Why does anything good even happen at all? Because of the fall, should we not simply expect the worst and be thankful when anything good happens, recognizing it as a blessing from God? I have tried to believe this way for much of my adult life. We as wretched humans born into sin have so much for which to be thankful. But reading so many of God’s promises and the fact that our heavenly father will give us so much more than we would or could give our kids as earthly fathers has me questioning whether this is the right way to look at life. It is the safe way and it helps explain why bad things happen to good people, but is it the abundant life that God promises us?
Can we stand on His promises? Can we trust God to answer the prayers of the faithful? If I am being honest, I am not confident that I am consistently seeing God answer prayer. Well, you say, that must be because I am not praying…
- Hard enough
- Long enough
- With the right amount of faith
- With enough Love for the father and for others
Right, right, right, and right. How much is enough? Is it ever enough?
I see those who truly abide and I am drawn to them. I am mesmerized by their faith. While they experience great difficultly, their yoke is easy and their burden light. How? My mother used to tell me to smile long enough and I might actually become happy. I used to say that I would fake it til I made it. These are just examples of common mantras, but we have spiritual mantras as well. And mantras, though sometimes true, are really just brainwashing. I don’t want to be brainwashed. I want to find the truth. I feel like we often hide behind mantras or even scripture wanting to believe them, but not really experiencing them for ourselves. I feel a little like Jerry McGuire here, where I basically vomit everything that is frustrating me right now and then get fired. Surely I am not the only Jesus follower out there who lacks faith, so don’t stare at me like I am the only doubting Thomas.
So how do we know when we find truth? Do we feel it? Maybe, but we cannot trust our feelings. We have to compare them to the Word. That is the only solid truth that we have. We have to come to some intellectual ascent as to the truth of the Bible or we have no foundation. So if we take the Bible as truth, then we must believe God’s promises. How do we know if we believe Gods promises? Do we feel that we know? Maybe, but we cannot trust our feelings. The only way I know to know if I truly believe is to act on that belief. That is the Western way, right? Just act. Why do I act? Is it to earn favor with God? Not if I believe His promises.
I act because I am thankful for Jesus and for salvation. I know the blackness of my soul. And the older I get, the more dark corners I discover. But the faith that God will answer my prayers is so fleeting. I try to believe that I will truly hear his voice, but I am not sure that I do believe that I will. I feel like I am finally at a place where I am more willing than ever to simply say yes, but I am not sure I know the sound of my Father’s voice.
“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24
Think of how frightening it would be for your son. If he was in a foreign land where he felt uncertain and out of place all the time and he was constantly crying out for you. You could see him, but he could not see you. “Dad, I’m trying to remain calm and simply put one foot in front of the other. I know that you are out there I just can’t see you or hear you. I remember you a little from when I was younger. You said a sheep could always recognize his master’s voice. Either I have forgotten the sound of your voice or you are not speaking. It is dark in here and there seems to be evil all around. Fortunately I have some of my brothers and sisters with me and they tell me they can hear you, so that gives me a little comfort that I am on the right path. But dad, I really want to hear from you myself. I have been doing my best to follow the instructions you gave me. But I just really want to know that you still love me and want me to succeed in this life. That you want me to be all that you told me you wanted me to be when I was younger….are you there?” Would you not just scoop up your son in your arms and make sure he never doubted the sound of your voice again? I would, but then I remember my existential angst: oh, yeah. . . I’m not God. A friend patiently listened to this rant of mine and insightfully commented: “But what if your son was 41 years old and needed to experience your silence in order to get him to a place that would be better for him, would you remain silent, or would you scoop him up?”
Then I see some of the faithful literally dying in the streets with no clothes and food for their kids. They are crying out to God and we cry out on their behalf. I do not understand why God does not clothe them and feed them like He promises in Matthew 6. He tells us to love the poor, not to simply say “be well” and pass them by. But are we that answer to prayer? Maybe, but why did God let them get to that point? What about “When Helping Hurts”? What if someone does not help them and they die? How is He fulfilling His promises of Matthew 6?
“Oh ye of little faith,” the scoffers and Pharisees are saying. Go ahead and say it. It is true, but I am still seeking the Father and I am trying to hear and understand. Instead of criticizing how about helping if you have it all figured out? I’m reading all your books. I am applying all the faith and action I can muster. I am trying to rest on Gods promises as well. I love to quote the phrase, “God cannot steer a boat if it is sitting still.” Faith in action: just move and trust God to guide. That all sounds wonderful, but how will He guide if I do not recognize His voice?
I am just so tired of drumming up some false faith or some guess as to the Father’s voice. I am trying to learn to simply act on what I perceive to be His voice. A friend encouraged me that It does not matter if I get it wrong so long as what I think I hear is in line with the character of God. I am trying to do that and I understand it conceptually, but dang it, I want to know it in my soul when God is telling me to act or when He is just saying, “Hey Troy, I love you,” like I am constantly saying to my son.
Growing up Baptist I was pretty much taught that God speaks through His word, PERIOD. I was then introduced to people who are truly tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit and I read about George Mueller and so many Christians who are experiencing His Holy power living in them. I just want to experience it enough that I have faith enough to encourage my children to live a radical life of faith. I know in my heart that is the best life, but I fear that my knowledge is similar to that described by Pascal. I want my children to know so much more faith than a wager for eternal life. A life of faith based upon Pascal’s wager cannot be the abundant life that God promised.
Oh that God will sanctify me despite my hard and dark heart, that He will show me mercy enough to use me as part of His body to fulfill the prayers of others even if I never learn the sound of His voice. I have been learning about Soren Kierkegaard and Christian existentialism, and it resonates with me. I am so ego driven that I have always wanted to be the hero. Well, I am obviously not and never will be. I now just want to play a role In a story bigger than my own. It is a much better story than the one that says “God is everywhere and everything” or “God is found within each of us” or the ever-popular “life sucks and then you die.” But am I simply wagering on what I believe to be the best story? That is not faith.
In John 6, when Jesus tells his disciples that they must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, many of them turned back. He then turned to the twelve and said, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” That is what I say as well. “Lord, to whom shall I go?” “Yours is the life I want for me and my family. I will eat of your flesh and drink of your blood, so please….be more than an intellectual ascent to a worldview and more than a wager for the afterlife. Be my Lord and Savior and help me to learn the Father’s voice.” AMEN