"Be thankful in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." I Thes 5:18

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Faith and Her Sister Suffering


What is faith?
I woke up with these thoughts just pouring into my mind like someone watering my soul (thanks Lord..love how you give to your children even in their sleep:). Sometimes, the simplicity comes back to me and I love it.

We talk about faith a lot, we throw the word around like we do the word love. I don't think we understand what they really mean.

Someone wise told me a few years ago when I was feeling God call me to take my kids, who were being homeschooled, and put them in public school. She told me that God does whatever grows our faith. His goal is to grow our faith in him.

Well, if God just came down and showed himself to me now, would I have faith in Him? No, why?
Heb 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb 11:17
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Yet He tells me:
Heb 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

So, without my having faith, I cannot please God. Basically it's related to what I talked about in my vlog yesterday as well. We are part of a story for God's glory, he is wooing us back to himself. He has not made us to robotically love him, our faith is the "magic" that allows us to love him in a situation where we logically should not or we cannot see tangibly or hear audibly.
People say they have faith, or that they lost faith. Well, what they have or had may just be a nice little rundown of what they think or thought. Or they may have truly made that leap to believe in Him.

That faith is kinda easy though don't you think. "There is a big spirit up in the sky that loves you and has your best interest at heart. He watches you when you sleep, does things good for you and protects you." Sounds as easy as believing in Santa if you ask me. A lot of people come to God on these terms. Sometimes it's not their fault, their childhood is pumped with one sided messages about God.

THEN...life hits.
THEN comes the bad stuff. Some Christians refuse to go there at all, they may stretch to some middle ground where tough stuff happens and they start spewing "it's okay, I'm all good, God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him." They are right but many times they have not had something really really hard happen to them.

They have not had a child die.
A parent die in a state of no faith.
A spouse take away suddenly.
An illness where they cannot function as they use to.
Complete and utter loneliness.
They have not been abused or demoralized.

So, along comes pain....

At this point their faith is tested. Their original faith in God is put to question. Here is where a proper understanding of God and his purposes is crucial. In a day of trial or testing, they will support us through this and allow us to bend a knee and worship in the middle honestly looking at God for who he is FULLY.

See, I believe, as Randy Alcorn concludes in his book "If God Is Good" that pain and suffering have a very specific purpose in the story of God. He did not start out right, fail and then have to correct course. He did not fail at all. He intended for things to go as they did for one very important reason.
God could have kept things all good. He could have chose to make that the plan. We would hardly have had a choice toward his goodness then. You know? I mean really, what's not to like? He is good, he brings us good, we live in good...all things are hunky-dory...except we don't fully understand Him.

For, by God allowing suffering he allows us to for one time in eternity, see a small glimpse of the opposite of Him. Suffering, death, selfishness, immorality, pain..all of these are the opposite of God's character of goodness but how could that goodness shine bright to us if we did not see the darkness for a while? People ask how we can love a cruel God. I ask how you cannot love that plan of wanting us to see Him fully. If we come to him in pain, in a suffering world, we have true faith. This is loving suffering, but I don't think we can see it if we don't come okay with his plan. If we come angry and rebellious and thinking we know more or better, we won't see.

That person remains in suffering forever. Not just eternally, but now. They are miserable. If they truly think and reach out to see who God is, which does mean seeing his side that we disagree with that I mention here on my old blog, and come to him (which takes humility as all the scripture states) their suffering will have purpose. It will be the catalyst of their faith. Their faith will be refined over and over and over. They will enter eternity knowing more about their God than they would have had he not allowed them to experience suffering. They will rejoice and their reward will be so much sweeter, their eternity more full in the full knowledge of who God is.

If they do not, they suffer here, and for eternity, and I hurt for them.

Let us not forget that God suffered too. He did not just decide that we should suffer, he decided that he would too. In fact, I believe he suffered more than we ever will. He chose the worst time in human history to come and die. He died a death not many men will have to know so his physical pain was at probably the worst it could have been, and he chose that. Yet more than this...he descended and broke fellowship with his Father for us. Knowing that He and the Father are one, could we not even say he broke himself wide open for us? It's too much to understand. We cannot imagine the pain of almighty God breaking loving fellowship with His Son because we do not have the capacity to understand love like that, perfect completion like that and how it was broken for even a moment. Though it was only for a time, he did choose it.

So, when you really break it all down, God choose to suffer so we could see Him for who he really is. That IS LOVE. That is not a cruel God who should be screamed at in our anger and selfish discontent.

I also really think understanding Heaven, our reward, helps strengthen us as we suffer here. If you look forward to singing hymns all day, then yes, I can understand why you don't want any of this. Reading Heaven, by Randy Alcorn changed my walk with God.

I just feel it's appropriate to end these thoughts today with Paul's words. Even what Paul suffered is more than I ever will. He did what I want to do, come face to face in my heart with the God who gives and takes away and bow to call Him holy. Not out of blind stupid submission, but out of an understanding of his righteous motivations of love I cannot comprehend.

Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.



2 comments:

tricia said...

Alicia,

You did a great job explaining faith and suffering. What you wrote was the point I was making when I asked is God the point of the gospel or me. People that have the belief that the gospel is just about "me", tend to hit a hard time in life and walk away, or question their faith and God's love. The sad thing is that there are many people believe this incomplete gospel and I have never heard the whole gospel.

Taylor said...

There is a lot I want to say on this Alicia, but I have too many things going through my mind right at the moment. I'll try and gather my thought's by tomorrow and get back to you then. Ok?