Faith in a Faithless World

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(Image courtesy of hil001.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of hil001.blogspot.com)

It is so hard to watch someone lose faith.  Faith is hard to keep.  At times, it can feel impossible to hold, but what will tether us if we let go of the lifeline to our Lord?  I can see why people fall prey to doubt and despair.  I can understand the havoc tragedy can bring upon us.  Yet there were dark, desperate times of deep despair in my life, and the only reason I am here and not dead, especially by my own hand, is because I have this faith.  It is strong, vibrant, alive, and growing.  Yes, it grows even now.  My faith is not that there is a God.  I know there is a God, because I have a personal relationship with God grounded in experience and encounter.  I have faith that God will keep God’s promises.  That is where the difficulty lies.  We all like the promises of God, the hope of things unseen, but glorious in concept, such as eternal life in the Kingdom to come where death and sorrow are no more.  Yet those promises can feel very distant when you lose your job, when you cannot afford basic necessities, when your spouse destroys the life you have made together, when death steals away your beloved, and when you discover that you body is being destroyed by sickness.  In those times of immense suffering, faith seems futile.

I would love to use the past tense, but I have to say that even now there are days when the only thing that gets me through is that I know God will be my help.  I often would like that help in the form of financial security, physical healing, or restoration of things from my past that are now broken, but that is not always possible, nor what is really best for me.  Can I trust that God will provide?  Can I place myself in the hands of the Lord who has ultimate providence?  There is no alternative to consider.  No human can stand beside me without sinning.  No school of thought, no humanly contrived philosophy can bring me the hope of Christ.  That is God’s alone to give, and God has.  It is because I have faith in God to do what God has promised through the Scriptural accounts of the covenants, the prophets, and the Gospel, that I can tolerate the pain, the suffering, and the abiding despair.  Faith does not just wash them away.  It does not eradicate them from my life, because people keep perpetuating sin and birthing evil in my world.  But then God does something wonderful, merciful even: God sends people into my life to walk with me, to stand beside me, to sit in the sorrow with me, and to pick me up when my legs give out.  In those time when I thought, “It’s just you and me, God,” I was wrong.  God comes to me in others, vessels of love and hope.  They become the assurance in physical form that God’s promise is true, that my hope is secure.  And suddenly I feel the faith as tangible as the ground beneath my feet, the air in my lungs, and the heart beating in my breast.

Faith draws us closer to one another, just as sin pushes us away and pulls us apart.  Faith knits us back together when we are broken, torn in pain.  Those who have this faith as I do, I need them.  I need their presence to lean upon, to share my burdens, to help me carry my cross as I struggle to follow Jesus.  I need to see God in them, so that I can feel that much closer to the one who made me, forgave me, and redeemed me.  I need their love to reflect God’s love, without which I would surely die.  We cannot claim faith in God and let people be alone.  We cannot use our belief to insulate us and sequester us from others.  We have no right to withdrawal from others, especially when we could be the means through which God provides strength and comfort for God’s beloved.  So we go into the darkness to find those that dwell there.  We journey into the pain to be a salve of the Balm of Gilead.  We allow the suffering to radiate back to us that we can be fully present with those who feel fully alone.  Faith in God’s promises is the light in the dark, the hope in the despair.  It is the way in which so many who claim Christ have survived to proclaim his glory, and it is God’s chosen means of saving us.  All the while, God’s grace and love are transforming us, and we will see this one day, if we but hold on long enough.  It is always easier to hold on when someone else’s hand is wrapped around your own.

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