Learning to live with faith

We meet as a church in the middle of the week to worship and prayer. It’s our custom, our habit, our rhythm. The challenge is not to see it as simply a meeting but as part of what sustains us. Eating is an activity, it takes up time in my schedule but not doing it is fatal. In a similar way, meeting with my church family to worship and pray is not simply an activity that I can opt in or out of, it is what nourishes me.

Our evenings tend to follow a similar pattern (singing and prayer) but no two weeks are exactly the same. Given our infinitely interesting God, the rich depths of His Word and the constant emotional variations in His people, this is no great surprise. The limits are, more often than not, in our imagination alone.

This week, we did what I’m sure many do, prayed for those who were unwell. We saw some improvements but not with everyone or in everything. In recent weeks we’ve seen several strangers healed through prayer in the local shopping centre but among us lurks the faith-crippling sight of infirmity.

There are two basic options for the Christian who lives with persistent pain or recurring difficulties. The first option is to learn to live with suffering. There is a mystery in the brokenness of our world, there is confusion and an aching. An aching to be well, to be healthy, to be strong in mind, in body, in soul. We know that we are not promised a pain free life, not promised a ticket to neverending health, that sometimes for reasons known or unknown, we suffer.

But learning to accept struggle, pain, trial and suffering is one thing, but it isn’t enough. We need the counter-balance which is learning to live with faith. Faith gives hope, hope for a new dawn and a new day, hope for better things, things not yet seen. Faith holds on in the midst of the trial believing in the good purposes of God, believing in the goodness of God but more than that, to rejoice and to rest in that goodness not giving up on God’s ability to heal, to intervene decisively and transform a life.

Learning to live with faith is often the harder path because unfulfilled hope can hurt, better to let the hope fade than to live with the ache of disappointment. Yet, we cannot let hope fade not just for an eternally better day where peace and wholeness reigns but for a coming day, an inbreaking day of God’s grace and mercy.

The challenge is to learn to embrace whichever kind of day, whether each day turns out to be just another day, or  a day of trial or a day of advance and adventure, the challenge is to say with trust, ‘This is the day, the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

 

  • Andy_in_Germany

    …meeting with my church family to worship and pray is
    not simply an activity that I can opt in or out of, it is what nourishes
    me.

    It is perhaps strange but I don’t identify with this very well. For as long as I can remember ‘going to church’ wore me out and left me more drained at the end of the meeting than at the beginning. I was usually glad when the clock finally dragged its way around the hour and I could go home. Longer services prolonged the agony.

    Wanting to follow Jesus and not handling church services created a certain tension I still haven’t really resolved. I rarely go to ‘church’ any more and o be honest I don’t miss it that much.

    I still meet other believers and try to encourage them and allow them to encourage me, but my concerns and questions seem so far from the concerns of people at my church I’m often left feeling isolated.

    • http://www.thesimplepastor.co.uk/ Phil Whittall

      Hi Andy, only just spotted this comment, so huge apologies for the slow reply. Thanks for your honesty. I odn’t think you’re alone in feeling the way you do. I’ve certainly felt like that at times both as an attender and as a leader of a church.

      I think a few things helped: firstly recognizing how thoroughly communal and not individual the Bible is and repenting of my own individualism.
      Secondly, realising that the church is not the meeting and certainly not the building. The church is the people gathered around the person of Jesus. Seen in breaking bread and His Word. This reshaped how I approach church.
      Thirdly, by being amongst people I both learn to submit and encourage – I know and am known, love and am loved.

      So I don’t miss services all that much – but I would miss the church. I might write a bit further on that, but that’s how it’s changed for me.