Friday, November 22, 2013

When What 'Could' Happen Does.....

Two of my overseas friends serving in different parts of the world have had a child kidnapped in the last few months.  Fortunately they were both let go after about 24 hours, but that doesn't make the trauma any less significant for parent or child.  Bad things can happen to good people and someone you love being hurt, sickness or sudden death, anything that makes you realize that your personal space is actually less 'safe' than what you thought, these are the things that can rock the foundations of our worlds.

Faith in God's protective power had never been an issue for me.  One of my earliest memories is being in a doctor's office quietly chewing the piece of gum the doctor gave me while he explained to my mom that my from birth asthma appeared to be gone; my lungs were 'strangely clear.' My parents had just become Christians and prayed a simple prayer that God immediately answered and changed my life for the better.  And I knew from early childhood that God cared about ME.

That simple faith in a caring Father carried me into motherhood with sick little ones and strange-to-me illnesses in a foreign land.  (I recently made an impressive comprehensive list of unusual conditions that our family has had over the years!) I would trust Him during days of sickness and ask Him to wake me if needed at night and would sleep like a baby.  Childlike faith is a beautiful thing.  

But things happen in this fallen world that 'shouldn't,' faith becomes more complicated, and trust can become a struggle with fear.  It can be easy to trust Him when nothing's gone 'wrong.' But once it has for whatever reason, even if He clearly walks through it with you; when what COULD happen becomes what HAS happened, regaining that child-like trust is a whole different dimension.  New territory.  I'm not sure 'child-like' is even the right word anymore.  

I thought I trusted Him before, but I've been on a journey in more recent years to regain my child-like faith from the perspective of knowing that bad things can happen to me, to those that fill my heart, and am learning to trust again anyway in a way that's measurably deeper than before.  (But it doesn't happen overnight!)

I recently read:

"So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials wills show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."  (I Peter 1:6-9)

To be honest, sometimes I'm just thinking about survival in the present, not about 'praise, glory, and honor' later!  But the principle is the same;  trials deepen faith.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4)

But why does our faith need to grow?  It's painful and hard and unpleasant.  Wasn't our simple childlike faith good enough?  It is if that's what it truly is; faith in God alone, but James goes on to give a clue into what our untested psyche may actually be:

"But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do." (James 1:6-8)

Is that us?  How often is part of our faith in other things?  Ourselves, for example. Or another person. Our perceived 'right' to a good life because of OUR 'faithfulness' to God, etc.  There's an excellent word used in Texas to describe thoughts like these---hogwash!  (Basically rotted things fed to pigs; nonsense.)  Because deep down we know what we deserve.  And it ain't (another Texas goodie!) good stuff.  And we sure can't do it on our own.  Yet honestly, deep down in our deepest, darkest heart of hearts we often find that our faith isn't actually just in God alone----but in God and ___________ (fill in the blank).

We need to be tested.  We need to have our hearts laid bare and see what's really there.  We need to KNOW that He is faithful, not just because life is good but even when it isn't.  We need to grow in trust that He has it under control beyond a shadow of a doubt----even when we didn't realize that we doubted to start with.

We need to be able to have faith in Him even when what 'could' happen does.......

I worry, I'm afraid, and often have more questions than answers.  I read of those who have gone before and assume that I could never be like them. But then I remember that we are not defined by our doubts----but by we do with them after that.  How do we respond when troubles come and where do we turn?  Sometimes just showing up and taking that first step of faith towards God is all that it takes to lead us on to the next step, and the next step, and the next. Sometimes just turning to Him in itself is an act of genuine trust.  

And we need to know in Whom we put our trust:

"My soul clings to you;  your right hand upholds me."  (Ps. 63:8)

"The Lord knows those who are his."  (2 Tim. 2:19)

My God will certainly hear me."  (Micah 7:7)

"Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge......You guard all that is mine." 
(Ps. 16:1, 5)

"I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don't be afraid or troubled."  (John 14:27)

"So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.......There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."   (Heb. 4:14, 16)

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber."  (Ps. 121:2-3)

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."  (Job 42:2)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)

This is Who He is. The Essence of Love.  The Risen One who tells us not to be afraid because he holds the keys of death and the grave. (Rev. 1: 18)

Micca Campbell said, "God cannot, shall not and will not lie.  Therefore, if God makes you a promise to help you, empower you, to never leave you, then it's your job to recognize and rely on and trust God to make good on that promise."  

Do we believe that God is bigger than ____________ (this today)?  Even this?  

Real faith develops when life doesn't turn out how we expected. Faith and trust CAN be regained.  It takes a focus on His Person, not the problem.  Faith will eventually be infinitely deeper than before.  And hope reigns.

Photo by Adam