I don’t know about you, but I have trust issues. I’ve been hurt by people I thought were good friends enough times to make me painfully wary around others, especially when I first meet them. It’s gotten so bad that I recently had to admit that I expect everyone to eventually hurt me, even those that come across trustworthy.
Can you relate?
As easy it would be to live in fear of everyone around me, that’s not what God has planned for me. Jesus came to give abundant life (John 10:10), and expecting God’s promises leaves no room for phobia. But when the fear is overwhelming, what’s a Christian to do?
I am blessed to go to a church with an amazing biblical counseling ministry. After an appointment with them, I was encouraged to find a Scriptural account of people learning to trust each other and prayerfully discover what steps were taken to establish that trust. Curious, I began thinking through stories like that. The Bible is full of them: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel, Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha, Esther and Mordecai, Paul and Barnabas… and that’s only a few examples! But the ones that really caught my attention were in the book of Ruth.
If you have never read the book of Ruth, I’d encourage you to look it up. It’s only four chapters, and it’s an incredible story! In it, there’s a young woman, Ruth, who chose to leave her home and everything she knew in order to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi to a foreign country. While there, she met the honorable (and utterly charming) Boaz and, well, I guess you could say Prince Charming and the beautiful foreigner end up marrying and living happily ever after. Naomi even finds a prominent place in their household: when they had a son, Naomi stepped in as the adopted doting grandma.
I’ve known and loved this story as long as I can remember but I’ve never really looked at it as a manual for establishing Biblical trust. Until now.
Ruth: the Bible’s how-to on building trust
One of the main themes of the book of Ruth is trust. After all, it is the story of how two relationships developed: the mother-daughter relationship between Naomi and Ruth and the professional-to-friendship-to-spousal relationship between Boaz and Ruth.
Thing is, no two relationships are exactly the same, so what each relationship is made of will be slightly different. But if you notice in the chart above, there are some similarities. Which got me thinking… those same characteristics were very present when my closest friends and I were learning to trust each other. Then I realized that we used the same steps that Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz used to build that trust.
Building trust takes time
Relationships need time in order to survive. It’s the only way to develop things like good communication, patience, conflict management skills, and at least a dozen other characteristics that are vital to the well-being of any friendship.
But… It doesn’t always take years. Sure, it did for Ruth and Naomi. More than ten, in fact. But with Ruth and Boaz, it took the barley harvest season, which according to Biblehub, lasts about two months. More than the quantity of time, building trust requires quality time. It takes consistent sharing of life and caring for each other, like Ruth for Naomi or Boaz for Ruth.
Building trust requires a mutual faith in God
Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi trusted God with everything. So when they discovered that solidarity, they had a strong, common foundation for friendship. Even then, it took time to figure out how mutual their faith was.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but this theme is all throughout the Bible. Paul especially covered this in the second half of 2 Corinthians 6.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
This passage has been quoted so often about who people should and shouldn’t marry. However, I submit that it applies to every close relationship, whether it’s platonic, a business partnership, or any other kind of close connection that has the capacity of straining your relationship with Jesus (and by extension, His church) because of the difference in worldview and perspective.
Building trust requires displaying a faithful character consistently
Let’s look back at Ruth. She was consistently and faithfully loyal and hardworking. Boaz was consistently and faithfully caring. It wasn’t expected by the recipients, but it stood the test of time and reputation.
Believe me, this one can be so difficult at times. It would be all too easy to be a chameleon: act like the “perfect” Christian girl in front of my friends at church to gain their approval, then be however I want the rest of the time, depending on how I feel–whether that’s pleasant or rude, compliant or self-seeking, reserve or easily angered, etc. But the thing is, neither extreme is pleasing to Jesus. I can’t be perfect. I’m far too flawed and scarred to play the part with any kind of consistency. Nor is being self-serving and emotionally-driven pleasing to Jesus:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Can I get an “ouch and amen”?
So how can we combat the temptation to live the chameleon life? The answer is simple, but ever so hard to live out: be consistent and base your consistency on loving Christ and obeying his commands, not on how you’re feeling today.
Building trust requires a sacrificial compassion and the willingness to accept it
We have several prime examples in the book of Ruth. Ruth left everything to serve Naomi in Israel. Boaz was the shield that Ruth needed against the Bethlehemites who wanted to molest her because she was a Moabitess (Ruth 2:8-9, 22). Beyond that, he sacrificially provided for Ruth and Naomi’s needs by letting Ruth glean wherever– and whatever– she wanted in the field. He even made sure that she ate well while working in his field! In both cases, compassion was initially questioned, then willingly received.
As I’ve been considering this point, I’ve had to admit that it’s not being compassionate that I struggle with. It’s receiving it. Allowing myself to be served requires me to lay aside any pride or vanity I have (the I’ll-do-it-myself-thanks attitude or assuming that being served will put them out or that they’re just doing it for politeness’ sake and don’t actually want to). It takes a lot of effort to be humble. But I can tell you from experience willingly accepting someone else’s compassion leaves you with more than services rendered. It gives a comforting sense of protection and Biblical love.
Building trust requires taking risks
Ruth could have stayed in Moab. Boaz didn’t have to risk his “Jew in good standing” reputation in a gossipy small town on a pretty young foreigner. Ruth could have allowed herself to get freaked out by Boaz’s kindness and found another field. She also didn’t have to ask him to marry her. Boaz could have insisted that the other kinsman redeemer was a better deal for everyone. But they didn’t play it safe. They decided each other was worth making calculated risks.
Of all of five steps, this one is the hardest for me because of my history with trusting the wrong people in the past. But the nice thing is that when the other four steps are there, calculated risks often pan out.
Granted, the first risk… or the first several… should be extremely small, like allowing “the real you” to come out instead of hiding behind a safe mask. As time goes on, you can try larger risks, like telling the person you’re choosing to trust a small, juicy piece of gossip about yourself that wouldn’t hurt if used against you, then watch for a while to see what they do with it. That can eventually lead to confiding in them even more.
Is it easy to take calculated risks? For that matter, is it easy to take any of these steps? HA! No. In fact, it’s down-right terrifying. However, these steps lead to more than friendship. They lead to greater peace and confidence, not only in yourself but also in God. So go! Take courage… and trust.