Faith In The Face Of Experience
It is a question we are afraid to ask. It is something we think but do not speak. It is a terrified piece of our souls in the closets of our minds. The Question is the same for everyone, but we all have our own version--our own way of asking. It is born in the chasm that exists between us humans and God.
As Christians, we grapple with it in our own way. Some of us find absolution, and some of us hide the Question away. We don’t want the answer. Do you?
I suppose you need to know the Question before you can provide an answer. The Question has bumped around the pockets of my mind for a long time--hiding amongst my loose change thoughts and pocket lint memories--always there but easily avoided as long as I never reached in too far. But questions like this one have a way of rising to the surface; at some point, your pockets get too full, it falls out onto the ground, and you have to acknowledge it by picking it up. It just so happens that overflow happened to me recently. For all the knowledge and relationship I have with God and Jesus, I found myself sitting with my journal and asking the Question:
“God, who are you?”
Have you ever asked the Question? I had never really bothered to before, but in that still, quiet moment, I did. The only reason I asked was because I could not wrap my head around what was going on in my life at the time. God was not behaving as I thought He should. Actually, my circumstances were not panning out as I thought they should, and, therefore, I believed I had found a discrepancy in the character of God.
Actually, I had asked the Question many times before this moment. I had just asked it differently. During the moments when my life showed the undeniable work of God (a.k.a. when things were going my way or when something miraculous or life-altering happened), I asked the Question out of fear, wonder, and praise. Who is this who calms the storms? Who is worthy of my praise? Should I be afraid? What does He want with me?
It was in this period of struggle, though, that I started to question God’s character. At times I felt suspicious and accusatory of who He actually is. I started to be more interrogative in my prayers.
“Are You really good?”
“Are You truly all-powerful?”
“How sufficient are You?”
“Can I actually trust you?”
“How much do You really care about me?”
“Why do You let bad things happen?”
Have you ever asked any of these questions? The questions we ask in our search to answer the big Question reveal what we are looking for, and, more importantly, why we asked the Question in the first place. I asked because I was afraid. I was afraid God might not be able to do what He promised He would do. What if He left me stranded? What if He devastated my life? What if He didn’t really care about me?
How we ask the Question stems from our experiences. We have experienced humanity and sin, and we cannot divorce the pain of those experiences from our relationship with God. If all we have known face-to-face are human beings relationally, it is natural for us to project certain aspects of humanity on to God. Because, even though God promised He was truthful, your estranged father said the same thing, and every promise of his was empty. God said He would never abandon His children, but what about all the friends who left you? He said He would never abuse you or manipulate you, but your boyfriend promised you the same thing. God vowed to love you and to be faithful, but your husband--the one who is supposed to love you as Christ loves His Church -- sure failed to uphold his vows.
We look at God, and we look at our experiences, and we say, “I don’t believe you because XYZ.” We forget to whom we are speaking, and, when we close our mouths, we find God was ready with the Answer the whole time.
In the book of Genesis, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, has to grapple with her faith when her life experience and the reality of God meet.
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” -Genesis 18:10-15
Sarah’s experience did not mesh with the reality God promised to her. She had lived the past eighty years as a barren woman, as the pitied, as the left out, and suddenly, God was promising her a son. Understandably, her response was one of bemusement and distrust. She actually laughed at God and His promise. But the story unfolds, and the next year, Sarah had a baby. In spite of everything she knew to be true, God’s plan prevailed. She came face-to-face with His character of faithfulness.
What is it for you? Where are you laughing at God? What are you accusing Him of? Is He actually guilty, or is your experience corrupting your opinion of Him?
When I find myself pointing fingers, I force myself to stop. The Question needs to shift. No longer, “Who are You?” but, “Show me who You are.”
Take a moment, write your accusations down, then slide the list over to God. Ask Him to change your perspective. “God, show me where I’m wrong. I know this is not Your true nature, but I believe it because of XYZ in my life. Show me who You actually are.”
He delights to open our eyes to His character and to draw us nearer in our relationship to Him. May we be willing to surrender our opinions for His truth. May we find the confidence to grab faith in the face of uncertainty.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amelia Sanders loves sunflowers, words, old hardcover books, and fountain pens. She adores Jesus Christ, and seeks to listen and obey him in her life. Her life verse is Isaiah 52:7, and her prayer is for every girl to grasp the height, weight, depth, width, and power of Christ's love for them.