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Trust Jesus

I'll never forget the last time my wife Becky and I drove through Tennessee and Kentucky. It was early January, back in 1996.


We had just spent Christmas and New Years in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Not with family or friends, but in motels.  We were seeking God's direction for our lives, and had been drawn by a combination of circumstances (and a very tentative faith) to the Greensboro area, where we'd spent about two weeks.


The "funny" thing about all this was that I was not really a man of faith at all in those days. I had been far away from God for about 11 years. Iíd been "on my own" and had not been much of a man of prayer or faith.


But the trip from Montana to California, then out to Maine, and then down into North Carolina, had been in part an act of faith and obedience. My wife and I believed that the Lord was doing a spiritual work of some kind in our lives. We also shared a desire to "return to the Lord," and to serve Him in some way, and to find whatever He might have for us in this life.


I had just been offered a good job in Greensboro, in publishing.  But everything inside me said not to take that job. Something down inside said to leave town instead, and to continue our journey. So, leaving Greensboro, we headed toward Kansas where my oldest son lived.


Great plan.


I was not happy with such an insane idea -- I really did begin to think that I must be losing my mind -- but I left, in the growing hope that God might truly show us His will for our lives.  I mostly felt like an absolute fool, but I dared to hope anyway.


I drove our '94 Ford F150, and everything we owned was in the back, under the cap.  This trip would eventually cost us everything.  We had spent all our cash and then had maxed out our credit cards.  Now, every other day or so, we were being forced to sell a camera or some other piece of equipment in order to pay for rooms, food, and gas.


We drove out of Greensboro with very little money.  I should have waited until I could sell something, but I was angry with myself.  And I was also angry with God because I felt that He was "pushing me" to see if I would trust Him.  So I drove away from the city in a huff, without taking the time to get cash for the trip.


I cooled some as I drove, my anger slowly transforming into worry.  What if we ended up stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere?  But I wanted to prove to the Lord that I did have some kind of faith in Him.  I tried to ignore the worry and to think very clearly about what I should do next.


I drove north up into Virginia as the sky turned a solid gray and a drizzling rain began to fall. Then we turned westward, driving down into Tennessee and on to Knoxville where it was raining steadily. There we spent the night.


Driving along the highways, I noticed every so often that someone had spray-painted something in black on the concrete pylons of some of the overpasses. I tried to decipher the words scrawled there.  Again and again they said: "TRUST JESUS."


That was not an option for me.  I believed in God but had no confidence at all in Jesus.  At that point in my life there was a big distinction in my mind between God and Jesus.


Leaving Knoxville the next morning, we drove toward Nashville on our way to Paducah, Kentucky. It was still raining, and we had not driven far when the rain began to turn to slush and then to snow. Before, and then again after Nashville, I saw the graffiti a couple more times on freeway and railroad bridges: "TRUST JESUS."


Right, I thought. I had no faith in Jesus. I had given up my faith years before.


As I said, I believed in God. But I doubted that Jesus was much more than a well-intentioned but misdirected young man who had died a tragic death. In the months that would follow this trip, I learned that one of us had certainly been confused and misled -- but it wasn't Jesus.


I kept fretting over the fact that we had just spent what little money we had on gas and a motel room. But I drove out of Knoxville too early to try and sell anything.  Soon we would need gas again, and we would need food. And then we would need a place to sleep. I wanted to stop in Nashville and sell something to get some cash. 


But I was "driven" as it were, to stay on the road. So I kept to the road, heading up to Kentucky.


About half way between Nashville and the Kentucky border, the half freezing rain mixed with snow became serious snow and a hard wind out of the west -- not a good combination for driving. Inside my stomach, my faint hope turned colder and colder.  Nothing good could come of this trip, I thought.


Another pylon flashed by with a message: "TRUST JESUS."   And then there was another.


Right, I kept thinking to myself. And what can Jesus do for me here and now?  We need shelter and gas and food. I need money. I NEED MONEY RIGHT NOW!


The weather got a lot worse very fast.  Later, I would see the reports on the news about the surprise blizzard that shut down New England.  Right now, though, I could see for myself that it was quickly shutting down the road to Paducah.


We had a CB radio and a couple of scanners with us. I could hear truck drivers talking about the weather conditions.  Soon after that the 18-wheelers also started leaving the freeway, heading into truck stops for shelter. When the big rigs wonít stay on the road, it isnít safe for anyone to be out there.  Yet out there we were with our 2-wheel drive pickup and everything we owned.


I had no money for a motel room or food.  I had no money for gas. I had maps, but I didnít really know where we were, and I was afraid of wasting precious gas trying to find someplace to sell something.  So I stayed on the highway, hoping for a town big enough to at least have a pawnshop, a trading post or anything helpful, where I might sell something else for cash.


I was pretty sure I didnít have enough fuel to make Paducah.  And who wants to cut it close in a snowstorm, especially when youíre far away from everything familiar?


