First, I would like to state clearly this is my personal experience of faith and not intended any way to be representative of the Christian experience at large. Some Christians come to Christ and find only comfort and happiness, and this is something I hugely envy. For me, the journey is quite different. Of course, at times I feel comfort and joy, but this is often entwined with a longing I cannot seem to fulfil.
Becoming a Christian carries dichotomic challenges:-
Answered prayer v Unanswered prayer
Faith v Doubt
Submission v Rebellion
The world v the kingdom of heaven
These we must overcome. Sometimes God will answer our prayer so wonderfully that our faith will abound, and we will wonder how we ever doubted. Other times we will pray earnestly for years without an answer, and we may question, Where is God? We will experience times of great faith, we will also face times of doubt perhaps at tragic periods of our lives we will question, Why me? The book of Job is a book racked with pain and torture. Job cries out to God “I cry to you, and you do not answer me;”, 30:20. God answers “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”, 38:2 to which Job responds “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” 42:3, 6. As humans, especially of modernity whereupon we have made such strides in science, we consistently seek answers, answers we can see, touch, hear, smell, taste but there is knowledge that is beyond our understanding and here we must resist our questioning mind and submit to the all-knowing God.
At times we will dutifully submit to God in all our ways and at others we will rebel against him. Sometimes we will live in the world without much thought of our kingdom home and at others we may detach ourselves from the world around us.
This dichotomy will end when our lives are over, and we enter heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a place of light, of love, of faith, of submission. The world around us is a world of sin and is thus a place of darkness, of hate, of doubt, of rebellion. Yet God is with us and thus light, love, faith, and submission are also a part of our world. We cannot be wholly part of the world, nor can we be wholly part of the kingdom. We need to be aware both of God and the world around us as God will use the world for His cause.
There is an old Jewish tale that goes something like this. One day there was a great flood, and a man was stuck upon his rooftop. He prayed to God for help. Moments later a man came by in a rowing boat and shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” The man on the rooftop shouted back “No its Ok, God is going to save me.” Next a motorboat came past and the man from inside shouted “Jump in, I can save you”. Again, the man in the rooftop shouted “No, its Ok, God is going to save me.” Next a helicopter flew overhead, and the man shouted, “Grab the rope, I can save you.” Again, the man on the rooftop shouted “No, it’s Ok, God is going to save me.” Not long after the water rose, and the man drowned, and he found himself face to face with God in heaven. He asked him “I prayed to you, and you didn’t save me. I don’t understand?” God replied, “I sent you a rowing boat, a motorboat and a helicopter. What more did you expect?” As God created our world from nothing so Jesus could have made the wine, yet he used the water and wine skins available to Him. Again, feeding the 4000, this could have been achieved as the manna in the desert, yet He used the few fish available to Him. We must be aware of what is going on around us.
I often find myself stuck in a dichotomy, on the one hand receiving love and strength from the Word of God and the other, a sense of disappointment and failure. How can I ever be what the Lord wants me to be? My sin hits me square in the face. I long to find the comfort and joy that others experience. I desperately want to hear the voice of the Lord, to feel his comforting touch, to experience who Jesus really is, to know him as I know my family and friends and sadly, this never comes. I read and read hoping for some sort of eureka moment that is always out of reach. I often think of Martin Luther struggling with the same torment, brought to a great depression whereupon he rediscovered salvation through faith which would reignite Christianity. Luther’s eureka moment can be found in Romans 1:17 “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” Let us look at the previous verse to see what it is that verse 17 refers! Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
It refers to the gospel, the gospel is the power of God for salvation. There is power in the gospel. Power to change us, power to subdue our doubt, to strengthen our minds. Perhaps spiritual torment is the great battle for leadership, our sinful souls rising up against the infinitely more powerful nature of God. One must give way to God’s rule and here we can find strength in the power of the gospel as it is written, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
Let us acknowledge our weakness, acknowledge our doubt, acknowledge our rebellion, and find the strength in Christ to overcome these hurdles that stand in the way of our relationship with Christ.
I must assert that though these feelings are dark and sobering I have not felt able to leave my faith behind. In my darkest moments there is a force clinging me to Christ. When at times I fight to pull away it is futile. It is as if by glue I have been placed in the kingdom. When I long to be free of the confines of faith I am stuck yet this is the moment I realise I am free. If I become unstuck by the glue then I will be trapped in a life of sin. God has accepted me as his daughter, and He will never let me go. I wish I could be a better daughter to Him, but I must accept I will always be a work in progress, yet He loves me just the way I am. “But God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Further, nothing can separate us from God’s love “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
The pain is real when we look at other Christians whose journey has been full of joy and ease. When we see other Christians gain insight to God’s word effortlessly. When we see other Christians truly know Jesus as their friend. We must accept that everyone must take a different route to the same destination. We will all get there, some of us just have to take the winding road.
Stay strong, keep the faith, and love Jesus.
Love and blessings