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"Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God" by Brennan Manning

“RUTHLESS TRUST: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God” by Brennan Manning

Confession time: I love God but struggle to trust him, especially when life goes sideways. Recently, I reached for Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust for insight and guidance. Here is a summary of Ruthless Trust as distilled ruthlessly from Brennan’s own words in the book.

“Trust is our gift back to God. Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic.

“Childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness.

“How does one dare to propose the way of trust in the face of heartache, disorder, and the terror of history? The book of Job and the psalms of lament show no interest in exculpating God from responsibility for the tragedy and misery of human existence. It is to an angry and bewildered Job that God appears and speaks, and yet God later tells the theological sophisticate Eliphaz to ask for Job’s prayer, adding, ‘for you have not spoken truthfully about me, as has my servant Job’ (Job 42:7).

“However, a fleeting, incomplete glimpse of God’s back – the experience of his incomparable glory – awakens a dormant trust. Somewhere deep down a Voice whispers, ‘All is well, and all will be well.’

“To explore the depths of the God who invites our trust, we need the artists and mystics. The Christian artists who composed such hymns as ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘I Stand in Awe of You,’ and ‘Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord’ invite us to stretch our limited understanding of God. They help us in ‘coming to see ourselves as God sees us, the object of infinite love and unremitting solicitude.’

“All human attempts to express the inexpressible remain woefully inadequate because of the huge difference between our stumbling articulation and the divine Reality. We pay a price for steering clear of transcendence and unknowability. The God of our imagination is not worthy of trust, adoration, praise, reverence, or gratitude. And yet, if we are unwilling to address the issue of transcendence, that is the only deity we know.

“Faith arises from the personal experience of Jesus as Lord. Hope is reliance on the promise of Jesus, accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment. Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

“But faith in God without hope in his promises is tainted trust. We press for more convincing proofs of abiding, divine presence. When they are not forthcoming, we decide to take control.

“Humble men and women… rarely think about themselves. No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency. Humble people are without pretense. They recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously. A truly humble man does not fear being exposed. I do.

“An illustration: At a weekend retreat with ten close friends, my ‘impostor’ – that is, the sick, slick, and subtle impersonator of my true self – was mercilessly exposed. Led by the Spirit, my brothers told me that I was dishonest, stubborn, and prone to lies, and that self-will was running riot in my life. Immediately I became defensive; I sulked, pouted, and returned home to brood for several weeks. Later, when the light of Christ dawned in my darkness, I sank to my knees and prayed with the sinful but honest tax-collector in the temple, ‘O God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13).

“’Humility and honesty are really the same thing. A humble person is simply a brutally honest person about the whole truth.’ Alcoholics Anonymous offers a classic definition of humility: ‘stark, raving honesty.’

“We formulate plans to fulfill what we perceive to be the purpose of our lives, and when the locomotive of our longings gets derailed, we deem ourselves failures. Israel Schwartz was sad because he wasn’t like Moses. One night an angel appeared to him and said, ‘On Judgment Day, Yahweh will not ask you why you were not Moses; he will ask you why you were not his beloved Izzy.’ As an old black preacher on a red-clay road in Georgia instructed a pilgrim, ‘Be who you is, ‘cause if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.’ Trust yourself as one entrusted by God with everything you need to live life to the full.

“The music of what is happening can be heard only in the present moment, right now, right here. Now/here spells nowhere. To be fully present to whoever or whatever is immediately before us is to pitch a tent in the wilderness of Nowhere. It is an act of radical trust – trust that God can be encountered at no other time and in no other place than the present moment.

“Webster’s dictionary defines the adjective ruthless as ‘without pity.’ I use the word, in this context of trust, to mean ‘without self-pity,’ because self-pity is the arch-enemy of trust. That does not mean that all self-pity has to go. However, there comes a time when self-pity becomes malignant, seducing us into self-destructive behavioral patterns of withdrawal, isolation, drinking, drugging, and so forth. We simply ask for the grace to set a time limit on our self-pity.

“Clearly, growth in trust cannot be self-initiated. We do not have to do anything, except let our unworthy, ungrateful selves be loved as we are. Trust happens! You will trust him to the degree that you know you are loved by him.”

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Mike Pulley

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