There is sort phrase which Christians use, carelessly and often harmfully. I have seen and heard it used with great sincerity and without content or comprehension.
When faced with another’s overwhelming struggles, whether it is some loss or an immediate problem as crushing and quotidian as paying bills or watching children, we counsel one-another to “trust God” or “rely on God.” We are “turn over” our problems to God.
The more ambitious will add a reference such as Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
In counseling people, a preparatory question is, “What have you done about your circumstance?” To which the most common answer is, “I prayed and Philippians 4 didn’t work.”
The trouble which such an understanding of the work of God in human trouble is that distorts and discourages us.
If you are going to start an automobile, you need gasoline the tank and a functioning motor and a charged battery and you must turn the key and so on. Now imagine one who put gasoline in the car and then sat in the car waiting for it to start. We would think such a person crazy. And yet this is how we seem to think troubles work with God.
Prayer is critical in the process of relying upon God but it is not the only thing.
When you have a trouble, your reliance upon God is a reliance upon me. If I am here, and I can help, then I am part of that answer to prayer. The proposition is plain and common throughout Scripture. Perhaps we don’t see the connection because we have a tendency to compartmentalize the aspects of the Christian life in such a way that we don’t see the interrelated nature of the Church’s life.
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul tells the Corinthians that in the midst of suffering God has given comfort to Paul so that Paul can give comfort to them. 2 Cor. 1:6. God is going to comfort them by means of Paul comforting them.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of judgment day when he will reward those who cared for the needy, because caring for the hungry or naked or the one in prison, they were caring for Jesus.
Paul in Galatians 6:2 writes, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
James writes in the second chapter of his letter that if you see a brother who is need of clothes and food and you say, “Be warm and filled” but you do not give him food and cloths, your faith is dead.
The point could be multiplied for pages.
To rely upon God is to rely upon the people of God, too.
Yes, can miraculously solve problems. And yes, God does give fortitude through unbearable trials.
But that is no excuse for me to neglect you. If you are to rely upon God in the midst of your trial, and I say that to you, then I must necessarily implicate myself. And I must necessarily see how easily I fail here.
And lastly, just to show how persistent sin can be, there is an equal sin in helping others.