by C Michael PattonJune 1st, 2011 8 Comments
Many things are easy to believe. It’s easy for me to believe that I just finished counseling a couple who are getting married next week. Why? Because I just experienced it. It’s easy for me to believe that I am writing on my computer right now. Though I don’t have the first clue as to how computers work, the experience is enough to persuade me of the reality of my actions. I believe it. So many things in life that we have faith about are easy to believe. But some things are harder to believe.
One thing that we have to keep in mind about the Christian faith is that it often does take faith. I spend a good deal of time trying to help people understand that belief in Christ is not irrational. In fact, I believe that, when we understand things well, it is the most rational thing that we can do. Some things that God calls on us to believe are simple and self-evident. Very often, many aspects of our faith are easy and require about as much effort as belief in the reality of my present action of writing this message. Sometimes faith seems to take very little faith.
However, there are things that are not quite so easy to believe. Just because something is rational does not mean it is always easy to believe. There are times in our lives (often extended times) when belief is hard to come by. There are things that cause us to doubt and slip into a mire of uncertainty. When faith does not come so easy, we often panic, making the situation much worse as we sink deeper into a pit of despair.
It is easy to believe God loves me when things are going well in my life – when the kids are obedient, when my marriage is going well, and when there is enough in the bank to pay the bills. It is easy to believe because we often think that these are the things we should experience if our faith was true. However, when things are not going so well, faith takes a little more faith.
Pain and suffering, meaninglessness, depression, and lack of hope can quickly rob you of your faith and send you into a time of debilitating sorrow. Belief in God’s goodness takes more faith when you have a wayward son or daughter. Belief in God’s providence takes more faith when bill collectors are after you. Belief in God’s mercy takes more faith when a sinful fall is close in your rear-view mirror. Belief in God’s concern takes more faith when in the storm of depression.
When our faith begins to walk with such a limp, all things of God become suspect. Reading the Bible becomes a laborious task, seemingly only adding to our doubt and fear. Standing on his promises is not as easy as singing the song.
But I think we often forget that sometimes faith does take faith. I know that sounds odd. I am not trying to advocate some type of blind irrationalism. What I am saying is that God will sometimes put our faith on trial, not to watch us fall, but to build us up.
There may be things right now that you are called upon to believe about God that you are finding hard to believe. Maybe you have never doubted them before, but the problem is you are doubting them now. It might be an intellectual struggle, an experiential struggle, or an emotional struggle. The intellectual side of you says, “It is not rational to believe in such and such that the Bible says.” The experiential side of you says, “I am not experiencing God’s action in such and such situation and am doubting his presence.” The emotional side of you says, “I don’t feel as if such and such it true.”
It is at these times that we must remember that faith does take faith.
I think that sometimes we spend so much time trying to take the faith out of faith—we spend so much time trying to make our belief easy—that we are in danger of losing what it means to believe.
When God calls on us to believe something, he is calling on us to trust him. It is pretty simple. No, he is not calling on us to trust our own intellect, emotions, or experience (though he often works through these). He is calling on us to trust him. He is saying, “Just trust me. I am God and I know what I am talking about. I do know what I am doing. Just trust me. Just trust me. No, no, no. I am not going to answer that. Just trust me.”
I write this because I fear that we (myself included) sometimes try to take all the faith out of faith. We try to make faith easy. Sometimes our faith is hard to believe. But this does not mean it is unwarranted. God knows what he is talking about. God knows more than you or me. Just trust him.
- Four Types of Faith
- On Leaving My First Love
- One Paragraph Advice to Those Who Are Doubting Their Christian Faith
- Darrell Bock on Christian Doubt
- The Anatomy of Belief (4): Complexities of Conviction