“One day, I’m up; one day I’m down; yes, Lord, yes…” Or so goes an old spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” You’ve probably noticed by now that faith doesn’t stand still. There is an ebb and flow—yin and yang—a “sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down” dimension to the faith that many experience.
We see this is Jesus’ disciples. They were a combination of contradictions, and inconsistencies, to say the least. There is a verse in Matthew: “They saw him; some worshipped and some doubted.” Some drew close and some backed away. If nothing else, we see the ebb and flow of faith as they go to one side and then another. We see this also in the Psalms: “My soul bowed down to the dust” (Psalm 44). Or consider the words of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What we believe in is so important that almost everything else depends on it. Beliefs determine actions. Faith is taking the next step, not knowing exactly where it will lead. Faith is believing in the goodness of life, although we don’t always see it. Faith is believing in the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Faith can be more adequately felt than defined.
Our lives will likely never be free from turmoil and testings. There will be stress and tension and all manner of heartache. The only area that is strictly up to me is my personal faith. I can accept God’s forgiveness and live within God’s Grace, or pass it by.
Faith is staring at the hospital ceiling after being told it’s malignant, and not being afraid. Faith is losing someone by death or divorce but believing God will help you to “carry on”. Faith becomes the opposite of religion; it is not anxious to please God nor to prove God’s existence. Faith simply serves God out of trust, and builds a life on the greatness of God’s love.
The evolution of the species is not a threat to me at all. All we have to do is to look around and we see the ongoing of creation as trees grow as well as babies and other beings. God refuses to be static or fixed. We worship a dynamic God who will not be confined to anyone’s particular idol, symbol, doctrine or institution.
It is said the “right brain” people find faith much easier than the “left brainers”. Left brain folks seem to be more analytical, factual, calculating, scientific and exacting; while right brain people are more intuitive, sentimental, feeling, musical, artistic, emotional and imaginative. Left brainers want to put everything to the test, deduce facts and may have a hard time trying to fathom the great spiritual truths. Right brainers seem to experience faith at a deeper level. They know you can’t put faith in a test tube. Either side can be strengthened by choice.
It’s okay to doubt. Perhaps this is the only way we can have faith of our own. I believe God is our Yin as well as our Yang. Consider these words from Psalm 139: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I make my bed in hell, behold, you art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
I love the story of Jonah being swallowed by a tight-lipped whale. The author of this story is making this point: We cannot eclipse the presence of God, even in the belly of a whale. God is with us, period. So, whether our faith ebbs or flows, we need to celebrate it. The more we celebrate it, the stronger it becomes.
Erma Bombeck tells about a little boy in church, not bothering anyone, but every now and then, he would turn around and smile at her. He did this several times when suddenly his mother jerked him around and told him to stall that grinning, that he was in church. Tears came to the boy’s eyes as he turned around. Erma said, “I wanted to get up and give that boy a big hug and tell him about a happy, smiling God.”
May God help us to celebrate our faith in all of our ebbing and flowing. I don’t know who penned these words, but they speak to me:
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me,
Sometimes he weaveth sorrow
And I in foolisih pride
Forget he sees the upper and
I—the under side. Amen.