A Crisis of Faith….
Joy, my wife, sent me an article to read when she heard that my message this Sunday was on handling crisis of faith. It was placed on the Bible society website (http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/im-christian-house-just-burned#.UmZMVpp7sNs.email) and it was written by Joel Hollier, a student at Sydney Missionary and Bible College. He and his family had lost their home this week in the New South Wales bush fires.
Hollier writes “The trail of destruction has left me, my family and our whole community reeling in shock and asking why on earth such a disaster should occur. Those with a faith in God, myself included are in many ways facing the necessity to question God’s control over events- we prayed that life and property would be spared, but they weren’t- did God not have the strength to calm the flames? Or alternatively, we are forced to question God’s goodness, toying with the possibility that the all-powerful creator is at best distantly careless, hearing our prayers but wilfully choosing to let them slip by the wayside. How can I reconcile my loss with an all-powerful, all loving father who seeks the best for his people?”
The same thoughts filled my mind and the minds of many people in Christchurch when we went through a series of earthquakes that led to loss of lives, properties and family and community life. Where is God in times of disaster?
When a crisis of faith hits, we find ourselves in an intense internal conflict between our preconceived beliefs and life’s circumstances. We find an apparent clash between what religion has taught us to believe and what is happening around us. Our response to a crisis of faith varies. A crisis of faith has caused many people to leave behind the religious faith they were taught because it made no sense in the crisis they are in. For others, it has drawn them closer to God.
What frustrates me about crises of faith is that many Christians do not talk about it in case they are seen as backsliding or having failed as a Christ-follower. We often share stories of victories and healings but no one shares stories of their crises of faith. Have we come to believe as Christians that because we are overcomers and more than conquerors, we cannot and should not have crises of faith? I think we have. That is why when something happens and our belief system is shaken, we are told to pray more or trust God more or to deal with the sin in our lives. That’s what Job’s friends did when Job faced a crisis of faith in the Old Testament. No wonder we are having Christians leaving the church and their faith because they cannot be honest and open about the crises of faith they are in.
How can churches help people embrace those crises of faith moments and help them journey through them without being judged? Maybe we need to realise that our very existence is reliant on Jesus having to go through His crisis of faith in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he felt the pain of betrayal, denial, loneliness and the impending crucifixion, to fulfill God’s purpose. I am glad Jesus went through that crisis of faith because it means I can now be in communion with my heavenly Father.
Maybe if we as Christ followers spend less time trying to preach a triumphalistic faith and help people face the crises of faith, maybe we can create a more authentic, transparent and supportive faith communities. This is what I am hoping to expand on this Sunday as we start our series of messages on Habakkuk.