Yesterday my friend Mitch shared an awesome article with me. It's short, so please open another tab in your browser and read it now before moving on. Seriously. Do it. You will be blessed.
This got me thinking about my faith. I've almost always believed my faith was strong, and throughout Maggie's sickness and death everyone talked about our strong faith. But I'm beginning to think about it a little bit differently now. What is faith? What do I believe about my God? And even more, what do I expect of him?
One of the reasons this article struck me was the curious feeling the author had when he needed to praise God in the middle of a terrible time. I've been there. For us it was the overwhelming and convincing feeling we had to continually pray for God to be glorified throughout Maggie's life, and even her death. It's weird to be so sure about something so uncomfortable. That kind of reasoning doesn't fit into modern Christian theology.
The author also points out that our theology as modern Christians teaches us that with a strong enough faith, God will calm every storm in our lives and keep bad things from happening. Is this what we expect from an almighty God? A bodyguard to keep our time on this earth happy and safe? Is this who God is? I'm not convinced.
I've always been drawn to the story in 1 Kings 18-19 about Elijah at Mt. Carmel. If you haven't read it, you should. Even if you think the bible is complete phooey, this is just a great story. Here's the bullet points:
- Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a competition of Gods
- Baal's prophets fail and God wins
- The king threatens to kill Elijah, so Elijah runs and hides
- God gets really frustrated with Elijah because he doubts God's abilities
I know why this story sticks with me. I'm Elijah. I talk a big game about how great my God is, He proves His superiority, something in the world threatens me, and I forget completely how great and able God is. It's pretty sad.
And remember that time in the New Testament when Jesus fell asleep in the boat, and a huge storm started to swamp the boat? And the apostles were so scared that they woke Jesus and said, "Don't you care if we die?" They had just seen Jesus heal a man at the temple on the Sabbath, and now a storm scared them to the point of doubt. Yeah. I'm that guy too.
Faith isn't believing bad things don't happen. They do. We live in a broken world that has been maimed and gouged by sin. There will be hurts, pains, and yes, even death. Satan's stains are all over the lives of people we love, and there are consequences for that. Hiding, and aiming to evade the struggles of this world is a waste of the life we were gifted.
True faith in our God is knowing that the pains and discomfort of this world mean nothing. True faith means we relinquish the fears of death, humiliation, sadness, and grief because we know the place we are going does not have these things. We are willing to suffer in this world because we care more about what our God thinks about us that what the world thinks of us.
Faith is accepting what comes to us in this world and searching for a way to glorify God in it.
This isn't a call for Christians to beat themselves with whips to show how much pain we can take. It's simply the call to look at our God in a bigger way. God cares when we hurt physically and emotionally, but I know he hurts more when we quit looking to him and calling his name in those times.
As for Elijah and the apostles in the boat, they all failed in the storm. I'm still that guy. I fail often. It's so easy to forget. But I'm learning. Thank you God for your grace.