Restful peace, trust in the Lord

The perfect antidote for anxiety and alarm is to trust in the Lord. He never fails.

“A life in Christ is a life of restfulness. There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there should be an abiding, peaceful trust.”1

What did Ellen White mean by this statement? What is restfulness and peaceful trust, particularly in the context of the contemporary world, where these concepts are seemingly scarce? When you sit in a bus, a plane, a train, or a car, what makes you trust that the driver/captain is competent and will take you safely to your destination?

About 18 months ago, as I was setting out on an itinerary to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, news broke out that rebels were active again, close to the city of Goma, one of the places I was going to visit. I was scheduled to lead out in seminars in two different places, conduct a week of prayer, and attend the University of Lukanga board meeting. These activities were scheduled to take a little more than two weeks in the area around where fighting had erupted.

Naturally, the news of the rebel activity alarmed me. I was reminded of Jehosophat’s experience in 2 Chronicles 20. He reigned over Judah and was considered a good king, walking in the way of God. Yet a time came when he and his kingdom were surrounded by enemies from all sides, and he “was afraid” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NRSV). Being alarmed and fearful is natural and normal, and even kings can have fear. What makes the difference is how fear or anxiety brought about by such alarm is handled. Jehosophat knew how to handle anxiety and alarm. He trusted in God. He sought God’s counsel, and declared a fast throughout Judah (2 Chronicles 20:3). Fasting involves soul-searching to ensure that there is no known sin that may hinder one’s prayer from reaching the throne of grace. As a result, Jehosophat did not panic but experienced restful and peaceful trust. Finally, he conquered his panic, and his enemies disappeared.

I, too, tried the Jehosophat way. I prayed about the situation and sent a message to my counterpart, the education director for the local union in Northeastern Congo, asking him to advise me on the security situation where we were going and what to do. A few days before, I had sent my passport to the Congolese embassy for a visa to enable me to enter the country. It was a late application because I had been traveling prior to that time. My counterpart informed me that he would consult with the rest of the leaders there and would let me know. Within a day, he responded that the rebel activities would not disrupt our program, so he advised us not to change our plans. This took some level of trust that God would take care of us. So I prepared for the trip. I was scheduled to travel on a Sunday, so I ordered my ticket on Friday, although my passport had not returned from the embassy. It arrived late Friday evening with the visa.

Meanwhile, the news was not good: the rebel activities were increasing, and on Friday evening the international news media reported that a plane had crashed at Goma airport. Although it was a cargo plane, I knew that in that part of the world such planes often carried passengers. What should I do? I had to use that airport at least once on my trip.

Trusting in the Lord, I started my journey. My first flight was not to Goma, but to Bujumbura, from where I would board a bus to cross the border to Bukavu. I arrived in Bukavu to find the education director and other brethren.

We planned a full-day seminar the following day with teachers and heads of schools. This was my first time in that part of the country. We planned to leave by speed boat, travelling across Lake Kivu from Bukavu to Goma the day after the seminar—a journey of three hours. From Goma we would fly to Kisangani later the same day.

On the day of the seminar, just as teachers were gathering, I learned that the boat was not going to operate on the day we were supposed to travel. The only remaining alternative was to use a night ferry, leaving at 5 p.m. and arriving at Goma the following morning, requiring us to spend the whole night on the lake. The rebel activities were taking place near the western shores of the lake. Thus, the news that we would spend the night on the lake raised concerns and anxiety. Nevertheless, we went ahead with the seminar and purchased our tickets for the ferry. That evening, we boarded the ferry, which was in a state of severe disrepair, but we trusted that the Lord would take us safely to our destination.

The ferry left about an hour late and began moving toward Goma. At about midnight, we heard the boat engines reduce speed drastically and wondered what was happening. A soldier sharing our cabin went to find out. Upon his return, he told us that the boat captain had been instructed to slow down by the United Nations peacekeeping soldiers, who were patrolling the lake at night. We did not know the reasons for such a directive; all we could do was to trust in the Lord and pray for safe arrival.

The night seemed much longer than usual, but eventually we began seeing the lights of Goma on the other side. Dawn was breaking. We arrived and were thankful to God, who can always be trusted. The next segment of our trip was to the interior of the country, to the city of Kisangani, where we were scheduled to hold another seminar. Once more, we boarded the plane with fear and uncertainty, but knowing all the time that there is Someone whom we can trust.

How is trust derived?

Trust was my constant companion on this and similar subsequent trips. There is no substitute for trust and prayer. This experience made me reflect on what Ellen White wrote on restfulness and peacefulness as a consequence of trust. Trust is derived from several sources. It is based on competence – a belief that the person responsible is competent in jobs such as flying a plane. As we board a plane, we do not ask if the pilot is competent. We just trust that he or she is.

Another source of trust is experience. We trust either because we have experienced the event before or whoever is leading out has the necessary experience. This experience may come with age, in which case it may also be referred to as trust due to age or due to prolonged exposure. We would have more confidence that an experienced company would transfer our goods than a newly-formed one.

There is also trust due to acquaintance. Contact or relationship can help us get to know people better and therefore build trust. It is often difficult to trust a total stranger unless there is proof that he or she has one or more of the other qualities such as competence or experience.

Trust due to love is yet another kind of trust. This comes as a result of love that exists between two people. While trust between a child and a parent may be due to age, it is even much stronger if it is based on love. Members of a family trust one another mainly because of shared love. When the trust between husband and wife is based on love it will be much stronger than if it is only based on competence, experience or the passage of time. When love diminishes, so does trust. Trust between members of a family becomes difficult if love is absent.

In our daily life, we assume that a person occupying a position of trust ought to be trusted. This trust may be due to his or her position. Teachers, for example, occupy positions of trust for their students. By virtue of their position, in addition to their competence, experience, and age, they are trusted. It is not uncommon for a young child to argue with his or her parents that such and such should not be so because the teacher said so. This places a very important responsibility on all who occupy positions of trust. It is possible for trust to be lost. But if we act in the fear of the Lord, this need not happen.

God is love, and He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us-even though we were sinners. We can trust Him because He is not only competent, experienced, and dependable but because He loves us. One can, therefore, be at peace and have restful trust in all circumstances. This does not mean that we cannot get alarmed. But it does mean that we know where to go when alarmed. Here is something to remember: “Courage, fortitude, faith, and implicit trust in God’s power to save do not come in a moment. These heavenly graces are acquired by the experience of years.”2 So we need to spend time with the Lord in order to be able to acquire these virtues, including trust. Trust, among other fruits, is borne by those who are truly connected with God.

Hudson E. Kibuuka (D.Ed., University of South Africa) is an Associate Director of the Department of Education of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church. His e-mail: kibuukah@gc.adventist.org.

REFERENCES

  1. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, California, U.S.A.: Pacific Press Publ. Assn., 1956), p. 70.
  2. ____, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publ. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 213.