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.

Right there.

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.


Karen Kyle Ericson said...

It's like the old song about the violin that was battered and bruised, and no one thought it was worth anything. Then when the Master violinist took it up and played it, it made beautiful music. The touch of the Master's hand. I also find more faith in reading the Bible and really digging into it. Great post! Thanks for the thoughts it brought.

Beth in NC said...

I know what you're saying. If you read my faith post this morning you'll hear about healings I have witnessed, but I have parents with cancer and my Mom had a massive stroke back in 2001. I have prayed for them to walk in healing for years. I have had to totally lean on God to press through each day as their need for care has increased.

Coming over from the Faith Barista's site.


HisFireFly said...

yes, Yes, YES!

and I must trust that my faith is growing, even now.

Louise Gallagher said...

You have touched my rocky places with your faith.

Megan Willome said...

That'll preach, Sir Glynn.

I have so often seen and experienced Romans 8:28 used as a club to beat me into gratitude. I like your idea, that faith grows in the midst of adversity, and we don't even notice it. Sometimes all you can can do is just get up every morning and go on.

Caroline said...

Very powerful, Glynn. As is our faith carrying us through adversity. It's amazing how faith grows when we're so broken we learn to lean on Him more and more.

Thank you for this post.

Maureen said...

It's when I'm experiencing the kinds of things you describe here that I seek the silence. It's in the quiet that I hear best, and often when I feel the least lonely.

travelmom said...

This was a wonderful blessing. Thank you, Glynn. The grace-grappling struggles later become those places where, in time and by God's grace, I can and have seen His deepest love. It is a wrestling match though. Thanks for the post.

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam said...

This is such a great reminder for those times when it feels like your faith is weakened from so many prayers bouncing off the brass ceiling, making you feel like you have no faith at all and you're numb and tired and just existing. The truth that your faith is growing, even at those times, is such a rock to cling to!! And I agree with you that it's best to be wise about the Romans 8:28 approach--sometimes we just can't tolerate that idea no matter how true we know it to be.

Patricia said...

...those times when the most earnest, heartfelt prayers, the cries from the depths of your soul, are answered by silence.

Even St. John of the Cross spoke of it in Dark Night of the Soul. Somehow, it's comforting for me to know that God has been using silence and adversity since forever to draw us to Himself. I cannot hang onto Romans 8:28 for long without holding hands with Luke 22:31. For me, it gives purpose to the suffering. And yes, there is actual peace beyond our understanding when we stop fighting against the battle and learn to lean into it. Sometimes we just have to sit in it don't we? Good post Glynn. Very thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, all you can say to a person suffering is, "Can I pray with you?"

Bonnie Gray said...

"I have so often seen and experienced Romans 8:28 used as a club to beat me into gratitude."

I have experienced this too, as Megan has. Contrast that with your post here... that faith is in the mist of adversity -- it is a contradiction. It's the very definition of faith: things are not what they appear. I have to say this is one of my favorites. Because faith is lifegiving. This post breaks with the aroma of Christ and I'm all the more strengthened and my soul has been touched with more beauty having read it.

Thank you so much, Glynn!