I did chance an exit somewhere along I-24, maybe the Hopkinsville turnoff, or some place like that.  Risking the loss of gasoline, I drove around some, looking for a place to sell something.  But I found nothing.


I wanted to rage against my circumstances, but something calm way down inside me seemed to direct me in spite of my dread and fear, to get back onto the road and keep pushing for Paducah.  My brain said it was a stupid, stupid move.


Never drive in unknown territory with marginal fuel, and no money -- especially when the roads are already frozen over solid and the snow is still flying hard on the wind. Too many bad things can and will happen.  And then where will you be?


Soon after we returned to the freeway I saw a dark blur on a pylon up ahead.  I already knew what it said.  Sure enough, just before it passed from sight, I could make out through the blowing snow a spray-painted slogan: TRUST JESUS.


If only I could just do that, I thought.  If only life were that simple. 


Yes, I thought to myself, if I could just decide to trust Jesus, and then my gas tank would suddenly be full of fuel, and my wallet would be filled with cash, and we could stop at the nearest motel (or cafe or anything) and get safely inside, then I would be a fool not to believe.  But no matter what I think, what I believe, those things are not going to happen. 


Jesus would have to be much, much more than a mere man to help us now, way out here.  Even my faith in God didn't make me feel good about my circumstances.


The storm raged on, dumping snow amazingly fast, and adding more and more ice to the road.  Convinced that I was a fool, I still drove on, deeper and farther into that white blindness, going nowhere.  I can't remember how much longer I drove that day. The road just seemed to stretch on forever, and the needle on the fuel gauge sank down to empty, right past the warning zone.


Everything everywhere was white. There was no traffic. Once in a while some other idiot would drive by on the opposite side of the highway.  But the northbound side had cleared of all traffic. Only the snow, blowing straight out of the west, and our pickup truck remained on the frozen highway.  Both tanks on the truck were now on empty.


I would be forced to stop soon, no matter what.  With no fuel, there would be no heat in the truck.  We would be at the mercy of the raging storm.


Thatís when I saw a highway sign.  It said something about Paducah. And finally I saw the exit. And then we drove off the highway and into the west end of town.  We were in Paducah.  We'd made it.


My wife and I remember Paducah very well.  I could still find no place to sell anything on that end of town.  Out of gas, we dared not drive around very much.  What could we do?  Only one thing came to mind.


Even though we were well over the limit, and the credit had already been shut off days before, my credit card was somehow approved again.  So we filled up both tanks with fuel and then got a room for the night. 


Right behind the motel was a Super Wal-Mart that was open all night. I walked over to the store through the snow and the freezing wind (not willing to give up my parking spot right in front of the room) and picked up a few things we needed.


We returned to the highway the next morning and continued on our way to Kansas.  Not far out of Paducah, we began to see stranded vehicles.  We saw 18-wheelers, 4x4s, and other vehicles scattered here and there in the snow.  Lots of people had simply not made it to their destination. 


But we had made it into town, and into a warm room -- with no breakdowns, no loss of control, no accidents. We had not run out of gas.  We had not been stranded in the storm out on the highway. God had clearly been with us.


The messages on the pylons kept nagging at me, almost goading me. Had Jesus been our help?  I had not prayed to Him or trusted in Him. Not even when it looked really bad for us out there.  And in the days and weeks to come, I would still not admit that Jesus was anything more than a good man.


But God was busy speaking to me in many ways.  I couldn't get the message out of my thoughts. "TRUST JESUS."  It had been burned into my thinking by the circumstances of our drive through a dangerous storm.


Needless to say, the Lord would continue working on my heart.  And in time, I began to understand.  We reached Kansas and visited with our son.  And then our searching continued, back into the mountain states and beyond.


By October of that same year, our journey finally moved on to a new level.  There I would finally see with perfect clarity that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God, the one and only Savior of the whole world, and that He truly is LORD of all lords and KING of all kings -- not only on this earth, but in every other plane of existence.  By the grace of God I came to see this truth in the Scriptures, and I saw it in my own life as God wonderfully opened my eyes.


Life gets really scary sometimes. And we can get ourselves into all kinds of strange circumstances. Our faith can become all mixed up, and can even be taken away, if we flirt too much with sin and unbelief.


Even when we commit to obeying God, to following the Lord, we sometimes try to do so on our own terms, in our own strength, and according to our own rules and ideas.  But we soon learn that God will not jump through our hoops. He is God.  He is in control.  We are not.


Fortunately, the Lord marks the path for us, in ways that even fools can eventually recognize the signs and get the message.  I'm as big a fool as has ever lived, but even I was finally able to read the writing on the walls along the pathway of my life.


The greatest message that God has ever given to human beings is this one: TRUST JESUS. It's good for the saving of a soul, and for the mending of a life gone wrong.  And it's good for everything else that any of us will ever truly need, both now and for always.


Trust Jesus.


Jim Sutton

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