This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for February 11 2018.
When I was a new Bible College student I remember learning about the different sources that people derive their thoughts about God from. Aside from scripture, also proposed were tradition, authorities, nature and experience. At the time I took a rather dim view of these other sources. But looking back many years on, I can see that these things do shape our perception of God and everything else in our Christian worldview. Unless one is from some wonky version of Christianity these do not of course play the same part as the Bible in doing this, but nonetheless they do colour what we believe and the way we practice it.
One prominent experience in my life was the death of my mother. She passed away quite quickly when I was twenty-five. Exacerbating this was the timing – right before what was meant to be my wedding day. This was something that knocked the wind out me in terms of my faith. I knew that no-one has reason to expect exemption from life’s tragedies, but it still made me reticent to really trust God. It is something that still troubles me today. Trusting that God is good is not something that always sits easily for me. I know it is so in my head, but experience keeps this at arm’s length.
A verse that has helped me forward is Isaiah 46:9 (“I am God, there is no other”) It made me realise that God is the foundational reality of life with which we must deal. God is God, and God remains God, regardless of anything we face. The best thing really is for us to accept that. Theological reflection might help us in this – we could grapple with issues like the purposeful providence of God, or prayer during the age of the Fall or we could recognise how our man-centred culture puts wrong expectations on our faith. But this is rather heady, especially in the midst of pain and confusion.
The truth is, we don’t know why hard things happen. Scripture in fact focuses on how we might respond to it. That is why faith is so important – faith in the simple sense of trusting in what we do know. We know that God is present, and that he is sympathetic. We know that he is able, and we know that he is willing. Willing, that is to do not our will but his, which we are challenged – in the face of the bad – to trust that like him it is good.
Always hold on.