As a Christian, I keep a running tally of things I don’t know.
I don’t know the innermost mind and thoughts of God. I don’t know why some prayers are answered and others not. I don’t know the fine details of God’s will for my life. I don’t know day to day what will happen to me or to anyone I love. I don’t know why sometimes when I’m close to God it seems like everything else in my life is exploding, and when I’m less close to God everything seems fine. I don’t know why sometimes the reverse happens. I don’t know how to interpret all the Scripture I read.
I don’t know what I don’t know.
And it’s easy, when you’re in the sweet spot, to admit all this. When the sun is shining and you can feel God smiling down on you and everything is golden, it’s simple to throw your hands up to the heavens, shrug, and say, “Well I don’t know what’s ahead, but the Lord will figure it out!” Ignorance is bliss – until the prayer you desperately want answered receives nothing but apparent silence in response, or the thing you hoped to avoid becomes inevitable, or nothing in your life seems to be moving and you’re stuck like a deer in headlights, uncertain of which way to turn.
At that point, our ignorance becomes frustrating, overwhelming – a source of despair and sorrow. And no one articulates this better than Job. He expresses enormous frustration with his inability to discern God’s presence: “When He passes me, I cannot see Him; when He goes by, I cannot perceive Him” (9:11). He’s so desperate and confused he wants to speak to God personally about everything that he can’t understand, and announces to his (horrified) friends his desire to “speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God” (13:3).
If you haven’t ever felt that urge to storm heaven and demand answers – if you haven’t ever felt a millisecond of doubt about what in the world is going on up there and how on earth it relates to what is happening down here – then friend, either your time has yet to come, or you are a better person than I. Because faith is not the blind belief that everything will be fine. Faith is not a self-hypnosis that magically transforms the bad things in our life into good ones, or automatically makes us content to struggle forward without answers. No. Faith is an effort of will. It is the resolution of heart and mind. It is the ability to ultimately respond in the way that Job does, even as we recognize the full frustrating reality of everything around us:
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him (13:15).
Sometimes, faith just means showing up, being “steadfast, immovable” in the face of everything that goes wrong or seems beyond our comprehension (1 Corinthians 15:58). We don’t have to turn a blind eye to circumstance. Grieve. Mourn. Vent your frustration. Despair if you must. But hold on. Be present. Remain steadfast.
You may not ever know the answers. It may hurt for a long time. You may be floundering in frustration, sorrow, hurt, anger. You might not ever understand why. Faith acknowledges all of that, and then pins every last flailing hope on God anyway.
Please pray for me! I’d like to pray for you, too. Please feel free to comment here with prayer requests or concerns; I pledge to pray for them. I will be happy to keep requests anonymous and private if asked; just send them via the comment form here.