If you are a Christian who takes the faith journey seriously and one who uses their thinking faculties, then you may have come across the dilemma I want to discuss here.
Believing requires striking a delicate balance of faith.
As Christians, we have been called to have faith that God is able to do all things, and that we are able to do all things – according to God’s will- by His power at work within us. Thus, a lot of preaching suggests that we PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) in faith. We are taught that keeping expectant hope for what we want is faith and that is the way it will come to pass somehow, someday.
However, as Christians we are also called to surrender, to give thanks in all circumstances, to not hold God as a genie who exists to give us what we want and to note that this world is not our own and we may not get good things in this imperfect world. In this way, when you no longer ask, and surrender to God’s will –whether it is what you would like or not- you are also acting on faith.
This constitutes the quandary of believing for something. If both of these are acts of faith, which is needed when? When is it time to PUSH and when is it time to surrender?
I have had to face this dilemma over and over again in recent times and in confronting it, I have come to discern within myself some hazardous indoctrination. The more popular teaching of faith in our churches is that which says we should “push” and that which underscores God’s blessings as a reward of faith. You are more likely to hear a sermon on the parable of the widow and the judge than to hear a sermon on Ecclesiastes verse which says all is vain or the part of John’s letter where he says he has learned to be content either way. And although the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown in the fiery furnace is quite popular when teaching us to have faith in God’s ability, the part where they say “But even if he doesn’t” is often left out. In fact saying “but” has been likened to not having enough faith.
Our teaching today claims that if we are asking for a ‘good thing’ and still haven’t gotten the answer we are asking for from God then it means we have not prayed enough, fasted enough, cried enough. I’ve carried this sort of thinking with me for a while now, feeling like I have to earn the answer from God. Suffice it to say that thinking is hazardous because it makes God’s blessings out to be ‘trade by barter’. This thinking is also founded on human logic. We have ascribed to God that human scale of assessment. We think that he- like the teachers of this world- will give you points based on what you do, because we see that as fair. It doesn’t occur to us that our human sense of justice/fairness may not be God’s notion of justice/fairness. Perhaps God’s notion of fairness is not giving to someone who checked all the right boxes, but rather giving to someone undeserving so that they can eventually check all the right boxes.
If we consider that our metric may be wrong/different from God’s then we can see the danger in how we go about believing.
This brings to mind a conversation I had back in 2012 after I introduced myself to a guy and let him know that I have a hearing impairment and would prefer to communicate by text message and not calls. I’ll never forget his reaction. He asked me if I was a Christian, I said yes. He said well if I have faith, I should go to a particular prophet of his for healing because as a Christian I cannot have an impairment, I am eligible for healing. To be honest I was offended, but I did try be cordial in explaining that such logic was not Christian teaching at all. Still, the conversation has remained with me because it has occurred in other ways; too often we are made to believe that we need to pray until we get the answer and if we give up praying for something, we don’t have adequate faith. I think this is wrong; yes, we should pray incessantly. But, if we are praying expecting for a certain answer then we’ll end up frustrated because whether we like it or not God is not obliged to answer us and give us even that which we think is good.
As our churches tend to want to cater to human desire, we are made to believe that God will give us all that is good. But that is not the case, God give us all that he deems best for us to have to fulfill his purpose. Not all that we think is good. So when I no longer pray for healing from a hearing impairment and decide that “God your will be done impairment and all”, should I be accused of not having enough faith? Am I giving up? Nt, I think I am surrendering. Surrendering often feels like giving up though; because being humans we tend to do it only when we have no other choice.
I do not claim that my perspective is the correct answer, on the contrary I wish we would have this conversation in the church more. These are just my ramblings on the delicate balance that we need to strike as believers… believing enough to go to God’s throne confidently for an answer, but also believing such that we do not need the answer because we have faith that either way good or bad it is well.
This conversation is particularly necessary because hoping is hard work, keeping up expectations is draining. So I find it necessary to know when I am right to keep pushing for that answer, and when I need to stop and say, God your will be done. I believe you’ve heard my prayers so it is fine.
Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!