Just about everyone experiences the death of faith at some time or another—and for some people, it’s multiple deaths. But this sort of death is not so much the cessation of faith itself; it’s really the passing of a certain way of believing. When we’re children, faith is magical. We are too young to understand how the world works, and so we imagine God as a superpower that manipulates things and circumstances. As we grow up, we understand that often the way God helps us is through the natural workings of the world—the human body’s ability to heal itself, for example. Our prayers gradually change from the expectation of supernatural intervention to our own participation in doing God’s will in the world.
Of course, God intervenes whenever God chooses to intervene—I would be the last person to say that there’s no such thing as miracles, instantaneous healing, or angelic visitation. But God’s intention is that we grow in Christ-likeness, and in doing so, we mature in the way we deal with the ups and downs of a typical life. We develop spiritual discernment so that, when hard times come, rather than search for magical Bible verses to give us sudden illumination, we sit prayerfully with the Holy Spirit and simply remember what we already know about God. We go about our decision making with practiced wisdom and the steady faith in God’s ability to work through our own emotions, reason, and experience.
When the really rocky times assault us, we’re tempted to return to magical thinking. It’s natural to revert to an earlier stage of faith when we’re badly frightened or hurt. Anyone who has received a bad medical diagnosis or whose teenager is three hours late getting home knows all about how we sprint back to the kind of prayer that begs for miracles and tries to bargain with the Almighty. But we cannot sustain that kind of faith because we know that God calls us, not to certainty, but to trust. I am not certain that God will zap my loved one and make the cancer go away. But I do trust that God’s love surrounds the loved one, and that holy arms hold all of us, miracle or no.
Faith in Real Life
- This week, I encourage you to talk with Jesus about what your faith is like. Ask him how he would like to see you mature in how you pray and hope and walk through a day.
- Do some journaling about how your faith now is different from the faith of earlier periods in your life.
- Spend some time thinking about how you pray, and how you think about God’s involvement in your daily affairs as well as your extreme moments of anxiety, pain, or sorrow.