Dr. John Van Epp describes trust as a mental image one has of another person. That image includes being fairly certain that you know the other person well enough that when you are not together you can still imagine what your partner might be doing or even thinking or feeling. Obviously the level that you know your spouse impacts the level of trust that you experience.
As mentioned in the previous blog, time is an important component in knowing someone. However, for many couples, the issue of time can also be a disadvantage, because once a strong image of "who the other person is" has been established, across time it is easy to become lazy, or distracted by the busyness of life and not continue to grow in "knowing" each other as you change through life. Suddenly the partner may do something not consistent with your image of them, and trust is broken. This especially becomes obvious when one spouse is no longer open about what is going on in their inner thoughts and feelings, both good and bad. Usually you realize a sense of being "shut out" from your partner's inner heart, but may not know how to change what is happening.
Often a partner that gets involved in an affair will say, "We just grew apart, and were no longer connected." The partner not involved in an affair will say, "I don't know him/her anymore." By this point the relationship feels dead, and unless both of the partners are willing to work on rebuilding their relationship, the marriage is likely to end.
Trust is not only necessary in issues related to faithfulness, but even in areas such as being truthful regarding finances, expenditures, parenting, and many other areas of marriage. When a partner makes it unacceptable to fail or to have a different opinion, it becomes very hard to be open so your spouse can "know" you. No one likes to be critized or mocked, so many will withdraw rather than risk a negative response from their spouse. The lack of feeling accepted shuts down your willingness for your partner to know you.
So how do these patterns of knowing and trust parallel our relationship with God? We know trusting God (also called faith) is of great importance to God. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that "without faith we cannot please God, for anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him." He desires that we trust Him. What is our mental image of God? Is He who He claims to be? Is He truley there, as He says, even when it appears He is not? The difference between my mental image of God, who He is, and whether I can obey Him (even when it seems like a bad thing for me) will be the measure of my faith. If I truly believe God is good, and always doing what is best for me, then I will be able to obey Him even when He asks me to stay in a painful place or obey at the cost of a sacrifice.
To know God at this depth of trust, I must continually work on my relationship with Him. God is so different from us, even in a lifetime we will never fully know Him. As we move through the varied experiences of life we get to know a different side of God. When I have a financial need, I learn more about His provision, as well as His wisdom about the differences between my needs and wants. When my heart is broken over some loss, I learn about the depth of His comfort, and His tenderness. When I fail, I learn about His mercy and grace. When I face a task beyond my ability, I learn about His strength and power.
Without really knowing God, I will not trust Him. When a person begins his or her relationship with God and decides to commit themselves to God, there is an excitement about the new Savior. But the growth of faith requires an on-going growth in knowing Him, His desires, what pleases Him. Too many believers do not continue to grow in their knowledge of God, so they do not grow in their trust of God either. The relationship breaks down, just like a marriage does. In Revelation Jesus compared it to marriage "You have lost your first love" (Revelation 2:4).
May you accept the challenge to allow your knowledge and trust of God be paralleled to the level of knowledge and trust in your marriage!