Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guidelines for a Crisis of Faith

If you can't give cheerfully, it is better to not give at all.

Have you heard that before? It's based on 2 Corinthians 9:7 which reads (NIV): "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." See the cheerful part there at the end?

The notion is to obey fully, and half-hearted obedience is not obedience at all. As true as that is, the quality of our heart is the command - giving is not an option. The world keeps turning, if you know what I mean. Support requirements remain regardless of our current temperament.

Allow me to coin my own version of that line:
If you can't give cheerfully, give - then take time to change your heart.

So many things must remain. Let me give you an example. "Crisis of faith" is the euphemism for "don't believe in God" which hits most young believers around college-age. It's brought on by challenging questions which were never before considered. Insincere believers ofttimes fail to recover from this battle.

There are a few things to remember during any crisis of faith.

1. This is not the beginning of time. That is, you are not the first person to have a crisis. You are not the first person to ask these questions. Similar to depression, crisis misdirects you to feel that you are the only person in such a state. Or, you are the only person ever to be in such a state. Yet, Christianity remains.

2. Eternal mysteries are not supposed to be simple. Lots of crisis are realizations that there is no answer. Many questions have no answer. Some have parameters to constrain them, but some are just ... unanswerable. You *might* get the answer in heaven, but don't count on it. To some, this is unacceptable. To them I say, don't fool yourself - you are just a small, finite human.

3. You can't punish God. Some "decide" that because of some terrible experience (like a loved one's death) they will no longer believe. Something like "I can't believe (or won't believe) in a God who would do that". Yes you can. In the end, I empathize, but denial is a fruitless mechanism to deal with anything. Life goes on; get some perspective.

4. Consider the library. Have you ever heard "standing on the shoulders of giants"? That means others came before you and worked out difficulties you now take for granted. Since this is not the beginning of time, and libraries are full of theologians, and Christianity still exists, your looming quandary has likely already been addressed and suitably resolved by greater minds than ours (and probably more than once). I guess I could have called this one "nothing new under the sun".

5. Immediate answers are lame answers. Just because you want immediate gratification, you must relax. The longer it takes to resolve major inner conflicts, the greater and more robust the resolutions - and the longer they serve you through life. Don't feel a long-time-coming means it's not coming. Although, honestly, sometimes things don't come.

6. (this is the most important) Have faith. It's not trite. While trials come and faiths are tested, remember to retain faith in the midst of testing. God remains God, no matter. With this principle, it is freeing, reasonable, and safe to explore God's truths ad nauseam. This is also the first principle typically forgotten.

Number 6 (have faith) also means you do not have carte blanch. A crisis is not an excuse. You may not do whatever you like. During a crisis, you are still responsible for your actions, your influence and your testimony. Just because you are struggling doesn't give you the loosened reign to run wild, derail others, or impugn the faith.

A crisis of faith is a great thing. It is not fun while you are in it; if you survive it is a real "makes you stronger" thing in life. I wouldn't seek a crisis, but I see their value. If you are in one, shore up what you have, batten down where you are, and relax. Keep faith and wait. You are not alone. And even in this there is a plan.

Finally, if you come out of a crisis with a lost faith - you should considered going back in. Just because you have an answer, doesn't mean it is the answer. Consider the context, counsel, and the gamut of history. I am not naive; I know that some are overwhelmed. I hope you are not.

1 comment:

esheppy said...

damn ... I was hoping that next time someone calls asking for money I could just tell them that as I am not a cheerful giver, I should not give at all.