In our last post we discussed the fact that faith is not an act of the will, a mere decision to believe without evidence. Were it so, it would be very difficult to have any faith at all. But faith is the evidence which compels the child of God to believe. It is not something to be mustered, but something that is imparted. Faith, for the child of God, is as natural as breathing.
The problem however is that this simple and natural act is constantly challenged in this life. The world is a hostile place: We are bombarded with countless distractions daily. I do not mean so much distractions in the sense of running my kids to the doctor, or spilling coffee on my brand-new suit jacket, or dealing with a crisis at work, things admittedly that can take away our focus, and cause us to forget to pray or, say, read our Bible. No, the distractions I am thinking of are of a more metaphysical nature. These are the messages that enter our consciousness and challenge what we, in the faith region of our hearts, know to be true.
For example, I recall a time in high school during Spanish class (a popular second language to study in Southern California, where I grew up) that a fellow classmate shared publicly that she had just become a Christian. But the teacher proceeded to tell her that we all at one time of our lives or another will go through a “religious kick” and that she would most likely grow out of it. Now the classmate may have had a real encounter with God and have come to believe and possess a faith in Jesus, but now she was faced with a different message: What I have experienced is just a phase; what I now possess won’t last, and is something I will grow out of. In short, the message was: My faith cannot be trusted.
Distractions of this kind occur all day long, and they are designed to distance us from the precious faith we possess. They cannot so much diminish our faith as they can cause us to distrust it. If we have come to a real faith in God, then the faith we possess cannot be harmed so much as it can be locked up and imprisoned within our own hearts (that is, if we let it). For the faith within us is a powerful force, the most potent force that mankind possesses. And as mentioned, to the child of God, faith comes naturally as breathing. But if we come to distrust it and turn from it, it becomes as though it never existed at all, and we become as though we did not possess it in the first place. In short, coming to distrust the faith within us is like failing to breathe — and the life empowered and nourished by that faith begins to die with it.
When a believer, therefore, finds himself (or herself) struggling with his faith, it is not so much that the faith has failed him, but that he has failed it. That is, he simply finds himself captivated by a contrary message, vying for attention and, most notably, demanding dis-allegiance from the faith he possesses. Struggles with faith, at their heart, are not a question of a failure of faith itself as they are a failure on our part to trust the faith we have been given.
Returning to our crime scene analogy, a crisis of faith is like a move on the part of the opposing legal team to render the most compelling piece of evidence in a court case inadmissible. Or, to introduce a new piece of evidence that contradicts the current body of evidence. Now in a real court case, either move would prompt certain and swift action on the part of the legal team. In the case of a move to dismiss key evidence, every effort at its disposal would be exercised to disallow it. In the case of contrary evidence, every effort would be made to discredit the new evidence. What would most certainly not happen is the legal team surrendering their strongest piece of evidence without opposition.
And yet, in the case of faith, this is oftentimes what happens. When our belief is challenged, we make the blunder of either treating our faith as not that crucial to the case or coming to the conclusion it is somehow inadmissible. In the end, we consider other evidence more vital — which is ironic really when one considers that, of all the evidence on the table, faith is the only evidence that is divinely inspired, divinely empowered, and delivered by God Himself.
In saying all of this, I do not do so critically or condemningly toward those who find themselves struggling with their faith, and I most certainly do not do so lightly. In our next discussion, I will share an anecdote from my own journey, a time in which I experienced the greatest crisis of faith imaginable.