Faith. I don’t know if you have ever taken one of those spiritual gifts tests - you know, the ones that tell you how cool your spiritual gift is? If you get to sit at the cool table of spiritual gifts you get something like prophecy or discernment and then everyone thinks you can see the future and read other people’s minds. Then there are the spiritual gifts that are a little less glamorous, like mine. I took that test and got faith. Faith. Like, the thing that every Christian is supposed to have, right? Kind of like the foundation for Christianity. I mean, what is so cool about faith and how is that even a gift?
And then there’s prayer. Prayer is not so much a spiritual gift, but has been something that has also come relatively naturally to me. The ability to pray throughout the day as things pop into mind and converse with the Lord is something for which I am very thankful. That is, until recently.
Things changed. My prayers weren’t so easy. I wasn’t sure how to pray. I wasn’t sure that I believed my prayers really mattered. I wasn’t sure what I believed about prayer at all. After all, hadn’t I prayed for healthy pregnancies? And hadn’t I lost three babies to miscarriage? After a hell storm of circumstances it seemed like my prayers were anything but effective. And this was new to me - a bit of a stiff arm toward God and an apathetic attitude toward prayer.
In light of that, I recently decided that it was time I did something about my prayer life. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I felt like I was paralyzed in prayer. Like my perspective and worldview had shifted. I knew something wasn’t right but I wasn’t sure what to do to fix it and it had been going on for a while. In true form, I decided to research and do some reading on prayer. I decided I needed to get some good theology on prayer to help me overcome this hurdle - this silence. This distance.
So I bought a book. I started reading the book, didn’t really give it much of a chance, and realized maybe I needed something more specific - something more along the lines of theology of suffering.
And then I happened upon a sermon by Jen Hatmaker at the IF: Gathering conference this weekend and I was kind of hit between the eyes. Jen talked about faith - you know - that thing I’m so gifted in, right? She talked about how faith is one of the highest prizes we can expect to obtain, and that we should expect it to be hard-won.
Then she went on to talk about four reasons why we struggle to believe God and grab hold of faith, and you guys, she totally nailed me. I realized pretty immediately that my issue wasn’t prayer. Prayer was my symptom. I believe it was my pastor who talked about how prayer is a good thermometer for one’s spiritual life. Well, let me tell ya, in this case, that was certainly true. My problem was faith, and because of my faith struggles I wasn’t sure how to pray.
While her entire sermon was spot on, the last reason she gave for why people struggle with faith resonated with me the most. She said some people struggle with faith because they have endured a real beatdown and are afraid to believe God. Bingo. You want to talk about a beat down? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about mine. But before she went into this one, she talked about suffering, and said that suffering is a tricky bedfellow with a God that tells us He is good. Because the thing is, we will ALL suffer, and so as she said, if death and sickness and loss and confusion and abuse and sadness mean that God’s character is in question, we should throw this whole thing out. No one has ever made it through life unscathed. So there’s that - suffering - a tricky bedfellow. Suffering? Check.
But then she talked about the beatdown. I think this is perhaps a little more extensive than suffering. Perhaps it’s repeated suffering or prolonged suffering or maybe suffering with no end in sight. Regardless, she talked about the Israelites and how they experienced FOUR HUNDRED YEARS of slavery. And then, just like that, they were free. And so it’s no surprise that the Israelites struggled to believe in “freedom” under “God’s favor” in a “Promised Land” - it was just too terrifying to hope for.
Too terrifying to hope for. Yep. It’s a scary thing to get one’s hopes up about a healthy pregnancy that results in a living baby after experiencing the same terrible ending three times in a row. Hope can be elusive. Hope can be scary.
So you know what the Hebrews did? They said, “let's just go back to slavery.” Debilitating? Sure, but at least it’s familiar.
For many of us, belief takes a lot of courage. For me, belief takes a lot of courage. I want to believe that God will provide healthy children for us, I truly do. But that belief, that faith, gosh, it’s so hard-won. That thing that had been so easy for me - faith - belief - suddenly I’m fighting tooth and nail to hang on to it.
You see, my issue is not prayer. My issue is faith. This beautiful gift of faith that I have been given has been taken from its resting place and beaten with a baseball bat within an inch of its life. And so I hold onto this mangled gift that is unfamiliar and confusing - barely recognizable.
No, I have no idea whether or not God will grant us biological children. No clue. I have no guarantee that we will get pregnant again, nor do I have a guarantee that our subsequent pregnancies will be healthy.
But here’s the thing Jen said: Yes, God works His purposes through the captivity. Yes, He uses the wilderness for good. But His story tells that he is a Promised Land God. Guys, He’s a Promised Land God. Not a God that leaves people high and dry, alone. He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is for us! He is good. He is trustworthy.
He is a God of redemption. He is capable. He is trustworthy. He is for me. He is for you. He is good. He is trustworthy.
He is good.
As Jen says, faith is its own prize. It isn’t the formula to get the good stuff - it is the good stuff.
I’m still processing everything in my heart and mind as I hope to mend my faith. But what I know is good for the soul is being reminded of the Truth that we have a Promised Land God who is good.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain... (Hebrews 6:19)
*This post references Jen Hatmaker's recent sermon from the If:Gathering. Run, don't walk, and check it out. I quoted her some, and paraphrased her, and used her ideas in my blog. Credit due to her! (-: http://shoppe.ifgathering.com/collections/frontpage/products/digital-download?variant=1101073276 *