Faith Crisis

Lake_2952When I was little our family would pile into the car every summer, drive to Minnesota and spend a week at the lake. This was before the day of the internet. We didn’t make reservations, we just drove until we found something that looked interesting.

We never doubted that we would spend a week at the lake. The minute my sisters and I got into the car with our suitcases we were already there.

It was as good as done. We weren’t sure about the journey, but the destination was guaranteed.

We understood that we might have to stop two or three times before we had success, but we had faith in our Dad’s ability to find what he had promised.

After driving two or three hours our Dad would stop at a small resort and walk to the office while the rest of us held our breath.

Sometimes the resort was full.

Sometimes it was too much money.

Sometimes our Dad didn’t care for the look of the place once he was closer.

We could tell by how he was walking whether he had success or not. If his head was down and he was walking with a determined gait we knew it was a no. If he was grinning, almost running back to the car we knew he had found the spot.

A couple weeks ago I was reading in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. I turned there specifically because I was struggling. Struggling with weariness, questions, confusion; struggling to believe God had a good plan that He was working out; struggling ____________( You can fill in your own blank).

I know God is faithful, but I needed to be reminded just how faithful.

The first verse got me headed in the right direction.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB)

William MacDonald has this to say about that verse.

“…it is a definition of what faith does for us. It makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them, and it provides unshakable evidence that the unseen, spiritual blessings of Christianity are absolutely certain and real…Faith is confidence in the trustworthiness of God. It is the conviction that what God says is true and that what He promises will come to pass.”

I would encourage you to read the rest of Hebrews 11. Think long and hard about the men and women listed there. Their faith was not in their ability to overcome obstacles, but in God’s ability to walk them through extreme difficulties. Sometimes the results were glorious, other times the immediate results were trouble and even death. Both are examples of faith in a good God.

As a child I had utter faith in my Dad. I never doubted that he would bring about what he promised.

As a child of God I need to have utter faith in the one who made me for His good purpose. He has been faithful in the past. He will be faithful in the future. Although the journey isn’t always easy, I can trust that my destination is sure.

For further study:

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:18 (NASB)

“…it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:18-19 (NASB)

“In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable.” Hebrews 10:23 (Phillips)

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 41:11 (NASB)

Praying the Hard Prayers

I struggle to pray “correctly.” Over the years I have heard many sermons and read many books on how to pray. But when it comes right down to it, praying isn’t a formula to be followed. It is a God to interact with. “Come now, let us reason together,” it says in Isaiah 1:18. That doesn’t sound like a God who wants me to follow a formula. That sounds like a God who wants a back and forth conversation with me.

I’ve prayed “Thy will be done” many times, but sometimes I think it is the easy way out. It is easier to pray that than risk praying something that God says no to. It is hard work to seek God’s will and then pray accordingly. And frankly, after seeking God’s will we still aren’t always completely sure that we’ve gotten it right. That’s where the “reasoning together” comes in.

Almost 30 years ago my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed passionately for his healing.  In contrast, many around me prayed for God’s will to be done. It offended me that they weren’t willing to go “all in” with their request. I was crying out to my heavenly Father for something I desperately wanted. I was praying in faith believing He would answer. Night after night, week after week I wrestled with God. Asking Him to do what was impossible from a human standpoint.

A few months later my Dad died. I was heart-broken. I had risked everything by praying for his healing. God whispered, “…no.” He had healed him, but not in the way I wanted. I wanted him here with me. God wanted him there with Himself. God’s will won out. I wept and slowly accepted it.

Do I wish I had prayed “…if Thy will be done”?  No, I faced this with my God. Night after night I had reasoned with Him. I had poured out my heart to Him. He did not despise me for being honest. He walked me through the grief and slowly I learned that even when He says no, I can still trust Him.

He grieved that I grieved. Yet, His purposes remained out of my reach and understanding. He whispered, “Someday I’ll explain it to you. Someday you will understand.” That had to be enough.

He continues to walk day by day, moment by moment with me. He doesn’t desert me when the road gets unbearable. He doesn’t mock me when I pray foolish things. Each of those face to face encounters teach me more of who He is. Those times of reasoning together, even wrestling…if you will, bring me closer to the God who loves me more than I can imagine.

So I continue to pray incorrectly. I continue to risk praying the hard prayers. Because that is where I learn more about God and His ways.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

This post was first published at  Biblical Counseling for Women

When Miracles Don’t Happen

It has been a difficult decade. There have been many sleepless nights. There have been many tears. I have prayed believing. I have prayed even though I didn’t believe. I have prayed when i didn’t feel like praying. My prayers have been whispered, spoken and shouted. They have been written down on my laptop, leather journals and scraps of paper. Often my prayers have been wordless. Having said all I could think of to say I left the words to the Holy Spirit who promises to “intercede for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

We are instructed to pray, and yet what is our response when we don’t see an answer? We want to hear about the miracles and the happy endings. We don’t want to hear about the financial struggles, the sexual abuse, people dying of cancer, prodigal children or broken families. The church speaks loudly in its silence. Like Job’s silent friends who sat and watched. (Job 2:11-15) When they finally did speak it was to blame Job for the trouble he was in. (Job 4 etc.)

We delight to look at Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. It is full of miracles. God doing great things through ordinary people because of their faith. The words “by faith” are used 19 times in that chapter. But there are others mentioned in verses 35-38 that we tend to ignore. They were tortured, stoned, sawn in two, put to death etc. They were not living the miracle life. Their situation was more of a nightmare variety, but in verse 39 it says “all these, having gained approval through their faith…”

I was startled when I read Genesis 15 the other day. It records a conversation Abraham had with God. God was again repeating his covenant promises to Abraham. Then comes verse 13. God wanted Abraham to know something…to know for certain…

Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.”

That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing anyone would want to know for certain. Yet, I believe that we need to know for certain that life will be hard. Things won’t always go as we planned. Sin will continue to corrupt this world and our lives. We need to prepare for the ugly in our life so we don’t loose our hope. Someday it will be different. Someday the trouble we have gone through will be over. The trouble is not an indication of our lack of faith. The trouble is not an indication that God is mad at us.

The good news is we have a God who promises to always be with us in the midst of that trouble (Matthew 28:20; John 16:33) As we learn to cling to Him we understand His worth. He is a God that walks through the darkest of nights with us. I believe that those dark nights reveal more to us about who He is than the perfect ordered life, we long for, ever could.

So the next time you hear people talking about the miracles in their life remember that God often does the most amazing miracles in the dark. Some of us will have to wait until we get to heaven to see the miracles revealed, that we so longed for on earth.

(Originally posted January 5, 2015 at Lytroo Retreat.)