"When we get our spiritual house in order, we'll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness." -Flanner O'Conner, Habit of Being, p. 354
A couple of days ago a member of my congregation said she was struggling with the Word, with doubt, with faith, and with fear. After a Bible class on Titus, she emailed me and asked if her feelings were strange or unusual. I told her that I knew, at that time, of a couple others wrestling with God. She then asked if perhaps we could do a Bible study for particular people that felt like this. For a moment I thought that was a great idea and began to put something together.
However, right before I affirmed her proposal, it dawned on me, “Isn’t every worship service and Bible study for those struggling with faith, life, and fear?!” While there are definitely a variety of Christians who enjoy different levels of knowledge and experience, we all struggle from time to time with faith, hope and love. Until our bodies are buried, the old flesh will be tempted by sin, the old mind will play tricks on our faith, and the old heart will want to turn inward and toward the darkness. The same cure for the strong in faith also heals the weak: God’s Word that kills and makes alive.
It saddened me to hear this poor lady assume that others sitting in the Bible study were always confident and unwavering as they walked with Jesus through this strange world. How many stand outside of the Church walls every Sunday morning assuming that the people inside didn’t have questions, didn’t have doubts, or didn’t have struggles with sin? Kris Kristofferson describes these folks best when he sings, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”:
“On a Sunday morning sidewalk I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned 'Cause there's something in a Sunday That makes a body feel alone And there's nothing short a' dying That's half as lonesome as the sound Of the sleeping city sidewalk And Sunday morning coming down”
O’Connor comforted her friend and us by reminding us we are not alone in our weakness, in our flimsy spiritual house. Because until our bodies are resurrected, we will struggle no matter how mature we are in the faith. That’s ok! That’s why we have a Savior! He doesn’t just save us once only to leave the “staying in the faith” to us. He continues to save us. He repeatedly saves us through His Word and Holy Supper. He continues to hold on to us. He continues to push and pull us no matter how weakly we grip His hand. As I tell my friend, stop worrying about whether you believe enough and start focusing on how Jesus is faithful enough. He has enough faithfulness for both of you.
The wonderful stories of Jesus walking on water and calming the storm are great reminders to us that the strength of the disciples’ faith did not get them to the other side of the sea. Jesus did! They actually kind of sucked at faith!
Jesus will get YOU across too! For a day is coming when our spiritual house will be in order and in the flesh! When Christ appears in Glory we will appear, too. We will see ourselves as Jesus sees us now! We won’t have one unbelieving bone in our body! There will be no struggle between old and new. There will be no more darkness; storms or tears. We will sit down at that table with Flannery, and all the saved sinners, who couldn’t walk on water! We will never struggle again. Until then let us rest in the faithfulness of the One Who has literally died and risen again!