Today’s comment comes from Cheri. She wrote: “How about addressing faith when the bottom falls out of your world.”
That’s a GREAT topic for us to think about – since at one point or another in our lives, we all have to wrestle with that issue.
Let me start my highlighting one word that Cheri used in her comment that is absolutely critical: the word “faith”.
“Why is that word ‘faith’ so important?”
Here’s why I think that word is so important: especially when it comes to dealing with those times in our lives when the bottom falls out.
You see there are lots of folks out there use two words as if they were interchangeable: “faith” and “belief”. Those words are not the same. At least not to me. Let me tell you why I think they are different. Then let me tell you why the difference can be so important during difficult times.
Many folks hold onto very specific doctrines or beliefs about God. They might say things like, “God is in control of everything.” Or, “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” Statements like these reflect beliefs about God.
Statements like these can be tremendously helpful to individuals – as long as things go along okay in life. Take the belief that “God is in control of everything”, for instance. A person might lose her or his job, go through a trying period of unemployment, and then get a better job. During the highs and lows of those times, it can be very helpful to tell oneself “God is in control”. That belief can help individuals ride out the time of fear and uncertainty.
Same thing goes with a statement like “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” Let’s say a loved one is experiencing problems with her or his marriage. We hold the loved one and his or her partner in our prayers, the couple experiences reconciliation, and they come through the tough times stronger than ever. It’s easy to hold on to the phrase “God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good” at such times – because everything turned out well in the long run.
But what happens in those times of our lives when our beliefs are no longer consistent with our experience?
Let’s say, for instance, that the first scenario plays out differently than I described above. Let’s say the person loses their job, goes through a trying period of unemployment, loses their home, their spouse leaves them and takes the kids, and the individual gives in to despair and takes her or his life. It’s awfully hard to hold on to that belief when such a doctrine would imply that God either caused or allowed such pain to happen.
Same thing with the second scenario. One might believe that “God is good all the time”. But what happens when the troubled marriage breaks apart, our loved one turns to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, and their coping mechanism leads to a lifelong addiction? It’s hard to see the “good” in the midst of such turmoil.
This is where faith kicks in.
Faith – at least to me – is something that is much larger than our experience of, or our beliefs about, God. Faith is a trust and reliance on one’s relationship with – or connection to – God.
So when the bottom has fallen out at times in my life, I have been forced to take a step back from my beliefs – those prefabricated boxes I had constructed or adopted in which I wanted to put God – and get humble and real. Humble in that I had to accept that my finite brain couldn’t neatly explain everything that was happening to me; and real in my relationship with God like I had never gotten before.
And some amazing things happened in those terrible times.
“Such as?” you ask.
I found my prayer life becoming richer – as I could honestly pour out my heart to God and own up to what I was feeling. Not just the warm, mushy stuff I had often expressed before. No, I found myself bring rage, a sense of betrayal, and despair to God – in ways that I had NEVER done that before.
I also had to come to grips with what those who participate in Twelve Step programs call Step One. I had to admit that I was powerless over the situation – and release the situation (and its outcome) in ways that I had never released things before.
What happened in the long run was that my beliefs about God changed – but my faith was the one constant that carried me. And that faith matured and grew deeper than it had ever been before.
Those are a few of my thoughts. What about you? What does Cheri’s comment raise for you?