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. (James 1:2)
For most of my life, my faith was relatively stable. However, 20 months after the death of my father, my once sure faith became frighteningly insecure.
This brush with death brought discouragement and doubts like I had never experienced. In the middle of the storm of questions, I came to realize that in spite of all the teaching about faith I had ingested over the years, I understood very little.
As I’ve dug for a deeper understanding and experience of faith, it has been important for me to reclaim the biblical context in which faith grows. Faith has often been expanded through difficulty.
Abraham, the father of our faith, was asked to believe and act on the idea that someone in their extremely old age could have a child. The hopes of the world were on this child, whom God then promptly asked to be sacrificed. Job was stripped of all of his wealth, the lives of his family and his own health. Jesus looked Peter in the eye and said: “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.” And Jesus did not deny Satan that opportunity.
I have seen a bit of suffering; however, my trials do not grow my faith simply by being difficult. In the Bible, the book of James says trials grow faith by “testing” faith. I found no greater faith test than when God’s dealings with me have led me to question my beliefs of the nature or existence of God.
It is here that we sense our faith, in the words of James, being tested. Our faith is pushed to the brink, stretched beyond its capacity to survive. We feel our faith failing, and it is — yet this is actually good news. I am learning to embrace doubt, viewing it not as the poison of faith, but as its fertilizer.
When our faith is on the verge of disintegrating and we are helpless, we can come desperately before God. Doubt fertilizes faith by destroying the falsehoods in our beliefs and creating a desperation for God Himself.
When I was told my dad was dead, I remember pounding my hands against the hot, dry Kansas ground. Twenty months later, I am still punching, kicking, crying and screaming my pain to my heavenly Father.
Large pieces of my faith have been destroyed, yet in the middle of my doubts, my God has ample room to show me who He is. For years my own beliefs may have impeded my relationship. A shattered faith is a small price to pay for a deeper knowledge of my God.
God, do what You have to do to draw me to You. Do what You have to do to realize my beliefs about who You are to the truth. Although I have questions, I humbly submit to whatever You have for me – good or bad.