Foolish Faith

I knew He could and I had hoped He would.

I wouldn’t be shaken, I didn’t care how impossible it looked or how dark it felt. There was no other option but hope. No other outcome was to be entertained. Victory was the only possible answer. Miraculous, unbelievable, odds defying victory.

Deep down though I knew, though I didn’t want to say it, that God’s definition and picture of victory did not always match my own.

Yes, His visions of victory had included parting the Red Sea, driving out Israel’s enemies and tearing the veil in the temple.

However, His visions of victory had also included 40 years in the wilderness, Nehemiah standing amongst ruins and Jesus hanging from the cross.

And it hurts. God knows it hurts when our visions of victory don’t coincide with His.

And the lies begin to run through your mind, each one a blow directed to destroy your already broken heart, each one intent on tearing you down and stealing what truth and light you knew or at least thought you had known…

Why didn’t He show up?, What did I do wrong?, Were my words not studied enough?, Were my shortcomings too great? Or my faith too small?

The reality is that He did not show up because He was always already there. He heard our prayers and our declarations and our faith and He drew us closer. Because He knew it hurt and He knew we didn’t understand. And that we wouldn’t understand.

And so after only two months, Mom lost her earthly battle to cancer and instead won a heavenly victory. Not exactly the victory we had prayed for and even now a win which feels more like a loss. But though I don’t understand it and although it hurts beyond description… I know that it is a victory which is greater than I can fathom.

That is the only explanation, my best answer- I simply don’t get it and all my faith is still in Him.

Many thought my faith was foolish then. Foolish optimism. To be looking at what was an impossible escape and still proclaim God’s ability to intervene. To declare life where surety of death was indisputable.

I can only imagine what some think of my faith now. A faith which from all outwardly appearances lost its battle. A faith which seemingly fell short in the end. Such a faith could surely not survive, not now, not after such a disastrous loss.

However, it not only survived but is yet growing.

A faith which even now, amid heartbreak and loss, declares the righteousness of a God whose promises are for our good and whose love is steadfast. A faith that says yes God could have intervened but He stayed His hand… because His was a greater purpose than we could ever comprehend. And that in the greater picture, this heavenly victory will cause a ripple effect and continue to change the whole world, one heart at a time.

Foolish optimism, realistic faith. God’s victory didn’t look like the one I had imagined, hope for or prayed for ceaselessly. In fact His victory looks exactly like my definition of defeat. And it really sucks.

But my faith didn’t end with my mom’s earthly life. A faith which she had instilled and encouraged in me.

How can I be sure that He knew what He was doing? That He cares? That He was prepared for this when to us it is so sudden and so unexpected?

The small things. His small assurances.

Fun fact about me: I love libraries. I love walking through the aisles of books and always pray I pick a book that may be my next favorite. And as little and insignificant as the prayer seems, one carelessly and arbitrarily thought, He hears it and He answers it. I know that now.

Often I end up checking out a completely random book. I will grab something I’ve never heard of, something I am not sure I even really want to read. (Note: I have a to-read list on Goodreads nearing 1,200 books so I do not necessarily need to pick a completely random book ever… but I do).

I picked up such a book in November 2018.

For some reason I pulled that book off the shelf. And for some reason I brought it home and literally continuously renewed it for several weeks until… for some reason I finally decided to lay everything else aside and read it.

And for some reason I’m marveling at how He did that while also surprisingly not surprised.

The small assurances. When He whispers in that still small voice from the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Not while everything feels it is collapsing in or when you’re crying out to Him, I’ve learned in those moments He simply holds you. Amid destruction He carries you to unshaken ground and He holds you. He doesn’t say anything, because there is nothing to say. It hurts. And nothing will make that better this side of heaven. Nothing will fully heal the loss until we are all reunited in the place where there is no more death and no more tears. He provides the comfort we need to keep our hope burning, though it may barely be a flicker.

And then when it is time He stokes the fire. That book I checked out in November, I finally set everything aside and read it. Tucked inside it’s pages was exactly what I needed to hear. Several things I needed to hear in fact. Including that which is included in the featured image of this post…

“Earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning.”

You are right God. And that’s okay. We were never meant to.

