Monday, September 8, 2008

When Our Faith Wavers

Scripture warns us against "wavering faith." This is the attitude of someone who goes from feeling absolutely certain that God will answer their prayers to merely hoping that He will (or becoming convinced He won't). But since we're human, we all do occasionally go through times of doubt. But the Bible warns us against a lifestyle of such spiritual vacillations. We are to have more faith than that.

Wavering can have many causes, such as one's failure to see God's hands at work in a situation. Or they might worry that trusting Christ in a particular instance conflicts with their human reasoning. While another believer may focus on the circumstances rather than on the Lord, and this may cause his feelings to overshadow his faith.

A person who is "driven and tossed by the waves" may lose their confidence in God and find his spiritual growth hindered (James 1:6). He can become a "double-minded man" that verse 8 warns us against, because even as he prays, he tends to jump on ahead of the Lord's timing and tries to manipulate a situation for his own desired outcome. When a Christian pays attention to his doubts in this way, he'll often make costly mistakes. Then after all the maneuvering, he will often end up dissatisfied with the results and bothered by a sense of his lack of peace. Even worse, his faith may even diminish.

Wavering is dangerous behavior, so believers must develop confidence in the Lord. Jesus says in Mark 11:24, "All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." The closest we can get to perfect faith while living on this earth is the ability to trust that what we ask in God's will is as good as done.


My faith wavered many times during all the years I prayed for a reliable car. I'm ashamed of that fact. But then I make myself feel better by telling myself that doubt isn't a sin and even Thomas, one of the chosen twelve, doubted. But here I'm warned about a lifestyle of doubt. While it is not a sin, doubting is dangerous. It weakens our faith and can depress us in our natural life. Left untreated, it can destroy our relationship with our heavenly Father. How can we have a rich, thriving relationship with our God when we doubt Him? Maybe we doubt his purposes or maybe we doubt His motives. While I had periods of doubt during my long wait for my car, it was His purposes that I doubted. I simply could not understand why God was making us wait and struggle along with a car that was totally unreliable. And while it is difficult to live without a car in the cities and other populated areas, you simply cannot survive up here in the foothills where I live without a car. There is absolutely no public transportation available. No, I take that back. There is a bus that makes a daily run through the county and into the next county but it makes just one trip a day. It would be impossible to use it to go to work and come home, or to make doctor appointments, etc. And if you have to use the bus, there's no way to do all your shopping every month. When M and I make our monthly trip across the river, we buy a car full of items. A minimum of three boxes of litter, each at 28 pounds! Two 18-pound bags of dry cat food. And much, much more. How do you manage all this on a bus that makes only one trip a day? You can't. So we really don't have public transportation at all. There are no taxis or express rail service or any other means to get around up here. And I couldn't understand why God kept me waiting. What was His purpose? He knew full well that we had to have a reliable car. Why did it take Him all those years to give us a dependable car? What was His purpose in that? Well, I learned to wait upon Him. And to be absolutely accurate the car He first gave us, the Cadillac, though wearing out and with no heater or A/C was dependable. Did we ever not make it across the river to buy our monthly supplies? No. I may have always worried that the car wouldn't make the round trip one more time, but we always made the trip. Sometimes we had to limp it home and a couple times we had to borrow a car for the trip, but God supplied the car when we needed one. During those ten years God never failed to supply. Not once. I always fretted and fumed about it, terrified we'd end up stranded alongside the road somewhere distant with a car full of groceries and supplies. But it never happened. It was a constant worry and a great source of apprehension and stress on my part but God never failed to provide for us. Not once. So His purposes were being fulfilled and my prayers were being answered during those ten years. He never failed us and He taught us to rely on Him and only on Him. He ALWAYS supplied. So His purpose was, and still is, that I grow more and more into the image of Christ. His purpose was for me to develop a strong, unyielding faith in His faithfulness. It was to keep my reliance based solely on Him. It was to prove to me that He can be counted on. It was to show me it was pure folly to put my trust in anything of this world. That nothing else deserves that kind of faith. My car may have never been considered dependable; but God was. He always was. So the years were long but as my prayers increased, so did my faith. And I learned to depend on God alone. He is my source. He is my center. And He is my anchor.

And lately I've thought about God's motives again. I don't question His motives in conjunction with my puny life. I question God's motives in creation. (Yeah, I go for the biggies, don't I?) What exactly were God's motives when He created this world. I mean Adam and Eve were created with nothing. Human race started from scratch. Think back to the primitive past and ask yourself why a loving creator would start things out in such a primitive way. They had nothing. I suppose they slept on the ground and ate off fresh fruit and vegetables. They had no home. No clothes. No fire. No heater; no air conditioning. Maybe these things weren't needed because Adam and Eve were so perfect and so was the Garden. But God didn't create us to live in that simplicity. He knew (dare I say, ordained) that Man would progress. That they'd learn to make clothing and build houses and form communities. He knew Man would progress to the heights in which we now live. So why didn't He just start everything off by presenting Adam and Eve with cities and vehicles and houses and factories to make the necessary steel to build skyscrapers and trains and giant bridges? Why didn't He just create a few billion people and put them on an earth that was already developed into the state it now is? I mean, think about it. The only running water Adam and Eve had was the river that flowed through the Garden. The only light was sunlight. Why didn't God create the whole shebang at once? He could have if He'd wanted to. Why all the progressive struggles to make the earth a better place? Why did He do things the way He did? What were His motives? I have questioned God's motives off and on for as long as I've been alive. What was His point? What was His motive?

