Trusting God vs. Using Our Brain

Trusting God vs. Using Our Brain

by Amber Van Schooneveld


I’d like to start with a disclaimer: This post is  me thinking out loud and hoping you’ll speak into the conversation with some comments. I talk and write about this a lot, but my thoughts certainly need refining. This topic seems to come up a lot in my conversations with people; I’m often unsettled by the tendency in Christians when making decisions to leap over wisdom and knowledge, in favor of “trusting God.”

This (and the title of my post) imply that trusting God and using our brains are mutually exclusive, which they are not. But sometimes we treat them as if they are.

A silly example: Should we stop and get gas, or should we “trust God” that He will get us to our important spiritual meeting on time?

One thing Mike pressed upon me before we were married and I had the bad habit of over-spiritualizing decisions is that God created physics. If we jump off a bridge, God has designed the Earth so that we will fall. We can only presume that God created physics because he wanted His world to operate in a certain way. The order in the universe reflects part of God’s character. God does do miracles – intervening in physics and the natural order to change the outcome – but for the most part, we see that God created the world to operate in a particular way.

Based on physics, if I drive at too high a speed while trying to make a turn, I’ll wreck. So is the spiritual thing to drive fast and trust God that he’ll keep me safe? Or is it to use the brain that God gave me to make a wise decision about the speed I drive?

Or another, more realistic example, Mike and I chose to have our second child close in age to Allie in part because I wanted to have children when I was younger and certain risks are lower (I’ll be 35 in July) and because of my new-found kidney issues. I have heard such decision-making likened to not trusting in God.

I fear that sometimes we give so much lip service to trusting God – which is a good thing – that we fail to acknowledge the part wisdom plays in decision making.

We have created a false dichotomy between applying wisdom and trusting God.

God created our brains. Humans, relative to the rest of creation, are really smart. We are able to figure out solutions to seemingly impossible problems, such as treatments for all kinds of diseases. Our ability to problem solve is by design. It’s not a mistake that we were able to create the automobile and frogs were not. We were created in God’s image, and part of that is our ability to think analytically, see patterns and solve problems to improve our lives.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the last century in which human suffering of so many kinds has been greatly reduced through advances in technology and medicine. Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and the most powerful and wealthy man of his time, had at least seven children die before the age of seven. But God gave us minds that are able to solve problems. Now, in the developed world, a child’s chance of dying before the age of five is eight in 1,000 or less. We are able to vastly improve the chances of child survival, to learn more efficient ways to do agriculture, to improve the safety of our food. To believe in the innovative power of the human mind is not to be humanistic; it’s to embrace our unique design in the image of the Creator God.

An extreme, and devastatingly sad, example of “trusting God” in lieu of using wisdom and knowledge is a couple recently arrested in Pennsylvania. Their 2-year-old son died of pneumonia several years ago. In April, their 8-month-old died because they wouldn’t seek medical treatment for him, but rather trusted that Jesus would heal him.

God certainly asks us to trust Him. The writer of the Proverbs said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” But the same author said, “Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion.”

The Bible teaches that we should trust God, but it also promotes wisdom, understanding, sound judgment and discretion. These two aren’t at odds, but should work together.

Sometimes God may ask us to make decisions that seem crazy to the outside world. Jesus did tell the rich man to sell everything he had and give to the poor. But God also exhorts us to be wise and discerning.

Sometimes I wonder if our decision making is more driven by personality – a tendency to rely too much on our own reason (my personal bent, obviously) or an inclination to “follow our heart” (which usually means doing what we want to) rather than truly trusting in God and applying wisdom.

I think trusting in God happens in concert with applying wisdom and discernment in our choices. It’s not an either or – God wants us to both trust him and use our brains. How do you think we balance the two?

Writer, editor, wife, mom, nature lover, world traveler and follower of Jesus Christ.

Amber writes for Compassion International, for both Compassion Canada and Compassion International blog. Also the author of Hope Lives, along with various other ministry resources.

Check out her blog page at


World Prayr has chosen to be different, starting with teaching others that the pilgrimage all those who have been brought near to God are on is not one about our focusing on what we are doing, or focusing on our sin or anything we are not doing, but focusing on what Christ did in order for us to know transforming grace. We refer to this message as the gospel of grace. We then live this out as a ministry by serving others through counseling, prayer, and sound biblical teachings.

We also differ from most ministries in another key area, working to live out the message of Philippians 2:4 by aggressively promoting other ministries and churches. As a mission team, World Prayr is working to serve those who are disconnected to reconnect them, one soul at a time, to local bodies of believers.

We refer to our team as an “Ohana” made up of many nationalities spread across the globe and within the Protestant faith.

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2 Replies to “Trusting God vs. Using Our Brain”

  1. Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly. I also write a lot on this topic. Belief in God Almighty should not cause us to lose our critical thinking skills. Though, sadly, it happens to some. 

  2. very good Amber!  It’s like this story I like to tell of a man whose boat is sinking in the ocean….an ocean liner comes by to save him….he refuses help because he has faith that God will save him….then a helicopter..same thing…..he dies, then asks God why he didn’t save him….God says, “what happened to the boat and the helicopter I sent to save you?” I Grandmother used to say, “use the common sense that God gave you.”  I believe he did give us a brain..he just didn’t want us to “lean unto our own understanding…”  after all, that’s what got Adam and Eve into trouble isn’t it?  God read Amber, thanks!

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