A friend of mine has been going through a hard time lately, the kind of difficulties that come from being stabbed in the back. He has found friends and family alike turning against him, leading him to conclude that he can no longer trust anyone. Sadly, many of us can empathize. Everyone will hurt him. So he’ll no longer open himself up to anyone, and it’s hard to blame him.
It is impossible to trust someone without exposing yourself to harm. The nature of trust is to believe you will be caught if you fall, so you fall willingly. That is risk. Sadly, those risks often end up hurting us. When it comes down to it, people aren’t trustworthy, even the trustworthy ones. We expect to be caught and instead we find an unbroken fall with all its bumps and bruises and broken bones. It’s the brokenness of sin in us. We who were once noble creatures are marred by unreliability and selfishness.
Obviously, we should protect ourselves from harm, right? No more making ourselves vulnerable. No more risk. No more expecting to be caught only to fall flat. We should trust no one.
Wrong. C.S. Lewis famously wrote in The Four Loves about the harm that comes from not being willing to expose ourselves:
“Lock [your heart] up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
If you noticed, somewhere in the middle of that quote the subject shifted from trust to love. Instead of the selfishness of the one of who harms, Lewis points to the selfishness of the one who refuses to take the risk to be vulnerable. But we can love without trusting. In fact, it is necessary.
Trust is a valuable and rare commodity, and it is squandered so easily and with consequences. But the same cannot be said of love. Rather, love requires exposing ourselves with full knowledge that the object of love cannot be trusted. Every person will hurt us eventually. Even those closest to us will hurt us, and us them. So we love with eyes wide open to the coming pain. We may not truly trust, but we willingly love.
Jesus gave His life for people He could not trust. He gave his life for people He loved. He knew of the coming betrayal. He knew those He devoted Himself to would abandon Him, curse Him, and flee naked into the night. His followers were profoundly untrustworthy—which strongly resembles all of us. It is His love that empowers actions of trust, of exposure, even when we know pain will come, and this is what we need when we are hurting and assailed by those we trusted. Christ’s love heals those wounds and it strengthens us to expose ourselves again even when trust is in short supply.