Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Struggle to Believe

“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 1 Peter 2:6

I had the privilege of spending some time with one of my former fifth graders the other evening. I am always interested to find out where my students have gone in their spiritual journeys after leaving my classroom. It seems like so many students who have graduated from our school abandon their faith when they head out into the world. So I am interested in what made the difference for the ones who have remained committed to Christ.

In this case, the woman I spoke with went through an intense struggle of faith shortly after beginning her college education at a secular university. At one time or another, all children who are brought up in Christian homes must face the same struggle she did: deciding if the faith they were taught by their parents can become their own. This woman went through several years of inner turmoil as she struggled to discover if what she had believed for most of her life was the truth. In the end, she threw herself on the mercy of the Lord. “I prayed Psalm 119:31 over and over again,” she recounted. “I cling to Your testimonies, O Lord, do not put me to shame.” Her plea was a simple one: I will remain faithful to what I know to be true. Please don’t let me down.

Her experience echoed my own journey as a young girl. My loyalties toward the Lord had remained unquestioned until my junior year of high school. But during that particular year, I was dating a guy who was not a Christian and had attended several fraternity parties with him at his university. The fun of the life and social opportunities there at his school attracted me. My head was turned toward what that lifestyle had to offer. And away from Christ.

My father worried as he watched me gently drift toward the world and away from the faith I had always so staunchly held. So he made a deal with me. My dog had recently died and I desperately wanted a new puppy. He told me I could get a new dog if I read How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious from cover to cover. I felt angry that he was pressing his faith on me. But I wanted that puppy. So I sat down to read the book.

I didn’t get too far into the book when I put it down in disgust. I already knew all the answers this author offered. My problem was I had lost the feeling in my heart. What I knew had become dry, unaffective knowledge. So I challenged the Lord. “If you are real, I need you to show me,” I prayed. “I will remain obedient to what I know is true for now. But somehow, God, I need you to demonstrate to me that you truly exist.” I waited in silence for something big. I got nothing.

Several months passed by. The Lord faithfully brought people and events into my life which sparked my interest and enthusiasm for Him. Eventually, I looked at my faith and realized that God had proven Himself to be alive and real in my life. There had been no thunderbolt from the sky. Instead He had quietly and gently answered my desperate prayer over time. And I knew without a doubt that He really was whom the Scriptures claimed He was.

God is faithful. He will not put us to shame. When we cast ourselves on Him, determined to live out what we believe, He will meet our need and give us assurance that we are not doing so in vain. We possess a living hope, Peter told his writers. Our hope is in our salvation, bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Those who earnestly seek Him will not be disappointed.

Doggedly cling to what you know to be true. Even in the times when He seems silent and distant, He will not let you down. He cannot: His faithfulness is a part of His very nature. He cannot be untrue to who He is. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess,” the writer of Hebrews urged. “For He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

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