Trust is in short supply at the moment, and Australians seem to miss it. Trust (integrity) was a key issue in May’s federal election, and may be even more important in Victoria’s election in two months’ time, especially as surveys show that voters don’t trust the leaders of either main party.
Lack of trust certainly diminishes our quality of life – it makes us more uncertain and anxious. As an adult convert to Christianity, I can say categorically that one of the great blessings of my faith is the reality of absolute trust in God, who has made many and abiding promises to his people.
I don’t mean, of course, that believers are immune to the vicissitudes of life, but that they should not cripple us because we know our narrative does not end there. We know we are sustained.
In Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates, the latter tells his judges: “You also, judges, must … bear in mind this one truth, that no evil can come to a good man either in life or after death, and God does not neglect him.”
Socrates, of course, is condemned to death by poison, which many might regard as an evil. I think that what Socrates means is that no permanent evil can be inflicted by another; only we can harm our own souls.
It is a cognate thought to what Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body.”
John Calvin, surely the greatest Protestant theologian though much misunderstood and maligned today, emphasises the eternal loving kindness and faithfulness of God in his teachings known as the doctrines of grace. This is a source of great comfort to the believer, for no one unfailingly lives up to the light of conscience within; we all know we are sometimes not our best selves.
I can’t trust myself, frail and selfish as I am, let alone Dan Andrews or Matthew Guy, frail and selfish as they are. But I can always trust God, who the Bible tells us has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, as well as in the created universe.
The 19th century Scottish poet John Campbell Shairp summed it up beautifully:
Let me no more my comfort draw
From my frail hold of Thee.
In this alone rejoice with awe –
Thy mighty grasp of me.
Barney Zwartz is a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity.
This article first appeared in The Age