Sometimes my faith is tested. When people I love are sick or struggling. When I consider the pain many experience in this life. When the news is just horrible. When I accidentally listen to the lies in my head. When I notice all the darkness instead of all the light. When I hold on too tight, try to fix everything myself, try to be perfect and then beat myself up when I’m not. When I let my anger rise up. When I give Fear the reigns.
These times I start to wonder, “Is this God who I’ve given my life to ACTUALLY REAL? I believe that he LOVES me? That he IS love? I believe we have hope? Am I crazy?”
My mind is spinning with doubts, and then over the oppressing buzz, I hear my husband, Dan, strumming his guitar and singing “It is Well with my Soul” on the couch. The way the music sounds brings tears to my eyes; stops me cold. It sounds like the truest thing I have ever heard; like I’d put all my money on a song, it’s so beautiful.
Or, sometimes in the knotty tangles of doubt, I remind myself of all the brilliant, amazing people who believe wholeheartedly in the same thing I do! Like C.S. Lewis, Anne Lamott, Mother Theresa, N.T. Wright, and my Grandma. These are not crazy people! No crazier than any of us, anyway. They are wise and funny and huge-hearted and brave.
Then I remember rocking my babies, and the love that was so strong and palpable, an orb around us made of something greater and stronger and holier than this place.
I remember the moments when I have felt such deep sorrow and then rising out of it unexpectedly, inexplicably: Joy.
I think of my own mother, stroking my hair when I was sick or afraid. I think of the ocean, vast and salty, sweeping me up in it’s windy magic. I think of the lilac bush in my backyard, or the way Dan and I found each other, or the sound of my boys laughing. I think of those perfect summer evenings playing a few holes of golf with my Dad as the sun went down. I think of the windows rolled down and a good song turned way up and the way it makes my heart feel so light and young and free.
And I think of Jesus, how I learned of him and was always curious about him when I was young. I remember being very small and staring up at the big, bright star in the sky one Christmas Eve, pondering the miracle of a baby who was the hope of the world. Or being entranced by the Stations of the Cross as an elementary student. And then, later, when I realized he was actually a real person who lived an extraordinary life of extravagant love and sacrifice and grace, and was calling me to lay down everything and follow him and try to live as he did, even though it would be hard and I would fail a lot and people might think I’m crazy. I think of how that choice was hard and scary, but I knew exactly what I was doing when I made it. To turn away from something that resonated as true so deeply within my heart and mind was not an option.
When my faith is tested, when doubt creeps in, it sucks. Because everything that I usually stand firm upon all of sudden feels so shaky and terrifying. And let’s face it, I’ve never been a good test-taker. I’m slow. I second-guess myself. My pencil usually breaks a few times. I accidentally skip a question which subsequently throws off all of my answers. It’s not pretty. But when I think about the purpose of a test…to determine what I KNOW — then the testing of my faith begins to make more sense and seem less scary. In fact, it seems like a pretty natural, obvious, GOOD part of the growing/learning process. The testing forces me to think about what I know. In those shaky moments, this is NOT what I want to think about. But help always comes. You see, of course, eventually I look up and see the sun, and it shines warm and bright upon my face. Or a dear friend calls. Or my son snuggles up to me. Or I read a scripture that pierces and heals my soul at the same time. And then, like a slow, steady breath, I know again. Like a cool drink of water, I know.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
“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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
“’Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.’”
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.’”