Thursday, July 21, 2011
The Contradictions of Faith
Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista has asked the question, how is God challenging you to keep faith fresh?
I almost reverted to form, thinking the obvious: faith grows in adversity, in bad times and in good. Think Romans 8:28. You know how to answer this, Young. That tough problem at work threatening your career? It’s a faith-grower. That nasty co-worker who wants your job? Ditto. That fight between your two closest Christian friends? Yep, it’s meant to stretch and grow your faith.
All things are for your good. It’s true, but it also seems trite, a little too pat, even a little too cold to say to yourself, when you’re down and depressed, much less to someone who’s suffering.
Right now, I have one friend whose father-in-law is afflicted with cancer. Another is trying to recover from a stroke, and can understand everything you say but can’t respond very well. Still another just learned that cancer has recurred. A fourth is fighting advanced breast cancer.
Somehow, quoting Romans 8:28 doesn’t seem quite the right thing in these situations. Yes, all things happen for the good of those who love him, but it’s a hard message to understand when you’re dealing with the after-effects of radiation and chemotherapy, or your mind is trying to make your voice break free of the physical limitations imposed by a stroke. Or a friend has lost his job and medical benefits, and his child is seriously ill.
Instead, in my own life and in the lives of others, I see faith being renewed and grown through what I call its contradictions.
Faith grows best in adversity, and in the waiting out of adversity, those times when the most earnest, heartfelt prayers, the cries from the depths of your soul, are answered by silence.
Faith grows most at that precise moment when you think you’ve lost it, that all this Bible stuff is a crock of stories and myths.
Faith grows deepest in the rocky places, the barren places and cold places, the places where the soil is thin and dry.
And the biggest contradiction may be that you’re often unaware that your faith is growing, because you’re so focused on the problem, the issue, the faltering relationship, the adversity, and the pain that you don’t see it or understand it until after, often long after, whatever it is has been settled, resolved or healed. Then you look back and realize what happened, how your faith grew, how right there in the moment of deepest doubt and despair, it was being lovingly tended to and watered and nurtured and protected.
It still can hurt and ache.
But you understand.
To see more posts that answer Bonnie’s question, please visit Faith Barista.
Photograph: Cloudy Day by Bobby Mikul via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.