When I don’t feel like having faith.

Have you ever watched someone who’s going through a horrible time in life, and yet, they still have a good attitude and strong faith? They’re the people who say things like, “Even in this, God is still enough for me. I still praise Him.”

We’ve all read books or watched movies about these seemingly unmovable people, but I’m guessing you have some personal examples, like I do. I can think of friends who have battled chronic pain for years, yet I never hear them complain; friends who have lost children or spouses, yet they don’t seem bitter against God or the world; dear ones who have ached with pain and eventually lost their lives to illness, but they didn’t shake their fists at the sky and blame God.

When I consider these people, I honestly wonder, “How can they have faith? How can they not be angry or feel like life has dealt them a cruel blow? How can they still praise God?”

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Image by Andrew Itaga via Unsplash

Cancer on the Mission Field

This question has been particularly close to my heart in recent weeks. As I posted earlier, my husband, Josh, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer one month ago. We were completely unaware of any problems and shocked by the news, especially since he’s only thirty, supposedly in great health, and we have two children under four.

We spent hours, days, and weeks figuring out what to do. We’re missionaries in Ukraine, and dealing with cancer on the mission field was a logistical whirlwind of international consults and conflicting recommendations (you can read more here). We made prayerful decisions about treatment, packed up our family, and drove to Poland, where Josh had a total thyroidectomy on June 6.

Thankfully, the cancer was found very early and is extremely treatable. We’ll have biopsy results in a few weeks, but the doctors are hopeful that at the most, he may need radioactive iodine treatment, but should then be cancer free.

How can I have faith right now?

Since the moment Josh told me he had cancer, I’ve wondered, “How can anyone praise God or not waiver in their faith in times like these?” I’ve thought, “I don’t feel like having faith right now.”

In the past month, Josh and I have both struggled at times with worry, fear, or doubt. I’ve felt my heart nearly pounding out of my chest in panic. I’ve laid awake at night, crying over fearful thoughts I never imagined I’d have…the worst by far: Nora (our three year old) is such a Papa’s girl. What if something goes wrong in surgery? How will I ever tell her that he isn’t coming home? Honestly, my heart still physically hurts at that thought, even though, praise God, Josh is out of surgery and doing well.

Throughout all the emotions, I’ve been wrestling with these questions: “How can I have faith right now? Why us? What did we do to deserve this?”

Can you relate?

Trials and Suffering and the Cross of Christ

So, that question has been taunting me, and then my brother wrote to me this week. He shared a song, called Though You Slay Me, by Shane and Shane. You can check out the video here, but the lyrics are:

Though You Slay Me

I come, God, I come
Return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Chorus
Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

The song spoke to my brother’s heart during a challenging time of his own. He encouraged my family that, just like in his own life, God is doing something through these hard times.

Confession here: when those types of phrases come from people I don’t know, people who don’t really know me, they feel a bit empty at times. Like they’re the appropriate Christian thing to say. But, because I know my brother and what he’s been through, and because he knows me, I took it to heart.

Confession number two: I heard this song once before, maybe a year ago, and I didn’t like it. Why? Because I don’t like the thought of “knowing Christ in His suffering” or that God might allow brokenness in our lives because He loves us. These concepts make me feel like less of a Christian, like I don’t have enough faith if I don’t enjoy being in the midst of trial or hardship. If I don’t feel like praising God in these times, He must not really be enough for me.

But as I sat back and quietly listened again to this song, these lyrics stood out to me:

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

“Let this cup pass from me.” Jesus – Son of God – God Himself. He was in the garden on the eve of a death that would be excruciating on every level – physical, emotional and spiritual. His human emotions were screaming for any way out. He was begging a loving Father to spare Him the horror before Him.

And yet, He still praised God, still had faith in His Father. He was still obedient.

It struck me in that moment that experiencing these negative emotions don’t necessarily mean that we’re not praising God or that He’s not enough to us. I’m not suggesting that Jesus was angry or blaming God for how unfair this situation was (even though He’s the only one in history who could actually say, “This isn’t fair.”).

What I’m saying, and what I’m learning, is that even Jesus wasn’t crazy about the circumstances ahead of Him, but we know that He was still faithful to Father God.

We all go through times when we’re grieved, or angry, or hurt by our circumstances. Many of us go so far as to complain that life isn’t fair (I do!). We say, “What did I do to deserve this?” and feel like it’s unjust that we’re suffering. But just having those emotions doesn’t equate to failing in faith. Having faith and trusting or praising God doesn’t mean we never experience these feelings.

It’s what we do with those feelings that really indicates where our heart is.

ben-white-147268 ben-white-147268 - https://unsplash.com/photos/TlBF3ZUVTvE

Image by Ben White via Unsplash

Grace to Know that God is Still Enough

“How can that person have faith? How can they not be angry or feel like life has dealt them a cruel blow? How can they still praise God?”

Maybe they do feel angry sometimes. Maybe they are hurting or fearful. It’s not the absence of those emotions that equates to faith. Rather, it’s the reaction to those emotions – the willingness to keep praising God and trusting that He is a loving Father – that’s what demonstrates faith.

I’m so far from perfect in this area! There are plenty of times when I give in to my emotions and wallow in self-pity or fear. I don’t always choose to acknowledge the emotions and praise God in the midst of them. It’s easy for me to say, “I don’t deserve this.”

But, as I’ve reflected on all this the past few days, I’ve been most impacted by this truth: I did everything to deserve every suffering and more. The very air I breathe is a gift of grace that I didn’t deserve. Jesus, despite His human aversion to the agony of the cross, took it on Himself. And because of that sacrifice for me and the sinful state of my own heart, I can honestly say that any good thing in my life, including trials meant to strengthen me, is purely grace.

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Image by Jacob Meyer via Unsplash

2 thoughts on “When I don’t feel like having faith.

  1. Remind me to share with you Jarrid’s Song. Wriitn by friend of mine after we lost Johnathon and had Jarrid a month Early.

    Like

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