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Monday, December 23, 2013

Faith and Feeling

By Ty Nichol

     He asked how I was feeling, and I grinned a little—only a little—and said, “Aw, you don’t want to know.”  He nodded like a man that knew from experience what I meant, and he grinned a little—but only a little.  We were silent for a moment and then he said, “And how’s your faith?” It lights me up when I think of my response—a genuinely felt and deeply grounded response.  I said something like, “Now that’s a whole different story! Nothing seems ever to affect that.”  I’m not overly confident that I would be able to say that if I were living under extreme circumstances for a very long time.  As it is, I have my share of troubles and disappointments, but I don’t live in Darfur or Zimbabwe or big city streets or other such models of purgatory.
     But aren’t our feelings a gauge of how healthy our faith is? Um…not really! The notion that if you truly trust God you won’t feel pain or loss or disappointment is silly.  Trust in God doesn’t exempt a man or woman from hurt or frustration or anxiety.  Yes, I know we hear preachers and read others who say otherwise, and I know they can quote texts while they’re doing it.  And worse—because it’s more plausible—they tell us when the roof falls in on us, we shouldn’t stagger under the burden.  Faith is supposed to take the pain out of the pain and the weight out of the load, don’t you know.  (Faith in God through Jesus Christ is not the burdensome thing.  It’s an easy yoke and a light burden; but in a fallen world it generates the stress of swimming against the current.)
     Imagine one of the glib ones asking Habakkuk, “How are you feeling?”  “Awful!” Habakkuk would tell him.  “I just heard a message I don’t like.  I heard and my heart pounded.  My lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled” (Habakkuk 3:16).  If a modern believer answered this way, a modern triumphalist response might well be, “Oh, that’s too bad.  I thought you really trusted in God.  If you did, you wouldn’t feel this way.”  Had someone said that to Habakkuk he would have said, “Oh, but I do trust! Though the fig tree crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:17-19).
     This is one of the loveliest, strongest confessions in the entire Bible, and he makes it while he trembles and while his legs can hardly support him.  The same pounding heart and quivering lips that confessed his awful anxiety defied the anxiety he felt.  This is not an unusual case, but even if it were, it would make the case that fear and anxiety can exist in the presence of the profoundest faith.

- via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website:
http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

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