Friday, February 20, 2009


A prayer from the valley:
My faith is weak right now. My heart fails within me. I don’t want to hold on to a false hope or powerless faith. My desire to know You, God, is stronger and more pure than ever. I want You more than anything, but I feel like You continue to fall short on Your promises with me. I see people around me rejoicing and appreciating the things You are doing in their lives and I’m so jealous of them. I know I shouldn’t be. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to them. I simply want to believe and not doubt, but I can’t talk myself into it. I can’t make myself believe though I desire to whole-heartedly. I cannot manufacture peace and joy though I long for it with all my heart and sing about it with tears. I read and hear of a most wonderful love, an abundant life, a priceless treasure—all found in You—and I continually feel like I’m missing it. I remain at Your mercy, God, desperate for You to do a work in me, to make Yourself known, to breathe life into me, to rescue me from the hopelessness I feel. I want to believe, God, help my unbelief…
It all starts with God—everything. He is before all things and through Him all things live, move, and have their being. Every good and perfect thing comes from Him, and no evil is beyond His power to make good. He is infinitely holy. He is just, wise, and loving. He stands alone in His beauty and glory. There is none like Him, and we are nothing like Him. We are fallen and broken, prone to evil and far from righteousness. We are poor, weak, and needy—hopeless when left on our own.

But we’re not alone.

God has made himself known and we need Him. He is our strength, our hope, our reward—the one thing our souls crave the most regardless of whether or not we realize it. We need Him because we need rescuing and He brings that. His salvation is remarkable in that it is free, His grace a gift for us to receive. In fact, He requires nothing of our own power or merit because even at our best we fall incredibly short of His perfection. This is grace and this is radical truth.

The world doesn’t work this way. In the world, It’s all about measuring up to something, performing well to get ahead, striving to secure a future that you’re convinced you deserve because you’ve worked for it and earned it. But God’s love is not earned or ever deserved, and you can’t work for it. It’s just demonstrated for us in Christ on the cross. We try again and again to measure up to it, but we never do—we’re not meant to. The one thing that is asked of us is to believe. Believe that Christ is who He says He is, the very Son of God in flesh, and that the salvation we so desperately need is found in no one else but Him and Him alone. Christ measures up to God’s standard for us. And that’s it. We’re not required to save ourselves, but to believe that we can’t and that someone else—the only who ever could—has. This is faith and it’s what we’re called to have for salvation.

But faith is hard to have when you’re in the valley. Despite knowing the glorious truths mentioned above, you struggle believing it and the Gospel begins to lose it’s power in your life. Doubt sneaks in and the questions begin and are relentless. Here’s what I mean…

What is faith anyways? Is it mine? Do I have to go get or do I already have it? Does God give it to me? And what makes one’s faith more real or more genuine than another’s? Their level of sincerity or devoutness (as if such a thing could be measured)? Because I’ve met some pretty sincere and devout Muslims who would put many Christians to shame. Is it their ability to convincingly articulate what they believe and why they believe it? But then, what are we to conclude if a Buddhist does a better job at articulating and defending his faith more than a certain Christian does? Does this make his faith better or truer?

Maybe if more and more people jump on board with one religion over all the others then that faith is the most reliable? But then again, majority rule doesn’t have the best reputation.

Maybe we could stack up the good deeds of all the religions of the world and determine a winner that way? Whichever religion has done the most good for the world is obviously the one with the greatest amount of faith, right? Hindus do good things. Gandhi was pretty well liked and influential. Many have put their faith into his way of life.

Or maybe we could listen to all the miraculous stories of transformed lives, hear people speak of the great blessings of God, and validate one that way? Surely there’s no greater witness to the work of God than changed lives. But all religions seem to make that claim. How do you really know a changed life when you see one? Salvation is God’s doing, not man’s I know, but knowing that isn’t helping right now.

These questions about faith don’t seem to lead to any answers or clarity, only more questions, and more maybes. Maybe this questioning defeats the purpose of calling it faith then, because faith is not based on what can be seen or understood, but on what is unseen. It’s based on supernatural revelation that transcends our ability to understand. Faith is believing the unbelievable, the inconceivable, and the impossible, and people need help believing it. Because we can’t make sense of everything.

Every living, breathing person on this planet has faith to some degree because we all have things we don’t have answers to, things we just don’t understand—the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist alike. And there’s a point when we all find the ability to trust just enough in the faith we claim to have that we eventually learn to live with uncertainties that plague us. We hold on to the hope our faith brings. What is most perplexing of all is that given the vast numbers of religions and belief systems out there in the world, some, if not most of this hope, must be a false one. They (notice the switch from we) hope in vain, in something artificial and man made. It may allow them to live their lives amidst all the uncertainties, and it may provide some answers, but what’s the use if it’s all a lie?

The questions come again…

What makes my faith any different from theirs? What if I grew up in the Middle East and was raised a Muslim? Would I be at a different place or sitting here with the same unsettledness? Would I simply follow the religion around me? Such thoughts make religion seem like nothing more than a social institution. I can see the reasoning of the atheist even. He would conclude that they (the religions of the world) are all a false hope and that religion is man’s creative way of dealing with life’s unanswered questions and nothing more. They are a crutch to help people get by and mask the emptiness of their souls and help them cope with life’s difficulties. To the atheist, religion doesn’t seem all that different than football. At least it provides people with temporary relief from reality and with something to get excited about.

I want to understand so badly. But these questions just get more and more dangerous and I simply can’t come up with a good explanation for all of them. I realize at this point in my ramblings, I may have left you exhausted and with a feeling of hopelessness. Hang in there.
There is hope. There's a God to know beyond religion.

One thing I am reminded of is a quote by Tozer. He says this: “We don’t understand in order to believe; we believe in order to understand.” And that’s it. Despite all the doubting and questioning, and even though I wish I could makes sense of it all, it goes back to just believing—trusting that the understanding will come in time. He who doubts is like a wave blown and tossed by the wind anyways, and that’s no way to live. We can’t have all the answers and solve all the worlds’ great dilemmas before believing. Faith is believing even when we don’t feel like we can—especially when we don’t feel like we can. There’s a beautiful mystery to believing in order to understand. And as one who has cried out from the valley with little to no faith at times, I’m grateful for the suffering it brought, the many things I’ve learned and continue to learn from being there, and for the reminder that when in comes down to it, I’m not in control of anything. To ever think I am is delusion.

I say again, we’re not required to save ourselves, but to believe that we can’t and that someone else—the only who ever could—has. Jesus Christ. Surely, there is no other truth, no other kind of faith, like this one. It's undeserved favor, unconditional love. It makes you want to believe. It takes religion out of the equation because it's not about you or what you're able to do. That's pretty sweet if you ask me. If you're going to put your faith in anything, put it in a God who loves like this one does.

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