Friday, April 24, 2009

A difficult faith

I have rarely in my life been as utterly exhausted as I am right now. Even less rarely has my faith been so deeply tested and challenged. It's a truism among Christian circles that one should never pray for increased patience - and I'm finding that the corollary with faith has deep grounding. I prayed for increased faith about six months ago. The intervening months have comprised the most emotionally distressing, taxing, and intense time in several years, and in some ways in all my life.

Not least because all of this is external. When last I was going through a profound shaking in my life, it was very much internal. The problems were starkly set before me and their cause my own sin: a very simple situation. The problem could be resolved by dealing with my own sinful heart, and so it went. Conviction, repentance, and slow but steady sanctification - with many an up and down along the way, to be sure.

Now, though the depth of the struggle is internal, the circumstances are not. The problem is not some single deep-seated sin issue in my heart. Nor are the circumstances within my grasp. When, two years ago, I was walking through a deep testing and refining time, God moved in my life. He changed me. Broke me and made me new again, better than before. It was beautiful, marvelous, and thoroughly life-changing. And it was me, which meant that I had to be an active participant in the process, though walking in His strength and relying on His guidance and wisdom. Not so the present. Now, I can do nothing that I have not already done. I can accomplish nothing. I am helpless to affect my circumstances beyond what I have already done.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. Real faith. It's a meaningful trust in God, or despair. It's in moments like this that faith becomes alive, rather than simply words we speak or thoughts we think. Now our "faith" becomes obedient belief, and so produces life. If it does not, it proves itself no faith at all, a dead husk that is but a cruel mockery of true life.

No other alternatives exist. There is faith, and there is despair, in whatever form it may take. One may choose pointless hedonism, utter nihilism, or any part of the range between the two: it matters not, all is pointlessness and folly if there is no God, or if He is not loving and good. There is nothing if there is no God, because what does exist is purposeless and meaningless if He does not exist. The best efforts of philosophers all fail: no middle way awaits for those who would somehow avoid the "folly" of faith or the willful ignorance of atheism. God is, or He is not. If He is, then He is Yahweh, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit - or He is not. Syncretism is nonsense, pantheism folly, Taoism in all its myriad forms but ignorance enshrined as virtue. And relativism is nihilism wearing what appears to be a pretty dress until you realize there are more holes than there is dress.

Faith, then, is the only reasonable option - but emotions rarely brook dissent from reason. What then do we say at the moment of decision between trust and despondency? How shall we be encouraged when all hope seems vanquished by the slow creep of life over our dreams like vines on a wall? When will light break over the horizon?

We must choose. To not choose is to choose: it is to choose an unending death of the soul, a death the body will catch up with in some 70 years at most. Faith, then. Faith in Christ Jesus. Faith that His word is true, that it means something.

Faith is hard right now.

God is good. He is kind. He provides everything we need, and He does so in perfect timing. He loves us. He cares for us. He is our shepherd, and He delights to save us and feed us and guard us. He is.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen... And without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him.

- Chris


  1. i get it ... i really, really get it. about ten to 24 months ago, my faith was shaken in ways i would never have believed possible. God is patiently putting me all back together, putting my faith all back together. it's different, now. i'm not sure i can articulate it all yet, but it is different.

    yes ... there is faith, and there is nothing.

  2. btw - David - i left a reply comment on your blog ... great to hear from you again :)

  3. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) What I believe Jesus was emphasizing is that seeing requires no faith, even as the quote from Hebrews you concluded with.
    Seeing is of the flesh. Faith is of the Spirit. We should desire then that we walk according to the Spirit - at all times.


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