When the lifeline is all that's left...
Sometimes faith is so daily. Have you ever felt that way? I watch the news and see the hope in the eyes of war-torn, weary people and think would I have that same hope in those circumstances? If my house was bombed and I lost loved ones in the sea because the lifeboats were too full or they sprang a leak and the people couldn't swim. Would I persevere with that never-ending faith that somewhere, somehow I would find a better life?
I wonder...because sometimes in my life of ease (in comparison to theirs), I feel like the lifeboat of faith has sprung a leak and I'm sinking. Like Peter who stepped out of the boat to walk on water to meet Jesus, I take my eyes off Jesus and in one swift glance at my surroundings, my faith slips. And when faith slips, so does our ability to keep walking on the waves.
Have you ever felt like the waves are billowing, surrounding, crashing over and around you? Are you that person standing on the roof of a house reaching desperately for the helicopter's lifeline because your house is flooded to the top and that line is all you have left?
I don't use these examples lightly because I know they have really happened to real people, are at this moment happening to people in other parts of the world. And I watch in horror at the hopelessness of it, wishing desperately that I could fix it. You too? But except to donate money and pray, it is hard for many of us to get involved at the point of changing governments or reach across the ocean and say, "Come. You're welcome to stay here." The problem is just so enormous that even fix-it people don't have answers.
I see that in life a lot, don't you? Not on this scale. I think our world has gone crazy right now with wars and rumors of wars, famine, fires, and a disrespect for life that just didn't exist even ten years ago. Desperate people do desperate things. Hurt people hurt people. Cruel people do evil things.
King David once said (in Psalm 11:3) "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
And yet in the very next verse he affirms, "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne." He goes on to tell us that God watches, He sees. And He is still the one on His throne, even when it looks like there is no one in control of anything.
Today as I rode my bike on this gorgeous end-of-summer morning, I did a lot of praying. I tend to pray out loud, so it's probably good that I wear headphones. If anyone is watching or listening, they probably think I'm on the phone. And don't you wish you could phone the Lord or text Him and get an instant response?
Well, He doesn't quite work that way, but in my praying, sometimes I get a little frustrated. Things I want to see changed or fixed or helped just aren't. And sometimes I'm probably a little too honest with Him in how I feel about that. I might say something like, "If you really loved me, why won't you fix this?"
And as I type that I think, "You sound a bit faithless, don't you think?" Because isn't that the question the world asks of God over and over again? "If you had been here," Martha said to Jesus, "my brother wouldn't have died." "If you are so powerful, why didn't you stop that tsunami or send rain to stop the fires or stop the horrible wars?" "Where are you, God?" "If you really care, why are you so silent?"
Haven't we all felt that way at times? Even the faithful, even those who believe with their whole heart can fall into a hole or be hit with circumstances that change everything in a heartbeat. And like Job, we grieve, and we question. It's part of being human, but it's also part of not really understanding God.
Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears before He had to face the cross, but He did so with reverent obedience. How often do I pray that way? Truth is, I'm more like Jacob who has to wrestle every trying circumstance. Surrender and "Your will be done" - in other words, "reverent obedience" don't come naturally to any of us. Our pride, our "self" gets in the way.
And sometimes those struggles last for years. (My great-grandmothers - one on the left (mother of my grandpa) buried three or more children - one on the right (mother of my grandma) lost four probably in an epidemic before she had six more.) You just don't forget those tragedies.
I remember some trials I've faced that lasted only days while others lasted years. It's those long-term kind that show us whether we are overcomers or will fall away.
Sometimes an overcomer hangs by a thread, a single lifeline of faith, just waiting, praying, pleading with God to bring answers. And then suddenly, He sends rescuers, friends, family, fellow believers into our lives that surround us, and we are no longer holding a thin line but a chord of three strands - one that is not quickly broken.
As Solomon said, "Two are better than one and three are even better." (JP - Jill's paraphrase)
Let's face it - when life gets hard or changes dramatically, we need encouragement. We need to be reminded that we are loved and not forsaken, that others have walked this path before us, and that their strand of faith held true. Because God is the one holding the other end, and He never lets go.
As a new mom told me the other night, "everything has changed since I became a mom." She sees the world with more fear for her child. She needs hope, like those refugees across the world, that her child will grow up in a world that hasn't gone as crazy as it seems to be headed today. She needs people to come alongside her and encourage her, so that her lifeline becomes a strong chord.
How about you? Are you hanging by a thread? Is faith shaken because of circumstances? Have you forgotten that God still loves you and He's the one sitting on His throne no matter what the world looks like around us? Yeah, me too.
But let us keep reminding each other of what is true. God is not blind. God is not indifferent. God will deal with the evil, the chaos, the pain in this world, and He will help us to do whatever we can in the meantime. He will give us the strength to complete the work He has already planned for us to do. After all, He's got our names etched into His palm. Hard to forget someone whose name is etched in nail-pierced blood. And that is what we are - if we are His.
So hang on, dear friends. The lifeline is secure. And hope is coming.