On the topic of trusting others, King David said, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8–9). David spoke from experience, having been betrayed many times by those close to him (see Psalm 41:9). Instead of becoming bitter or regarding all people as inherently untrustworthy and not worth his time, he learned and taught a simple truth: sinful people will fail us, but we can always trust in God. David’s son, King Solomon, learned that lesson well and added to it, saying that it’s better to trust God than to trust our own minds (Proverbs 3:5–6).
Even though others will fail us at times, and we ourselves are not always trustworthy, we can and should still trust people to varying degrees. Without trust, true relationship is impossible. It is precisely because we know that God will never fail us that we can trust others. Our ultimate security is in Him, so we are free to trust others and experience the joy it brings. Trusting others is almost inseparable from loving others. True intimacy can only be achieved through honesty and trust. It requires trust to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). It takes trust to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and share about our needs (James 5:14; Romans 12:15). Trust is necessary in any number of human relationships, and especially for the healthy functioning of the family of Christ.
Christians should strive to be trustworthy. Jesus was clear that His followers should keep their word (Matthew 5:37). James repeated the command (James 5:12). Christians are called upon to be discreet and refrain from gossiping (Proverbs 16:28; 20:19; 1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:16). At the same time, Christians are called to speak up when appropriate and help bring about restoration from sin (Matthew 18:15–17; Galatians 6:1). Christians are to be speakers of truth, and to speak this truth with love (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15). We are to "do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Christians are also expected to care for the practical needs of others (James 2:14–17; 1 John 3:17–18; 4:20–21). All of these actions contribute to being trustworthy. Christians should be people that others can trust. Such trustworthiness is empowered by the Holy Spirit at work in the believer’s life (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 1:6; Galatians 5:13–26).
Trusting others is not always natural or easy. We are wise to take time to get to know others and not heedlessly give them our complete trust. Jesus did this when He withdrew from the crowds at times (John 2:23–25; 6:15). But sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between being wise about our trust and being overly self-protective out of past hurt or fear. If we find ourselves reluctant to trust anyone to any extent, we are wise to do some introspection and, if necessary, ask God to heal our wounded hearts.
The Bible gives advice about trusting others after we’ve been hurt. Trusting God is the first, most important step. When we know that, no matter what men do to us, God will always be there, faithful and true and trustworthy, it is easier to handle betrayal or disappointments. Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Reading God’s Word with attention to the ways He describes His own faithfulness and trustworthiness will be helpful to us. Prayer is vital. Particularly if we feel like God has betrayed our trust by allowing us to be hurt, we need to be reminded of His truth and comforted by His love.
The second step after being hurt by trusting others is forgiveness. As Jesus told Peter, if a brother sins against you seventy-seven times a day and comes back asking for forgiveness, we should forgive (Matthew 18:21–22). The point is not that we should not forgive the seventy-eighth offense, but that we should be people who seek to continually forgive. If a person repeatedly betrays our trust unrepentantly, we do not have to continue to associate with him or to make ourselves vulnerable to him. Yet we also should not harbor bitterness or allow that person’s actions to impede our relationships with other people (Hebrews 12:14–15). If the person is truly repentant—even when it involves betrayal and exploited trust—we are to seek to fully forgive and even pursue restoration and a rebuilding of trust over time. As part of Jesus’ lesson on forgiveness, He told the parable of a servant who was forgiven a huge debt and then went out and immediately became judgmental and cruel with another servant who owed him a small debt. The heartless actions of the unmerciful servant should remind us of our need to forgive. We have been forgiven by God a much greater debt than anything other people owe to us (Matthew 18:23–35).
Finally, it bears repeating that, as we learn to trust others, we should continually strive to be trustworthy ourselves. This is good and godly. We should be a safe place for others (Proverbs 3:29) and keep confidences (Proverbs 11:13). We should be known for our honesty (Proverbs 12:22) and a willingness to suffer with a friend (Proverbs 17:17). Everyone goes through hard times, and we need our friendships even more when the sun is not shining. At times, we all let others down. But we should always strive to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1–2).