How is Your Faith Sustained?
I'm in a Celtic Christianity discussion group and there's been an e-mail trail going for the past few days regarding the HOW of gaining faith. An individual is struggling with doubt about the whole package, and wonders what can be done to strengthen faith, and what the role of faith is in our pursuit of Christ. Here's my reponse:
Greetings to all from Seattle...
I'll just echo some of things already written here, but with a slightly different twist. First, it seems that, at least in our part of the country, there is a greater openness to faith now than was there 25 years ago. I think the crisis of modernity, and the deconstructing of certainty in the disciplines of science, literature, and history, have created a vacuum of certainty.
Into this vacuum a strange blend of openness and doubt, faith and skepticism, engagement and cynicism has rushed. The result is a culture that, at the same time, is both more willing to believe without 'objective evidence' AND less certain of the validity of ANY belief they ultimately hold. I find this to be a good yet scary place for the church. It's good in that people are more willing to 'check it out' and give Jesus a try because they don't so readily dismiss our unbelievable doctrines (and when you think about it - the resurrection is really a stretch; 3 days? Come on. Yet I do believe it!) At the same time that there's this openness to faith, there's also this pragmatic dismissal of any belief system that doesn't work, discarded like a pair of shoes that's worn out. For this reason the church (and we who serve it) had better work hard to enable its community to testify of the reality of Christ's life. If all we're preserving is a form or an institution, I really don't think it will survive this age of skepticism. Nor should it.
But the other difficulty, of course, is that our walk faith takes us through valleys of darkness. Those are the times that worry me most in this age. If my faith is purely pragmatic, then when the discipline, refining, and purifying processes of Christ begin to occur in my life, I'll suddenly get the itch for a new pair of shoes! Faith continues to press on saying 'this I believe' even when God seems absent. In those moments, I hang on to the moments when I saw clearly: a sunrise in the Cascade mountains, a demon leaving the body of a young women in response to prayer, a subjective sense of His presence in the silence, the wisdom and strength to sustain my marriage or ministry. The reminders are like the stones gathered from the Jordan river as 'stones of remembrance' so that when I see nothing, I can still, at least see the stones.
What sort of stones have YOU seen in your life? Are there moments when you saw, when you encountered the holy, when you knew that you knew? Maybe sharing them would help you - and the rest of us.