Have You Ever Doubted Your Faith?
By mia hinkle
In his book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, Benjamin L. Corey asks, “But what if there’s really no such thing as a crisis of faith? … What if it just feels like everything is going wrong, but really that instance is a moment when everything is about to go right? … What if what we often call a faith crisis is actually a divine journey–not from God, or simply to God, but a journey with God?”
I wrote an essay in 1999. It had been quite a year for me to say the least. The title of the essay was CAN YOU TRUST GOD? Here it is.
Can you trust God? I think this is a two-part question. Can you trust God? And can you trust God?
First, can you trust GOD? In other words, is God trustworthy? Is God dependable in times of adversity? Does he really see the details of our lives and does he really care? The answer can be found by studying what the Scriptures say about the direct and personal connection between man and God throughout the ages. Has God been there for his people? What we find in even a cursory read of the Bible shows examples of God’s faithfulness appearing on virtually every page.
Secondly and just a critical, can YOU trust God? Do you have such a relation with God and such a confidence in him that you believe he is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of his presence at the moment? Jerry Bridges in his book, TRUSTING GOD EVEN WHEN LIFE HURTS, discusses this very question. This is where the rubber meets the road. God calls us to live trusting him in joy and in grace even in our darkest hour. When people would ask former hostage Terry Anderson how he endured spending six years and nine months in Beirut blindfolded in chains: “We can either live our lives in anger or in joy. If we keep the anger, we cannot have the joy.”
Job 5:7 tells us, “Man is born to adversity as sure as the sparks fly upward.” Can anybody say, AMEN?! It’s all around us. Chances are you have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience some level of adversity in your life. As a matter of fact, in just my little corner of the world, the last year has been filled with tragedies and loss I never dreamed possible. I lost my mother to cancer in February, my boss to murder in July, my 20-year-old neighbor to a sudden infection in October, and our Pastor Tommy to ALS in January. In March a good friend called me with news that her husband tried to kill her with a rifle as her little girls watched. Her marriage now in ruins and her husband in jail, she tries to make sense of it all. The list goes on. The death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a dreadful disease, the loss of a job, the crumbling of a marriage, the betrayal of a friendship. I am sure you have your own list, those times in your Christian walk when you have cried out, “Can I really trust God? Where is the Lord in all this?” “I’ve been good, I’ve followed all the rules. Why is this happening to me?” I have felt the darkness and despair that fills the soul when we wonder if God sees us or cares about our plight.
Have you ever been absolutely certain you heard from God on an issue, only to see your world turned up-side-down and blindsided by some unexpected gut punch? In 1986 Karl and I came very close to adopting a little girl. We were SURE God was directing our steps, but when the adoption derailed (we had the car seat and the little pink outfit in the car and were on our way to pick her up when we got the call) we were crushed.
How could God do this to us? How did we get this so wrong? How can we ever trust our discernment again? As we tearfully struggled through the days and weeks to come, we saw no evidence of God’s presence or his power. But as time passed, we could sense the invisible hand of God as it comforted us and carried us through the valley. You see, had the adoption NOT fallen through, we would NOT have pursued infertility treatments which revealed some major health risks, leading to my complete hysterectomy and the return of my excellent health.
So the question becomes, did we misunderstand God’s leading as he placed that baby girl on our hearts? I think not. I see now that God took us on that detour to heal my body and prepare us for the arrival our two beautiful sons, Walker and Jackson, now 9 and 6.
As believers, our response to hard times needs to be rooted in the things the Bible teaches us about adversity: (a) God is completely sovereign, (b) God’s wisdom is infinite, and (c) God’s love is for us is perfect. Another thing we learn from Scripture is that God is full of surprises, and that his heavenly perspective is more clearly focused than our earthly vantage point. We have a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, but God can see the entire journey and holds the map. This is where trust comes in.
Today I am here to tell you that I do trust our Heavenly Father because I have seen his hand at work, and I know the outcome is in his hands, just as surely as he knows the number of hairs on my head. The adversities we face are but temporary against the backdrop of his larger plan for us.
This is not to say trusting God is easy or a once-and-for-all decision. What’s more, trusting God in adversity looks ludicrous to the world around us. Forgive the man who murdered my boss? Show grace to the doctor who treated my mother for pneumonia for month without an x-ray? Accept a medical community that stands by helplessly as septicemia and ALS tear loved ones from their families? Try to understand a husband who points a loaded gun at his wife in front of his little daughters? Sounds crazy!!
But as I wrestled with trusting God in the face of the last year, I realized that if I can not trust God in these tragic circumstances, then I have no testimony at all.
As Gerald Sittser states in his book, A GRACE DISGUISED, “It is not the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives, for loss is inevitable. It is how we respond that matters. Our response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives.”
I was 45 when I wrote that piece and I am now closing in on seven decades. What has changed in 25 years? A lot and not so much. Those little boys, 6 and 9, have grown into loving and hard-working fathers. Adorable grandchildren have come barreling into our family. Karl lost both his parents and I lost my dad, one sister-in-law, and a niece. Karl came down with Parkinson’s Disease in 2016 and had to give up his music career. It seems that loss and adversity walk hand in hand with joy and grace. I must admit, there has been a little doubt peppered in along the way. That is probably the way it goes in life, but doubt can never obliterate the obvious blessings showered upon my life since I took my first breath.
Satan (or the Bad Wolf as my 10-year-old grandson likes to call it) works long and hard at cultivating fear and doubt and hopelessness in mankind. But, as he can also tell you, if you feed the Good Wolf, he is the one that grows big and strong. During times of loss, tragedy, and adversity, our tendency is to separate ourselves from community with other believers, stay home from church, watch mindless TV or social media, and let our Bibles get dusty. In hindsight, it is precisely during those times when I had to force myself to stay in the game, to draw closer to hope, joy, grace, and the people of God.
Don’t get me wrong, I still fantasize about hitting the road in an RV and running away from home from time to time. But so far, my roots are holding. I believe they are holding because I have come to recognize that the thing we call a crisis of faith is actually a divine journey–not from God, not to God, but a journey with God.”