express the idea to another person.

You may be able to visualize a cat and think about it without using words, but how do you visualize “freedom” or “democracy” or “trust”? We learn the majority of our words from our families and culture, but often these definitions may be distorted in some way depending on the bias of our teachers. If your definition of trust is twisted, then we have just uncovered the first problem. For the purposes of this book, I have chosen the following definition from Webster’s dictionary because it is widely accepted, clear, concise, and consistent with the way “trust” is used in the Bible. Webster’s defines “trust” as:

  1. a firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing; faith; reliance. 2. confident expectation, anticipation, or hope (to have trust in the future). [i](Emphasis mine.)

Our first goal in learning to trust again is to develop a firm belief and confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, and justice of God and His Son Jesus. We must develop our faith in Him; we must learn that we can rely on Him; we must develop confident anticipation for the future plans He has for us.

To trust God is the same as having faith in Him. Remember what the Bible says about faith:

“And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

So believe in God’s existence and in the fact that He rewards diligent seekers is a necessary ingredient of genuine trust.

Verticle Versus Horizontal Trust

There are two types of trust: Vertical and horizontal trust. Our secondary goal is to learn to trust God as He works through other people. Though the Scriptures warn us, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save,”[ii] we can trust in people as the life and attributes of Jesus are formed in them. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” [iii]In other words, Paul recognized that even though these believers had gotten off base in their thinking, they still were in the process of maturing, just as children are in the process of becoming adults.

When the life of Jesus is manifested in a person’s life, then we can place a degree of trust in him. We are really trusting God, who is at work in that person.”

It may take some time to trust, especially if the person has hurt you. But as you look to the Lord and pray that He will help you and guide you in what is safe to trust. He will show you what you need to do.


[i] Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. (1988) Victoria Neufeldt & David B. Guralnik (Eds.) New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

[ii] Psalm 146:3.

[iii] Galatians 4:19.


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