I’ve always identified myself a Christian, but what that means and how I’ve expressed it has altered through the years. Over time faith grows, changes and becomes new. It’s a relationship: first of all with God, but also with others. This means by its very nature, faith is dynamic. Where I was when I was 8, 18 or 28 is not where I am now. This is a good thing.
In contrast, faith stagnates when it becomes static, when nothing changes.
Change is often profoundly uncomfortable and so we can be tempted to shy away from it. In the long run though, it is the only way we can grow as people.
My aim is to become more like Jesus. This necessitates change.
Times of struggle can be particularly change-inducing. We are forced outside of what we know, of what feels comfortable and we respond in ways that are not our usual pattern. It can be unsettling as our previous understanding of how the world operates no longer functions. This can include how we view God, and our place in relation to him.
In the book of James, the author spends part of his letter contemplating this truth and how we should respond to it. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
He basically says the difficult times in our lives are an opportunity for growth. It’s never easy when we are going through hard experiences, but it’s rare to come out the other side the same person we were when it began.
In his superb book, The Sin of Certainty, Peter Enns reflects on the impact that events and tragedies can have on our understanding of God, and the best way to respond; “The way forward is to let go of that need to find the answers we crave and decide to continue along a path of faith anyway… that kind of faith is not a crutch, but radical trust.”
I’ve tried clinging to what I knew before. It didn’t work. I’ve tried ignoring God and living as if he wasn’t there. That also didn’t work. What did work, was trusting my heavenly father, even though I didn’t understand what was going on around me. In the long run, just as the apostle James suggests, my faith did show it’s true colours, and I was changed for the better as a result.
How about you? What are the experiences in life that have brought you closer to God? Does Peter Enns’ assertion that we need radical trust rather than answers ring true for you?