Disheveled Theologian: Ping or no ping, trust is the answer

O'Donnell Gretchen

As I was about to leave church on Sunday morning, I stopped for a moment for one last conversation. My pastor asked me, “So how long will Colin be gone?”

“A week,” I replied. “They’re kayaking on some river in Colorado. They have a way of sending messages once a day so at least I’ll know he’s alive.” [I now know, by the way, that it’s the Yampa, a river “known for rugged canyons and rapids”, where they passed Dinosaur National Monument then connected with the Green River in Utah.]

Pastor Kris then told me that her mom said that when she had loved ones making a similar out-of-cellular-range trip and using a similar once-a-day way of communication, it was super stressful when they failed to make that daily connection. I laughed, said, “I bet!” and headed on home.

Well, Kris’ mom was right.

It’s funny, actually. Colin has made trips like this before. More than once. I’m used to not being able to communicate with him for a few days at a time, and I just trust God that all is well. (Though I do haunt the “Find my Friends” app when it’s approximately time for them to re-join society.) I grew up, after all, with my dad in the Air Force. Days would go by without communication, and we carried on and didn’t fret. It’s doable.


But now, with this “once a day check-in” which consists of a longitude/latitude pin and a brief message, well … now I expect the check-in. Now I look for the check-in. Now I worry when the check-in doesn’t come.

Which it didn’t, Tuesday night.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” I told myself. “I don’t have to worry. I’ll just pray a little more. Just trust.”

I went to bed. Slept fine except for the thunderstorm.

Then came Wednesday morning. I checked my phone immediately upon waking. Nothing.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” I told myself. “I don’t have to worry. I’ll just pray a little more. Just --”


It hit like a ton of bricks. Trust. It’s my word of the year, after all. Trust: “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Do I have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, and strength of God to protect Colin and his friends even if I don’t know where, to the exact longitude and latitude, they are at this exact moment in time?


Yes, I do.

But I also know that bad things happen! But I also know that I can trust God to carry me through, no matter what, no matter how bad, no matter where life takes me.

I saw a quote on Instagram on Monday that stopped me in my tracks. It was not a mistake that I saw this quote in this week. God knew I needed it. It’s from Frederick Beuchner, American writer and theologian. In his book "Wishful Thinking: A Seekers ABC," he wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Don’t be afraid. In the beauty. In the terrible.

Trust. Even when you don’t receive the “ping” showing the longitude and latitude of your life. Even when everything is silent. Trust.

I received the “ping” a few hours later on Wednesday morning. Possibly the storm had delayed it? I don’t know. I just know that it was good to hear.

But it had also proven good to not hear.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise –- in God I trust and am not afraid.” Psalm 56:3,4 NIV


Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is

Related Topics: FAITH
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