The Cornered Cat

Is trusting God at odds with defending yourself? If I am armed and willing to protect myself, does that mean I don’t have faith?

One common ethical/moral question Christians face is the apparent contradiction between trusting God and carrying a gun.

After a lot of soul-searching on this issue, I’ve come to the place where I realize that trusting Him to protect me isn’t at odds with having the tools to defend myself — not any more than having a fridge full of food is at odds with trusting Him to provide my daily bread.

God created human beings as tool-users with creative minds. Built right into the human body is a very deep seated desire to defend your own life. Try holding your breath until you pass out, for example. It is very hard to do, and even if you succeed, your body takes over and starts breathing again as soon as you lose consciousness. Self-protection is a design feature the Creator gave us.

The Creator also set human beings into a universe governed by cause and effect, in a world where our actions have consequences. Although He undoubtedly could have made the world some other way, He designed it so that human actions would affect what happened next.

It could hardly be a sign of faith in the Creator who did all those things, to relinquish our creative minds, ignore cause and effect, and think that He must take care of us without any action on our own part! But sometimes that almost seems like what people mean when they talk about trusting God … they mean, sitting back and letting whatever happens, happen.

I don’t think that’s what trusting Him means. I think trust means believing that God is still good even when the world doesn’t go the way we wanted it to. I think trust means accepting that God is in control of the results, after we tried our best to make it happen the way we wanted it to.

I absolutely believe that God is the one in charge of results, no matter what I do or don’t do. At the same time, I think of myself as a farmer: God’s the one who makes the crop grow, if it grows, by sending rain and sunshine in the right proportions and at the right season. I can’t force those things to happen. I can’t guarantee success. But what kind of a farmer would I be if I sat on my porch and said, “I don’t need to plant or plow, God will provide!”?

So if I work hard to provide for my family, it doesn’t mean I don’t trust God to provide what we need; it means I am doing my rightful part of the work God set in front of me. Same thing with protecting them. I may not be able to protect them in the end (that’s up to God), but carrying a weapon and knowing how to use it is simply doing my part of the work He’s given me to do.

Think about it this way. God doesn’t usually say, “Let this happen” or “Make that happen.” He uses people to do things. God doesn’t just automatically save whoever He wants to save — He tells His people to tell others about Him. He doesn’t just add zeroes at the end of your bank account so you won’t starve to death — He gives you hands and a brain, so that you can earn a living for yourself and your family. He does miracles, but He works through people to do those miracles. Someone prays, someone acts. Moses raised his staff and parted the Red Sea; the widow poured out her last oil for Elijah; the servants brought the jugs of water to Jesus and gave the wine to the wedding guests. God uses human actions to do His will.

Some prayers for healing are answered by a doctor’s handiwork, some are simply answered. Is it a sin for the doctor to perform surgery, to give medicines, to use his knowledge and skill to help heal? Is it a lack of faith to use a doctor’s expertise? I don’t think so. I think God wants us to act. He gave us brains for a reason, after all.

If God had wanted mindless automatons, if He wanted brainless and will-less toadies, He could have created us that way. But that wasn’t His plan. His plan was to use human beings and human wills and human actions. (That’s the whole point of Romans 8:28 — everything, every little thing, every action and reaction, works out the way God intended it in the end. Every bit of evil that is done to us, every bit of good that we ourselves do, is part of His plan. So are our mistakes and outright sins. It’s all in there.)

If God has allowed you to be put in a place where you have both the means and the ability to defend yourself or your loved ones — and you don’t do it — you can’t blame your choice on Him. It would be your choice to act or to not act. You can’t say, “Well, I thought God was going to step in and fix it for me.” Maybe His ideal and best plan was for you to take care of it, and that’s why He let you be put in that spot.