A few years back a friend gave me this sign for my birthday. Not thinking too much about it and wanting to display my gift, I hung this little sign where I could see it every single day. I thought it might provide some encouragement and maybe, a little push to remember my duty to never give up on faith and love, and for about a month it did. Then as you’d expect, life happened and I was neck deep in one of the toughest seasons of my life and looking at that sign every single day didn’t seem so sweet, especially the longer my season grew and the darker it became.
Month after month and through many tears, I stared at the sign and it stared right back at me, and strangely enough it’s words began to feel heavy and undoing. At times, it felt like these words were a balance that had been given to weigh me and show me that I had been found wanting. The task “to never give up on faith and love” was becoming impossible. This sign didn’t encourage me, instead it mocked me. But every single day I would look at the sign and I would try to not to give up on faith and love, and every single day I became more and more aware of just how weak, desperate and close I was to giving up on faith and love.
As I was pondering whether or not to take down the sign, something amazing happened…truth spoke to me. Lol. I know this sounds strange but it’s true and it has happened to me before. Usually, it happens when I am completely undone, at my wits end and trying my hardest to be completely honest. Over the years, I have discovered that the more honest I can be and the harder I look and struggle with truth, the more truth seems to find me, and in some cases speak to me.
In being radically honest about my inability to conjure up tenacity, strength, grit and determination to not give up on faith and love, I heard truth say- “It’s not about you giving up on faith and love but remembering that faith and love does not and will not ever give up on you.”
That’s right, in one of the the darkest seasons of my life, truth spoke to me about its power and strength, and faith reminded me that it wasn’t going anywhere except through my weakness, fragility and desperation to shine like the sun and bring help, healing and hope to a hopeless person and a hopeless situation. And, it did. From that point on as I continued to crawl though my darkest seasons, and one that lasted for a quite while, I made sure to look at the sign every single day to remember that faith and love would never give up on me, and it would provide me with the strength and power that I needed to NEVER give up on faith and love.
Fast forward some 6 years later, and I still have this sign hanging so that I can see it everyday and remember that whatever the circumstances may be, I can trust In faith and love- even when it feels like everything has been or is being stripped away.
I keeping thinking about where we all find ourselves today, and in many ways it feels like everything is being stripped away. Truthfully, I don’t know how one makes sense of all that is happening without asking some deeper questions. Like Wendell Berry, I believe that these deeper questions are religious questions and this situation should invite us to ponder deeper and more serious things like faith, love, health, neighborliness, life and death.
Likewise, it should invite us to search for truth, and be radically honest about what’s going on inside of us, and committed to asking questions about what this current situation is exposing in us and bringing to the surface, as things are being stripped away. I believe some of the most important questions that we should be asking are questions about faith and fear. Specific questions like, are we moving out of fear or are we moving out of faith and if so, what is it that we fear and where exactly is our faith located? And, this is where things get tricky. If our faith is located in an infinite source of love, truth and life, then we can trust that whatever is happening, it is happening for our own good. However, if our faith is placed in anything less than the infinite, then we will move out of fear and we will never have enough information, money, power or control to change that.
See, I found rest and comfort in knowing that faith and love was not giving up on me, because that meant that God was not giving up on me and because of him, I would never give up on faith and love. The truth is that my faith is not in the universe, a doctrine, my own reasoning, information, the American dream, the prosperity gospel or the government. I know this may not make sense to some but if you are a Christian, then you are saying that you believe faith is a gift that enabled you to believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he died for your sins and gave you his righteousness so that through him, you would be reconciled with God.
If you have been given this faith that can move mountains and do strange things with mustard seeds, then surely you know you can trust it-especially when we are in a season where things are being removed. Perhap, even trusting that what is being removed are all the things that may have gotten in between us imitating the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ. A way, a truth and a life that is not easy, comfortable, requires suffering and guarantees that the world will be stripped away. Fortunately for us who have faith in the gospel, we are not surprised by this because the Bible has a lot to say about following Jesus and it making you naked and unashamed.
My friend, Soren Kierkegaard talks a lot-like me-but maybe more… and the one thing he talks about over and over and over is not moving beyond faith. If you were to ask, “Why?” He would say, because it’s basically impossible to move beyond the foundation that needs to be strengthened, tested, nourished and encouraged every single day. The other reason might be- because we really aren’t physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or relationally able to move beyond faith. I think Søren is right, and I think we have tried really hard to move beyond faith and talk about everything under the sun other than faith. I think we have been like the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rains came tumbling down, and because we have moved beyond faith-the rain is destroying the “lives” that we have built on the sand, and it’s killing us. But- is it really? And for men and women of faith, I ask you to remember the truth and remember what faith is, what it does and how it points us to the truth, especially in the dark seasons.
What is faith if not a trust in God to let everything fall away knowing that “In the cosmos you have suffering; but take heart—I have conquered the cosmos.” John 16:33
What is a person of faith if you cannot stand on that foundation and let the rain come, and even if the house washes away, believe you won’t.
What is faith if you cannot sink your feet in it and know that God loves you beyond anything you could possibly imagine?
What is faith if you cannot know that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and sovereign and that nothing, including viruses and the fallout from viruses, are out of his control?
What is faith if you cannot know that the Lord is your Shepard and he will lay you down in green pastures, walk you beside still waters and he will even walk you through the shadows of death -and you will not fear.
What is faith if you cannot know that God is there holding, carrying and guiding you through the darkest seasons, and shining like the Son through your weakness, fragility and desperation every single day to heal, to help and to bring hope to hopeless people and hopeless situations.
“Who will separate us from the love of the Anointed? Affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or the sword? As has been written: “For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we were reckoned as sheep for slaughter.” Rather, in all these things we more than conquer through the one who has loved us. For I have been persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor Archonsab nor things present nor things imminent nor Powers, Nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.”Rom 8:35