I’m back to the topic of faith, which I began last month and continued with the second installment a couple weeks ago. I hope to wrap it up today, because it was never my intention to start a series; all this started about with some meandering thoughts about a magazine article.
The first post was a general observation about faith and human nature. In the second, I pointed out that the fervency of our faith is less important than the object of it.
I published the second post late in the evening and then went to bed, but it occurred to me after I laid down that the article might need some clarification. So that’s what I’m going to attempt today.
The story I told in Part II of this accidental series was an actual event, related as accurately as I recall it. I don’t know if either of the men were Christians, but it sticks in the back of my mind that at least one of them was, or at least, he was an active member of a church. In any case, however, a reasonable person might dispute the conclusion I drew. One might wonder, if one or both men’s faith was in Christ, didn’t God let them down by allowing such a terrible thing to happen? Even if neither of them were believers, we all know people who love the Lord but bad things happen to them anyway. Isn’t our faith misplaced in a situation like that? What good does faith in Christ do when it doesn’t protect us from disaster?
By way of answering now, let me simplistically point out that God is not a genie. The Christian faith is not about saying some magic words ending with, “In Jesus’s name, Amen” and expecting God to do our bidding.
God is God. That means He does what He will.
Yes, He considers what we want, and He loves it when we talk to Him and pour out our hopes, fear, and dreams. Very often, when we make a request, He’s happy to give us what we ask for. But one of the biggest benefits of prayer is not in getting Him to do our bidding, but in aligning our wills to His. The more we pray, the more we change. No amount of prayer can change Him to suit us.
The Bible is full of examples of this. (So is the whole history of the world, but for now, I’ll limit the discussion to what we see in the scriptures.) One of the most poignant is found in John 11. Jesus’s dear friend Lazarus was deathly ill, and Lazarus’s sisters sent a servant to Jesus and asked Him to come to heal him. (In other words, they prayed to Him.) But instead of coming to the rescue, Jesus stayed where he was for a few more days. He didn’t go until Lazarus was already dead and buried.
But He loved Lazarus and his sisters! They were suffering, and He could have helped them, but He didn’t! What’s up with that?
He’s God. He accomplishes His purposes, not ours.
But the most powerful example, of course, is the humiliation and agony Jesus went through Himself. He could have stopped that nightmare at any time. But instead, despite His sweat-soaked prayers to the Father to allow “this cup to pass from me,” He allowed this, the world’s most monumental travesty of justice, to be carried out to its horrifying completion. Because God is God.
To question the love — or power — or existence — of God because bad things happen is to assume we know better than He. That every painful thing is bad, and everything we like is good. That we can judge God by our standard.
Faith in God means trusting Him even when what’s going on makes no sense at all. It means believing what He says whether or not we understand it. Looking at things from His eternal perspective rather than from our limited, earthbound viewpoint.
I have faith in my car’s brakes to stop me. I have faith in the roof of my house to protect me and the contents from bad weather. I have faith in my marriage of almost 39 years. But faith in God trumps all that.
Despite my confidence, I know brakes fail, buildings fall apart, and marriages end. God won’t allow any of those things to happen unless and until it suits His perfect purposes. But when something horrific does happen, I’ll know He’s got everything under control, just as He did when Lazarus died. Just as He did when Jesus stood before Pilate.
It goes against our human nature to let go and trust–even, as the article in Wired magazine stated (in part I of this series), when confronted with evidence of our own inferiority.
It’s especially hard when things fall apart. We want to take matters into our own hands. But trusting myself more than the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God is just plain foolishness.