by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” ~ J.R. Tolken
I came across a line from my favorite Donald Miller book, Blue Like Jazz, where he stated, “Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.” That statement resonated with me, because through the process of believing in Jesus, I had also fallen in love with Him. However, I had never considered the implications of that line, because as anyone who has ever fallen in love can tell you, there are days when you don’t like the person you are in love with, and some days you wonder if you really love them at all. Of course, those are the dark days of a relationship, and we all have them, but what happens when we have those days with God?
I admire the people who can go through the hard times and not question God; I just haven’t met any of them. Perhaps that is because in my business, by the time people seek counseling they are ready to be honest about their lives, and frankly, we have all had times of doubt. We doubt our salvation, whether or not God is listening, why He allows things to happen, if He cares, and sometimes we wonder if He even exists. Even the most cursory glance at Psalms will show you that David, the man after God’s own heart, asked a lot of questions about, and to, God when he was going through difficult times. And God put them in the Bible, maybe to show us that He is big enough to handle us asking questions.
I have been there. When things are going good and my relationships are running smoothly, my relationship with God just hums along as if driven by a well-oiled motor. Then I hit some rough terrain, and it puts a bigger demand on that motor. Most of the time I just snuggle in closer to my Heavenly Daddy, and I feel so close to Him that I barely notice the cacophony of my circumstances. But sometimes…doubt ensues and my faith is hard to find. I am troubled by those times and they frighten me a little, and I wonder if I can recover. I am also embarrassed by my doubts, as if I believe that I should be above those thoughts and emotions.
There is a story in John 6 when Jesus got very confrontational with His audience, and started telling them things they found offensive. It says in verse 66 that many of His disciples left Him at that point. Here they were, walking with, talking with, and witnessing the miracles of the Word Made Flesh, and they walked away. I think this was when He went from having crowds of disciples down to the faithful few. Things got hard and the others doubted and left. They probably thought that following Jesus wasn’t all that they thought it would be, and maybe they thought that He wasn’t as awesome as they thought He should be. I can’t fault them, as I have found myself there a few times myself.
In a book called Scarred Faith by Josh Ross I came across a quote that rocked me to the core. It rocked me for two reasons, the first was that it resonated so much with the despondency I was feeling at that time, and the second was who said it. The person said, “The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. Unwanted, forsaken. The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness…I dare not utter the words that crowd in my heart and make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me…If there be a God – please forgive me” (p. 73). How many of us have been there? Seems like something only people with shallow faith would feel, or so I thought. Want to know who said that? It was Mother Teresa.
While I absolutely hate that Mother Teresa ever felt that way, I am eternally grateful to her for sharing her moment of pain. I have gone back and read that so many times that I am surprised it is not seared in to my memory banks, but I found such comfort in her struggle. But then I remembered that the Bible is full of such things, and even Paul despaired even to the point of wanting his life to be over (2 Cor 1:8) and no one, short of Jesus himself, had a stronger faith.
Author, speaker, and prayer warrior extraordinaire, Stormie Omartian, says that many times we are in a dark place because God wants to enrich our lives. Indeed, she claims that “one of the ways God makes us certain of His light is by allowing us to test it in the darkness” (Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On, p. 30). Don’t mistake, sometimes the darkness is because we have gotten ourselves in to a pit, and sometimes it’s from enemy activity, but regardless the reason, I believe that God wants to benefit us and grow us in ways we never dreamed possible. There is a verse in Isaiah 45:3 that says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel.”
So what are those treasures in the darkness when our faith is hard to find? For David it was the ability to hold on to God through the hard times that gave him the character to be King. For the disciples their faith to hold on and not walk out on Jesus when times got hard created 11 men who changed the world. For Paul he found a deeper dependence on God that enabled him to continue his race. And I suspect that for Mother Teresa it was the treasure of unfailing love that was poured in to her that enabled her to love in a way that certainly never failed.
Who knows what the treasure is for you. For myself, I am gaining the treasure of not being afraid when I feel my faith is weakening. After all, faith is a gift from God, and according to Romans 11:29, all of God’s gifts and callings are irrevocable. In other words, I can’t really lose my faith, He gave it to me, and He is not taking it away. And His call on my life is not affected by my times of doubt. That frees me to be honest with Him about what I’m feeling, even when it’s ugly and full of doubt, which may be the greatest treasure of all.