"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
I was once asked if I had ever wavered or had a problem concerning my faith. As a pastor, I have never been secretive or did I use some political dodge to avoid answering such a personal question. I do my very best to just answer the question honestly. Not everyone accepted my response and that's OK.
Now, to be really straight-forward, some questions require a bit of tact and being overly direct can cause a plethora (a pile) of difficulties. For instance: "How do you like my hat? Do you think I need to lose a few pounds? I have had a complete makeover. Don't I look great?"
I suppose I could answer, "Yes, if you are going to the circus. If pounds were money, you could balance the budget. Please fire your beautician."
Am I saying that lying is acceptable and deflection is even better? Try this on for size. A man, armed with a shotgun, walks up to me and asks, "Where's Bill? I am going to shoot him!"
I just happen to be standing next to old Bill. How do I answer?
"Well, here's Bill, or haven't seen him in a long time."
The truth may take a life and a lie may save it.
When I found myself at odds with my faith — and for me, that meant when I just wasn't too sure if I could count on my belief — it was never in a time of tragedy, but more often when things were going well and every day seemed a repeat of the day before. The sun would be shining and the sky was perfectly dotted with fluffy clouds. The sea was as blue as blue can be and there was always a fresh breeze. Things were so predictable that I didn't need God and often my prayers were more repetitive than earnest. Those were the times when I read the Bible to discover how many contradictions or questions I could find. It was more like playing a game — and not a very good one — than for study and words of comfort. I make no apologies here. I am just stating the realities that many folks may face.
Three years ago, I was driving home from the store and my phone rang. My niece said, "Uncle John, you're the first person I have spoken to since I found this out. I have pancreatic cancer and have less than two months to live."
I pulled over, stopped the car and listened. Here was a beautiful, talented, gifted and successful young girl whose life would be cut short by an unstoppable painful death. There were only a few family members and friends standing quietly together in that little cemetery as her brother placed her cremains into the ground. He looked my way and said, "This is not right!"
Just three years later, her brother was diagnosed with an untreatable illness. He was soon bedridden, unable to communicate for any length of time and slowly began to fade away. His question was never answered to his satisfaction.
"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
There are moments when we cannot count on our own ability to solve the problems. There are moments when we can only stare at the wall and find only a flat painted surface. There are moments when all of our creativity and it-will-take-care-of-itself attitude are useless. We have no answers, but we have more than enough questions to last us forever.
Where do we turn?
We turn to the only source we have ever know to be ever-present and ever-sure.
We know, even when we fear, that God is here for us and will listen to our anger, our insecurity and yes, even when we doubt. He knows that we have tried and failed on our own. He accepts our weakness and our fallibility and is very, very patient.
It was during those moments when I turned all those overwhelming and impossible situations to God and I understood that I would survive.
We will accept that life is full of mysteries and we just have to live it one day at a time, dealing with what we cannot comprehend and rejoicing in what we can.
We will have all of eternity to get every answer. Just be patient. God has all the time in the world.