The Christian life is hard. I’d never tell anyone anything different.
Why is it hard?
Well, first off… life itself is hard. We all experience pain, loss, disappointment, heartache, heartbreak, trial, and tribulation.
In our most cynical moments, life can feel like we’ve fallen out of a really tall tree. The goal of life, or at least one subconscious desire we have, is to hit as few branches as possible on the way down.
The truth is that nobody is immune to or safe from the hardships of life. We must all experience them. We are fragile beings living in a world that is groaning from her many afflictions. And we’re never allowed to forget it.
From the increasing complexities and the magnificent mysteries of the universe, we can’t help but feel very small and insignificant. Of all the billions of bodies made up of dirt and water that have ever lived on this pale blue dot, I’m supposed to believe that I matter in some way to the unfolding of time and human history? I know how difficult it can be to believe that.
Now add to that a belief that requires that I move in the opposite direction of the post-enlightenment herd of empiricists and rebuke the modern systematic attack on faith—the gospel that says God became flesh, was crucified for my sins, and was resurrected from the dead to give me life everlasting.
Sorry, Karl (Marx). That’s not an “opiate” for me or the masses.
In that sense, being a person of faith isn’t making life easier. In fact, I could easily argue that it makes life much more challenging, as it necessitates that we believe in more than what we can see, touch, and put in a test tube. The science lab is no help in that respect. The “proof” I’m looking for isn’t there.
I suppose that if a person’s idea of “faith” is simply to stop all critical thinking, become anti-science, and just believe a bunch of mystical teachings in an ancient book, well then, it no doubt seems absurd, even psychotic, to embrace such a view. That sort of “faith” is like gouging out your eyes and trying to convince everyone else that you see. But that’s not biblical faith. And we should stop promoting it as such.
I know that it’s much more complicated than this, but I’ll sum it up this way. It has been the anti-intellectual voices of the church that helped to fuel this cultural confusion with faith. The response of the “enlightened” to this anti-intellectualism was to run in the opposite direction of mystery and accept a worldview that leaves no room for God. That’s unless “God” is a scientist.
But what if biblical faith isn’t about numbing the pain, dodging the hardships of life, or inventing a myth and wishing it to be true in order to create meaning and purpose in what is nothing more than a cosmic hiccup?
Instead, what if biblical faith is about opening our eyes to the meaning and purpose that’s already there, right in front of us? In that regard, faith is all around us. All we must do is reach out for it. And I believe it begins with accepting that life (and faith) is hard, ambiguous, and a perplexing paradox.
Therefore, biblical faith might best begin by coming to terms with this truth.
I don’t mean to say that everything we experience or that happens to us is from God. Of course not! Rather, we live in a world where the Creator’s original intent and design was derailed long ago. Even now, we are free, but we often use that freedom for destructive ends. We are the culprits. It isn’t the God we often love to blame (or hate) so much.
Think about this. We repeat the fall from Eden every day. That story in Genesis 3 isn’t primarily about a primal pair sinning against God and violating their own conscience, only then to find themselves naked and alone.
No, it’s about you and me. And it happens every day. In an effort to cover our own nakedness and shame, we end up covering our eyes from seeing the truth that God loves us and wants to bring good out of our evil.
We must factor this in when trying to understand the darkness in our lives and our world. No sufficient explanation can be given to the problem of evil without a theology of the fall. If you’re blaming God for the problems in the world, then you haven’t encountered the God revealed in Jesus.
So biblical faith is about facing up to our own sin, brokenness, and limited understanding. It’s this humble path than unlocks the door to peace, forgiveness, and hope. Christ, our redemption, is found here.
I’ve known many people who have never been able to overcome their feelings in order to go deeper in their faith. Their emotions drive them, even when they believe it’s their logic and reasoning. Actually, their feelings cloud their vision and judgment. They are cut off from the faith that unlocks peace because they fail to persevere in their doubt and hard times.
These folks want it easy, and they want it their way. If these people don’t get it their way, they quit. And they step away from faith, sometimes for good.
But Jesus said that if you want to find your life, you must lose it (Matt 16:25). Believe me… there’s nothing easy about that. It’s hard. It hurts. But it works.
In other words, you must learn to press on through your momentary fickle feelings by clinging to what you believe to be true, indeed what the Scriptures say, about the God revealed in Christ. If we trust him regardless of circumstance, that is biblical faith. If we don’t trust him, we have no faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Perseverance is about pressing on to find life, even when you feel like you’re losing yours. Perseverance is about busting through the stopping places! Just an ounce of faith is able to produce a pound of faith if we’ll allow it.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
I have personally discovered that my faith increases and I’m given access to more of Christ when I exhibit this trust. No matter the hardship or trial, I can testify that when I hold to what I believe is true about God’s character, displaying my faith, he will carry me through my feelings. I come out on the other side a better person. I’m more mature and complete.
What is needed for a biblical faith? More than feelings, that’s for sure. Faith is for those who wish to be strong. There are no quitters in the Kingdom.
If you want to go deeper in your covenantal faith with Christ, I encourage you to do these three things in community: (1) “hunger for righteousness”—for more of Jesus; (2) memorize Scripture about God’s love and faithfulness; (3) make up your mind to persevere despite your hardships. Then you’ll get your proof.
This is your part. It’s out part. Do this and give God the opportunity to prove his faithfulness to you. Follow Christ and let him reward you with his peace. Let him grow your roots down deep into the soil of his own faith.
D.D. Flowers, 2015.