Meanwhile, He has also reminded me that after 40 years the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, Nehemiah did rebuild the wall and Jesus… well Jesus overcame the grave for all of us and in Him no goodbye is ever the last word but merely a until we meet again.

It still hurts. God’s still good. And although I have several books to read at home, I’m still going to the library.

** Bonus Quotes from “Such a Time as This” by Kate Breslin**

Because they were exactly what I needed and may be exactly what someone else needs too.

“I do not doubt Your message God. But I do wonder when…”

“Why had she assumed God would speak to her in some great audible sign, like a thunder-clap, lightning or burst of fire from the sky? Had anger and bitterness made her deaf to His whisper?”

“A strong belief in God is like forging steel; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.”

** This last quote was written down with the others, but it was a couple of days later that I really felt its full effect. Story to follow in upcoming post.**

“Papa told me a boy only fails when he does not try,.. I think it must be the same for a girl.”

 

 

Child’s Play

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

One of my favorite games growing up was one which my sisters and I created titled “Pearl Harbor”.

We would go out to our front field which ran along the state route we lived by and starting in the back we would try to stealthily make it to the front before an “incoming enemy” (aka a car) was able to fire upon us. We would army crawl, jump over logs and take cover in the tall grass. When the enemy swept in, we would high-tail it to the back to start all over again. It was a game inspired by its cinema namesake, and built primarily on imagination. In our game the good guys always came out on top, sometimes with a few minor injuries but without a single casualty. #win.

Things looked bad, but we never lost hope. We never believed there was a reason to not have complete faith in our ultimate victory.

Looking back, it is astounding how the imagination can change. As we get older we are still tempted to let our imaginations run wild, though they seem to take a different direction when things look bad. They run wild with worst-case scenarios and ever-growing mountains and obstacles. All we see are the realities this world insists are unmovable- and most of the time it’s bad, it’s really bad.

Instead of believing there is no reason to doubt, we believe there is no reason to hope. We see defeat, not victory. The incoming enemy is fully armed and there is no shelter from the fire. Instead of our imaginations affecting how we see the world, what we see affects how we imagine the world to be. Instead of imagining the possibilities, we only see the impossibilities- the tests don’t look good, the bills are due, time is short and days are long.

Many of us at different times in our lives, may be one piece of bad news away from a breakdown, slipping into the black pit with no way out. A mindset of  “It’s impossible, it would literally take the hand of God…”

… The hand of God. Our grown up imaginations often seem to forget about His presence, as it runs amuck in all of its doomsday scenarios. But what if we redefined our imaginations’ job description? Not merely as some impractical childish foolishness but as a powerful and purposeful tool. A tool which helps us to walk in faith, even when what we see is bad. A tool to help ground us in a faith that cannot be shaken, a childlike faith.

A faith that doesn’t look back when leaving our comfort zones, such as Lot’s wife in Genesis. A faith that doesn’t look at the storm around us, but looks to the one leading us across the water. A faith that establishes truth amidst a doubting and dark world. A faith that is a rock Jesus can build His church on. An imperfect faith made perfect in Him.

Loving faith.

Painful faith.

Radical faith.

Total faith.

Can you imagine? I can, and I see a world overcome not by doubt or fear but by hope. Unspeakable hope that no matter what this world throws at us, the truth that the best is yet to come prevails. Knowing there is no situation too lost, no news too bad or circumstance too dark that God cannot reach it.

Our faith and our hope are not resigned to only when things are going well. It’s easy to declare hope and God’s faithfulness when all looks right in our world. True faith is knowing how bad it really is, how seriously hopeless the situation looks and sounds, being in the middle of it and choosing God’s ultimate truth over those worldly facts surrounding us.

Having faith doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Having faith doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult. Having faith does mean that in the middle of the doubt, pain and fear you will have peace, hope and comfort- recalling what God has said, despite what you see and moving forward.

Having faith is fearlessly charging ahead, jumping over the obstacles, hitting your knees when necessary and running full speed to shelter. Those obstacles looked huge as we jumped and dove but from our shelter they no longer looked quite as large.

It’s the same now. When we look out at the obstacles from our shelter and mighty fortress, Jesus Christ, they no longer seem so impossible.

Walk by faith, not by sight. Don’t look back. Don’t look around. Look at Him. And just like in those childhood games, bring back up. Remember His words. And let what you see be transformed.