How would you finish that sentence? I finish it like this:
Walking by faith takes a lot of faith!
Oh, how I wish following Jesus in faith were always bouncy and fun, like playing with Tigger or following Mary Poppins into that sidewalk chalk scene. I’ve found it to be more like following Alice down the rabbit hole: there’s a lot going on, I’m really confused, and I just want to sit down a cry for a bit.
In a recent post, I quoted A. W. Tozer and his concept that the believer keeps on in faith because of the distinct sense of “Someone There.” To that, a comment was posted by Michael Danner who raised the caution of making this “sense” a faith-like litmus test—he pointed to Mother Teresa who sadly, during her last 40-some years, had no sense of Someone There—as her own letters, now made public, attest. Yet she kept on in the faith despite her painfully raw, dark doubts and loneliness. [For more about Mother Teresa’s faith struggles, read this article in Time or look for the book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.]
These two opposing experiences of the Christian faith may seem impossible to reconcile. But I have actually had both of these experiences, so these don’t seem to cancel each other out but rather, these seem to work in tandem: I have had a sense of Someone There that has kept me from turning away from my faith when all around me crumbled. And I have also walked alone in darkness for long stretches, my eyes faint from the seeking of God, my throat scratchy and dry from calling out for Him, my heart angry at the abandonment I felt.
After the dawning of the worst dark stretch, the sense of Someone There returned, bringing my raging heart to a gentle but distinctive halt upon the foundation of faith. It was like I could finally breathe deeply again, like I had a support under me. One day a dear friend and I discussed this landing and the realness of life (as opposed to the fairytale version I prefer). We wrestled with this question: Would we keep following God if we knew that there would be no more “felt” experiences of Him in this life? Would we be resolved to keep pressing on in faith, even if we had no more spiritual mountaintop experiences (the emotional highs or “benefits”) that make the heart and spirit soar?
Somehow Mother Teresa kept on in the faith despite her own loneliness and heartache. And she did this while willingly living in poverty. (It puts me to shame that I wallow about my own dark times when I at least live within the comfort of America.) Those around Mother Teresa sensed God’s nearness in her, even if she could not. She pressed on, even without the emotional “benefits” of the faith.
I wonder how often she turned to the Word and begged upon God to make true His promises of faithfulness and nearness . . . for how often I myself turn to those same passages when I do not have a sense of Someone There, and I have to force myself, in faith, to believe the Word that promises as I draw near to God, He draws near to me (James 4:8). Whether I feel it or not, God is near. It is that ability, thought, and desire to turn to the Word and commit to trusting the promises there that gives me the greatest sense that Someone is there . . . why else would I ever turn to the things of God? It is only by His grace. And I think, although it is very true Mother Teresa did not sense Someone There, it is the faithfulness that marked her life and the love she poured out that speak of the greater truth: that there really was Someone There.
For we would not seek God, except that He seeks us and draws us. We would not truly love people, except God puts Himself within us. We would not be faithful, but He strengthens us to live a life of faith.
It is all Him, all Jesus. That is the way I make sense of it.
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” —Romans 3:10–12
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:8
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” —2 Corinthians 5:18–19
“Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” —1 John 4:7–8