Wednesday, July 4, 2012

When Faith Fails Us

  People who pursue a relationship of belief in God are often forced to revisit their understanding of ‘faith’ and what that concept means. If we are truly engaged in a relationship of believing in God, we must accept that it is dynamic, fluid, and continually changing: not because God changes, but because we do. The understanding and perception we possessed as children has matured and become fuller, we gain insights and grow stronger. Exercising the tenets of our beliefs makes us more resilient, more solid; we believe in God’s promises because we have seen them fulfilled in our own experience and in the lives of those we fellowship with. We are confident, self-assured, smiling……..and it happens.

 The bottom falls out, the world is upside down, we are wrecked. The diagnosis is grim and unexpected. The career is lost. Our surety and foundation lie in a disheveled heap like the remnants of a Midwestern town after a tornado. We profess that we are okay and we put on the brave face but inside we have questions and doubt. ‘How can this be happening?’, ‘Why has God allowed this?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ If we are honest we can all remember a time or times when upheaval has put us on our heels and caused us to lament ‘Why, me?’ Thankfully, God anticipated our need for order and answers and assurance and he gave us Job: the gold standard for enduring loss and destitution while still clinging to the belief that we serve a God who loves and cares for us. The problem with Job is, the deeper you delve into the story, the less comforting it becomes. The element of God allowing Job to be placed in the crucible seems unjust and callous to us in our understanding of God and how He should operate. How is it that mature believers can get swept off their rock of faith by a sudden deluge of pain, discomfort, or change? What stirs indignation and self-righteousness in our hearts when we have been subjected to an event that challenges our understanding of faith and relationship with God?

 What has happened is that our faith has failed us. The problem is that ‘our faith’ has become misplaced. We have gotten away from believing in God and His promises, and we are believing in ‘our faith’. We have slipped into a comfortable place in which we have placed our confidence and trust in the fact that we believe. We have exchanged the infinite love of our Father who has redeemed us, for a very weak and devalued currency of ‘our faith’. If we consider God’s word and the instances where He speaks about ‘our faith’, we will realize we place much more value on it than we should. How many men had their faith attributed to them as righteousness? How often did Jesus declare, “I tell you the truth, I have never seen faith such as this in all of Israel!” See, when God determined that we needed a Savior, He did so because ‘our righteousness is as filthy rags’ and we cannot muster the minute faith of a mustard seed! We, in and of ourselves, are sheep. We bleat and stumble, fall off precipices, set ourselves on fire, and run looking for wolves to invite to dinner at every turn. But in ‘our faith’, we are rams with sure feet and steady eyes, capable of traversing the treacherous cliffs, leaping over the gaping chasms.We become insured in our salvation, and we become assured that somehow 'our faith' is sustaining us; that somehow we are playing a part in the relationship, that we have earned a box seat with benefits befitting someone of our proximity to God by 'our faith'. Satan has stood quietly beside us and whispered, "Did God really say?", only this time he has helped us to understand that 'our faith' has made us acceptable and right with God.

     In His Word, God is clear about our ability to 'be good enough', 'be righteous', ' be faithful'. We can't. What we can do, and do really well, is ascribe motives to circumstance, take pride in our minuscule attempts at faithfulness, and place entirely too much emphasis on our place in the equation, giving our 'faith' a value that is astronomically disproportionate to the value of Jesus love.  While it is incumbent upon us to believe, it is essential for us to always understand that the source of our salvation, provision, existence is the benevolence of God, without whom we would have no hope, no life, no joy.  Pride and lies are from the darkness; humility and truth come from the Light. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. 

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