Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Proverbs 4:1-27, 1 John 4:7-21, Matthew 11:7-15
“Faith: Sometimes it makes you miserable!”
Not much of a sales pitch, is it? But it’s true. The church teaches us to depend on God always, but often we may feel as if God just isn’t coming through for us – maybe isn’t there at all. Enduring such disappointment and confusion may be harder than rejecting belief altogether; after all, we can’t be angry with someone whom we don’t believe exists.
When and why did we start believing that doubt and anger stand in opposition to faith? Christ and Paul both taught faith does not protect us from the evils of the world, but promises us something beyond.
The author of Psalm 42 wasn’t afraid to express doubt and anger. He says tears have been his food while his enemies mock him by asking “Where is your God?” Their taunts feel like a deadly wound to his body. The psalmist asks, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” Yet he knows he will praise the Lord again soon, even as his suffering continues.
Your suffering is not a failure of faith. Nor are your anger, confusion, and fear. Allowing yourself to feel these things is an indication of a solid faith that outlast all hardships. Expecting faith to eliminate such feelings can only end in a discouragement which truly does erode our faith. Your ability to cling to your faith during times of adversity is a much more powerful, truthful testimony than pretending faith creates all good times and no bad – people are too smart to buy that story.
Two images in Psalm 42 are especially well-known. One compares the psalmist’s desire to know God to a deer panting for water. Only God can slake the thirst for assurance, but the thirst will always return, and so the psalmist will always return to God. The other is captured in the phrase “deep calls to deep,” which refers to the primal cycle of tides and waves. They ebb and flow, rise and fall, but the power behind them is immeasurable, steady, and eternal. We can’t control the waves, but we can trust their creator.
Comfort: At every point in life, through every emotion, God is steady.
Challenge: Embrace your doubt; it doesn’t deter God.
Prayer: Thank you, eternal God, for understanding, accepting, and loving me no matter what my heart holds. Amen.
Discussion: Do you trust God to love you through your anger and disappointment?
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