When I was in college, I had a friend, Daryl, who jokingly said that his car ran on the Holy Spirit, to justify his ever-lower gas tank. One night, the Holy Spirit ran out. We had gone to a formal event and the three girls who had piled in his back seat got out to push the car in our high heels and party dresses.
Now Daryl was just being funny, but I think this is a perfect analogy of how many Christians sometimes live their lives recklessly or passively and call it "just trusting in God."
I watched a video today of a nice family in Tennessee who has 18 children. They don't believe in birth control, so they decided to "just trust in God" that he would bless them with however many children he wanted them to have. They thought that might be one or two. So far, it's 18.
Now, I'm not saying at all that this particular family is reckless, and I think it's just fine if you don't believe in birth control. But it's a perfect illustration of my point: While we can certainly trust in God, we can also trust in God's universe to run in the way that he has created it to run. As it turns out, God created a very productive reproductive system that, with some exceptions, seems to do pretty well for itself.
But, moving away from birth control, I think we can take what we call "trusting in God" to the extreme of not taking responsibility for our actions. God created "laws" in this universe, by which I mean simply the observable order of nature, such as gravity and physics and reproduction, because it seems that God wanted a world of order not of chaos. Moral laws also exist which have consequences.
"These statements [laws] do not rest on human consent; they are either true or false. If they are true, man runs counter to them at his own peril. He may, of course, defy them, as he may defy the law of gravitation by jumping off the Eiffel Tower, but he cannot abolish them by edict. Nor yet can God abolish them, except by breaking up the structure of the universe, so that in this sense they are not arbitrary laws. We may of course argue that the making of this kind of universe, or indeed of any kind of universe, is an arbitrary act; but, given the universe as it stands, the rules that govern it are not freaks of momentary caprice. There is a difference between saying: "If you hold your finger in the fire you will get burned" and saying, "if you whistle at your work I shall beat you, because the noise gets on my nerves." The God of the Christians is too often looked upon as an old gentleman of irritable nerves who beats people for whistling. This is the result of a confusion between arbitrary "law" and the "laws" which are statements of fact. ...Defy the commandments of the natural law, and the race will perish in a few generations; co-operate with them, and the race will flourish for ages to come. That is the fact; whether we like it or not, the universe is made that way. ...Because God has made the world like this and will not alter it, therefore you must not worship your own fantasies, but pay allegience to the truth." - Dorothy L. Sayers "The Mind of the Maker"
When we jump off a building, we know we will smash into the ground. We know that if we drive 75 miles an hour on ice, physics may cause us to smash into the guardrail. The order of nature is a beautiful thing, but how often do we pray to God against it? We drive way too fast in a snowstorm and just "trust in God" that he will keep us safe - in reality praying that he would supernaturally intervene and counteract his natural order in order to save us from phsyics.
If I were God, which I'm not, I would be very annoyed at people who willfully made stupid decisions then prayed that I would eliminate the consequences. God often does not spare us the consequences of our actions. Yes, he's gracious and kind and loving, but he doesn't pander to stupidity by making every bad choice we make turn into flowers and puppies. That would be bad parenting, and it would be bad for the universe and free will.
I think part of the problem is our haphazard view of miracles and our use of the word. These days, everything is a miracle to most people based on how we talk. This person's life was saved by doctors, that baby was born, there was a sunrise this morning.
Babies are not miracles. They are, in fact, the exact opposite of a miracle. A miracle is God intervening into nature to change the natural order of things. A baby is the most natural thing in the world. A man and a woman have sex and a baby is created. The earth rotates and the sun rise is new every morning. That's how God created the world. That doesn't belittle the worth of a baby or a sunrise. They are amazing. But they are not miracles. They are the working out of a beautifully complex world that God has created.
Because we mistakenly see "miracles" everywhere, which are not the result of supernatural intervention but of natural order, we are prone to ask for them right and left. "I didn't study or go to class for several weeks, but I'm just trusting in God to help me do good on the test." "I eat fried chicken for every meal and haven't exercised in a year, but I'm just trusting in God that he'll protect me from diabetes."
God still does miracles, certainly, but he does them to bring himself glory, not to rid our lives of consequences.
Another symptom of what we mean by "just trusting God" is passivity. "Just let go, and let God" and "Jesus, take the wheel" can be needed sentiments, perhaps, when we are living our lives outside of obedience to God. But often they can result in a mindset that construes passivity as spirituality. Sometimes I've heard people say, "I'm just waiting on God to take this struggle away from me." Well, honey, he's waiting on you to just obey him! is what I often want to say, but don't. God doesn't want a world of spiritual babies that are magically rescued from every trouble, He wants a world of men and women of character, growing in uprightness. No consequences=no personal responsibility=no character=no Christ-like people.
A good example of how passivity can be called spirituality is my husband's employment situation. At some point, after looking long and not finding a job, we decided something needed to change. He decided to pursue starting a small business, since he wasn't being hired by anyone else. Now, the "just trusting" camp might say Mike taking action was him taking hold of the reins and wresting control of his life from God. I disagree. I believe God gave Mike a mind in order to make decisions and take action in life. Mike starting a business wasn't a lack of "waiting on God," but rather the very noble act of taking a risk to provide for his family. Often when we say we're "just trusting in God," we are actually sitting on our duffs when God has made his will for how to live life clear in the Bible.
Mike himself was wondering whether starting the business was something he should do, both in a practical sense (is this a good business idea) and in the general sense (is this what I should do with my life). Mike, like many of us often do, was hoping for some mystical pronouncement and assurance from heaven. So he went to talk to our pastor. Pastor Barry was able to lay out God's will pretty easily without much waiting or speculating. "One, you've gotta eat. Two, you've gotta work. If this will let you achieve those two things, my real question is, what are you waiting for?" They say that God wrote two books: the Bible and Nature, to teach people about him and about his will. If waiting and trusting in God means passively ignoring the lessons God has already actively laid out for you (provide for your family, work as unto the Lord, sticking your hand in the fire will get you burnt, and sex causes babies), you're not really trusting in God, you're ignoring him.
We can trust in God. He is good and trustworthy. But that doesn't mean that God will make our bad choices into a bed of roses or that we ought to "wait on God" for a sign from heaven before obeying his clear and direct commands in the Bible. We can always trust in God, but we can also trust that he is going to allow the laws of nature he created to do what they are supposed to do.
Now let's end on a lighter note with some comedy on the matter - it gets good around 0:50.