Faith and Trust
There is a good deal of overlap between the words faith and trust in English, but they are also different. At the most basic level, faith is a noun – it is something we have or are given. Trust is primarily a verb; it is something we do. This is true in the Bible, also. Although the same Hebrew and Greek words are translated as both “faith” and “trust” in the English Bible, context and the form of the words show us whether faith or trust is meant.
How does the difference between faith and trust affect us? To use a physical analogy, we believe that aircraft can fly – we probably have absolute faith in that fact – but to board a plane for a flight we also must trust the pilot. If we suspect the pilot is inebriated we might get off the plane immediately – we have faith that it can fly safely, but we do not trust that it will.
In the same way, we can have faith in something or someone and still not trust them. The prophet Jonah is a Biblical example of this – Jonah had faith in God, but did not trust him (Jonah 4:2). In the New Testament, the apostle James tells us that even demons believe in God (James 2:19). They have “faith” that God exists , but they do not choose to trust and follow him. So it is not enough to just have faith in God, we must also trust him – and the connection between faith and trust is a two-way street. On the one hand, trust is our active response to what we already have faith in, but on the other hand, the more we develop our trust in God, the more our faith grows with it.
Hope and Trust
Hope and trust are also directly related. If we do not really trust any person controlling a situation in which we are involved, we will have very little hope in the outcome. That is why our trust in God is so important for a life that is truly based on hope. We can see this principle in the book of Romans: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Here, Paul clearly tells us that we will be filled with the joy and peace that come from hope “as” or to the degree that we trust in God – and he stresses that fact a second time in the same verse by telling us a result of trusting God is that we will overflow with hope!
This is a principle found throughout the Bible – it is only to the extent that we trust God that we will really look forward with hope for this life and the next. In the apostle John’s description of his vision of the new heaven and earth he tells us “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:5). John reminds us that we can look forward to renewed life in a renewed world precisely because God is trustworthy – we can hope because we can trust!
Love and Trust
There is an old proverb that “When mistrust comes in, loves goes out” and it has often been said that we cannot deeply love those we cannot really trust because the foundation of all love is trust. This principle is often as true spiritually as it is physically. Even if we say that God is able to love us with a perfect love that needs no trust, this may be true, but theologians have argued that ultimately God’s love is based on trust in his own power to eventually bring us to love him.
But whatever the case may be regarding God’s love for us, it is clear that our love for God, and for others, is largely built on trust. We love God because we have first been loved (1 John 4:19), but our response to that love is based on our trust – just as David says in the Psalms: “But I trust in your unfailing love …” (Psalm 13:5).
Trust usually precedes love and is always needed to maintain it. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together and allows them to grow. We must be willing to extend trust to those we want to love, and we must give ultimate trust to the One who has given us ultimate love.
The Foundation of Trust
So trust really does function as the foundation of faith, hope, and love. But while faith, hope, and love are all ultimately gifts given to us by God, we must remember that our willingness to trust underlies the effectiveness of those gifts. Faith, hope, and love are all doomed to falter and certainly will not grow if trust is not our response to these qualities. It is as we learn to trust God fully that our faith is strengthened, our hope is increased, and our love grows. Faith, hope, and love may be the most important spiritual qualities in our lives, but we must actively apply trust to receive and to grow in them.
So how do we develop our trust in God? In any relationship, we develop trust in someone by getting to know them and seeing that they are trustworthy. God is completely trustworthy, of course, and the Bible shows that unequivocally: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19 ). But because humans are the way we are, most of us need to see that trustworthiness in our lives to fully appreciate it and to respond to it.
We do that in two ways – by getting to know God better through the study of his word – where we see countless examples of rewarded trust – and by paying close attention to the events in our own lives and the lives of others where God is clearly acting. Gratitude plays a role here, too. If we are noticing and giving thanks on a daily basis for even the smallest things in life that show God’s help, we will usually find that our trust grows quickly. And as it does, so will the faith, hope, and love in our lives.