The Principle of Vulnerable Trust

This article was originally published on Linkedin and is an extract from 'The Relationship Book' by Matt Bird. Foreword by Pastor Agu Irukwu & available from and

— by Matt Bird

There is a story of an elderly couple who, in their 70s, believed God was asking them to undertake a huge adventure at great personal risk.

They believed that God had promised them a prosperous future in a new land where they could live, flourish and call home.

Although they were childless, the couple believed they would have so many children and grandchildren that their family would become a famous nation.

So great were their personal aspirations, even at their ripe old age, that you would be forgiven for thinking they were crazy.

As if that challenge was not enough, they had no idea where this land was, how they would get there, where they would stay or even how they would survive the journey. 

They would be leaving the comfort, stability and security of their home and the country where they had grown up and stepping out into great uncertainty, with nothing more than faith to keep them going.

In faith the elderly couple invited a relative to join them, packed up their home and everything they owned and set off on this great adventure.

This is, of course, the story of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 & 15). When I think about what I can learn about relationships from their life I realise that it’s all about vulnerable trust.

The principle of vulnerable trust shows us that the deepest relationships grow through living vulnerably and not through pursuing certainty.

Abram was invited by God to enter a relationship by exercising vulnerable trust on a great adventure. The pursuit of certainty would have kept Abraham, Sarah and his household in their home in Ur. In that place of apparent certainty and security, it is likely that Abram and Sarah would have felt self-sufficient and less of a need for God. They would have looked internally for reassurance and strength and not to God. That is not what God wanted.

Instead, Abraham and Sarah chose vulnerable trust in God. In the place of uncertainty and vulnerability they were absolutely dependent on God. Abraham and Sarah needed divine love, guidance and provision. So it’s not too difficult to work out where God really wanted Abraham and Sarah and also where God wants us.

It is human to crave certainty. The problem with certainty is that it creates self-sufficiency. If we feel that we know everything or have everything, why would we need God? So God invites us to live with uncertainty because in that place we are utterly dependent upon him for love, guidance and provision.

‘Not knowing’ is one of the hardest experiences in life. Not knowing whom we might marry and spend the rest of our lives with. Not knowing what twists and turns our career path will take. Not knowing whether we will be able to have children. Not knowing the outcome of a health issue. Not knowing what the future will hold for ourselves or for those we love.

But throughout the Bible we see that the Kingdom of God turns life on its head. All that unknowing is an invitation to trust God. It’s an opportunity to put our earthly concerns aside and experience freedom through a relationship with a God who wants us and has the very best for us.

An example we’re living with today is the ‘Brexit’ result from the UK Referendum on the European Union. The result created great uncertainty, vulnerability and insecurity across the nation. Irreversible economic, political and cultural changes were set in motion and along with them a cloud of uncertainty that will stay in place for years to come. Shortly after the ‘Brexit’ vote I wrote an article for The Times newspaper in which I argued that, “The antidote to uncertainty is not certainty but faith and hope."

Our personal uncertainty and vulnerability not only helps us build a stronger relationship with God but also with each other. When we are open and vulnerable in a relationship we are saying, ’I trust you and I want you to trust me too’.

When it’s appropriate, I’m quite comfortable wearing my heart on my sleeve. After speaking at an international leaders’ conference recently I held a Q&A session. In answering one question, I told a very personal story from my childhood - which took even me by surprise. The room went completely silent in one of those palpable God moments. Afterwards, the conference host said that it was a turning point in the conference because other people started being vulnerable in ways they hadn’t done before. That vulnerability triggered an intimacy and trust that changed the mood of the event.

The truth is that if I am open and vulnerable with you, you are more likely to be open and vulnerable with me. Of course this works in our marriages too; if we can be more open with our husband or wife it will create a deeper trust and intimacy between us - try it! Exactly the same principle applies in business. Choose an appropriate moment when you can be more human and real with your clients and it can radically increase the level of trust between you. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. Vulnerability not only strengthens our relationship with God but also with one another.

So God invites us to have a relationship with him and to find faith, hope and peace through him despite 'not knowing’. As the writer to the Hebrews said, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). The essence of faith is that it is based on uncertainty and the vulnerability of ‘not knowing’. This is the place of vulnerable trust.


[Photo credit to Matt Bird]