These questions all came to me again this morning after my quiet time. (I have to trust my belief that it isn't sin to question God's motives and purposes.) And as I sat there looking in the distance at Hogback mountain, with the sky a deep, beautiful blue, hummingbirds feeding at the feeder, and a gentle breeze ruffling the air; I was given a very simplistic illustration. I will state flat out that this illustration does not answer all my questions but I'll leave those for God to answer at some other time. But this morning He brought something to my mind that sort of helps me get a grip on things. He gave me an illustration: Ant farms.

When someone decides to build him- or herself an ant farm he gathers all the necessary supplies. (I think most people send off for an ant farm "kit." And that kit comes with everything you need to build your ant farm.) You pour in the sand and dirt and put in the necessary food, etc. [To be quite honest, I don't know what all is involved in ant farming. I only know that most people send off for the kit and when it arrives, it has everything needed to start a successful ant farm.] So you set up everything according to the instructions that came with the kit and you add the little box of ants and place the cover on the case and sit back and watch them build their farms and cities with all the tunnels and caverns. That's the purpose of the ant farm. To watch those industrious little ants build their little hearts out. The Farmer is happy. And the ants are happy. You continue to make sure that they always have the necessary things like water and food but you don't dig their tunnels for them. You let them do it. I fully realize that this is a super simplistic illustration, and it doesn't mean that I have God peering into our earth, watching His little 'ants' work, it does, to some degree, give me something my mind can play with. It gives me something I can relate to instead of just all abstract thoughts which are so difficult to relate to. It lets me know that God isn't some sick, perverted Creator that got His thrills from watching people toil and struggle endlessly. But rather He is a great big loving Ant Farmer. If I were into ant farming, I would love my little ants and care for them, and it would break my heart if they didn't progress. God is kind of like that. He loves us. He gives us everything we could possibly ever need and then leaves us to develop and grow just as we have since the very first creation of Adam. But God takes it one step further. He established everything so that He could love us and we could learn to love Him. God wanted to relate with his ants. If I had an ant farm, I would love my little ants and if for some reason the entire colony died or if only just a few ants died it would sadden me. I want them to thrive and prosper. But these ants can never relate back to me. I can't build a relationship with an ant farm. I can't even attempt one with a full colony of ants. But I can develop a strong, robust relationship with my Creator. I can relate to Him and He will relate to me. If I talk to Him, He will talk to me. He always loves me but I must establish my love for Him. I must rest in His care and learn to trust Him. God is greater than the ant farmer because He has given us His book of communications, the Bible, so that we can learn all about Him and grow a solid relationship with Him.

Thinking about God's motives is a lot like taking a trip. We figure out how much time we have to spend on our vacation and then we choose a destination or several destinations. We may wish that we could just futuristically "beam" ourselves to wherever we decide to go, but getting there is half the fun. I suppose God could have created the world just like it is today and placed Adam and Eve, fully developed, down in a garden somewhere in the middle of Nebraska. But what would have been the point? They would have missed all the fun of getting here. So the answer to my great question about God's motives has finally been answered. His motive was love.

These have really been stupid illustrations and part of me wants to delete these and start all over again. But I don't have time for that. I have places to go and people to see, as I always say. I need to run my errands and I'm going to go ahead and post this so that I'll get it out but I will come back and edit it so you may end up reading this before it's edited. If I haven't told you I have edited it, you will know it's the first version, the rough draft.

[Okay, for what it's worth, I have edited this. This is my creation in full. I feel like these illustrations were so silly and inadequate but they helped me get a handle on some thoughts that have plagued me for year and years. I went out and made my rounds. I just recently switched doctors and I had to go to my old one to pick up my medical records for my new doctor and I had the church cards to mail and I needed to go to the thrift store. We are in the market for some cushions for our maple chairs in the dining room. We aren't pleased with those we've seen at WalMart or K-Mart and we choked on the price tags anyway, so I thought I might find some at the thrift store that were used but in good condition. Somebody just wanted to change the look of their table or something. I lucked out there but I found an attractive jumper for me for this late fall and winter and I found a really nice vaporizer or humidifier for $5.00. I've got it running in the kitchen right now just checking it for leaks and to see how fast the water level goes down. We want something we can put in our bedroom to add moisture to the air. M gets really dry in his nose and is prone to nosebleeds and we thought maybe putting in a vaporizer or humidifier would help him in that area. And my skin is always dry. It may not make any difference and it may not even work like it's supposed to (you never know when you pick up something at the thrift store) but for $5 I felt like I couldn't go wrong. And if I'd waited until we thought about it longer or checked out the prices at WalMart, etc., it would be gone if I went back to buy it. Okay, this is enough on my blog for today. I've decided to go across the river with M in the morning and after his doctor appointment stop by my sister's house and visit with her for a little while and check out the thrift stores over there to see if I can find any seat cushions. M and I have taken up playing Cribbage again and our rears are getting sore from sitting for so long on the wooden chairs. We really need to find some cushions. Until next time...]

1 comment:

Ginny said...

Hi Marj,
Just wanted to let you know I was here this morning catching up, but now I have used up all my time reading and don't have much time for a proper comment b/c I have to be out the door with all three kids in 45 min. and I am sitting here in a nightshirt and they are all still in bed!
I like your ant farm analogy, I am glad you didn't delete it.