And to think, I almost didn’t publish the previous post. Why? Well, I was a bit weepy and pitiful while writing it, and I learned a long time ago that strong emotion isn’t always the best leader when it comes to reasoned thinking. In this case, I think, perhaps, strong emotion served my words well… dutifully came alongside to punctuate a reality with which most of us can resonate—
That growing, forward-moving faith is often accompanied by our struggles, our questions, and our confusion.
Some of you may not agree; some of you hold to the idea that strong faith never wrestles with fears and doubts. That faith leaves little wiggle room for any amount of compromise. That faith has no room for imperfection or disorder. If that’s you, then I’m mostly OK with your take on faith; that is, as long as you don’t force that kind of understanding on me. Why?
Because I have walked a different road than you. My faith is what it is, as strong as it is, because of years of rough terrain and dark nights of the soul when a battle for understanding was the only way for me to push through in order to take hold of higher understanding. Faith, for me, isn’t a neatly wrapped package that can be quickly assimilated into my way of doing life. Faith, for me, is a messy, beautiful gift from God, wrapped in the witness of a bloody, beautiful cross. The “wrestling” that took place at Calvary is proof-positive that pain is often attached to faith’s cultivation.
This doesn’t mean that we ask for pain, desire the worst of life’s struggles so that we might further deepen our faith. It simply means that we can embrace them as they come, because we know that with our testing comes the very real possibility that we will emerge from that season with fuller understanding, stronger convictions, and deeper belief. The fierce determination of our hearts to hear from God on the matter of our pain is a holy and righteous pressing through. And friends, whenever we hear from God on the matter of our anything, we are never closer to his heart than in those moments.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12).
Paul correctly identifies the struggle of our faith. It’s a fight—the Greek word Agonizomai meaning “to enter a contest; contend in gymnastic games; to contend with adversaries; fight; struggle with difficulties and dangers; to endeavor with strenuous zeal; strive; to obtain something.”
This is the language of a willing agony… a desire to contend for something worth contending for… faith in God. A bowing to the struggle believing that a stronger faith will emerge because of it. A faith that all can be well with our souls in this moment and in the days to come. A faith that understands our beginnings originate and our endings culminate with Jesus—the Author and Perfector of all faith journeys (Hebrews 12:2). A faith that believes the struggles we’re currently working through are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor. 4:17).
Faith is a life-long process, friends. If we were going to receive the fullness of our faith in the beginning days of our salvation, then there would be little room for further spiritual maturation. We’d simply hold it all and, more than likely be a know-it-all. And knowing it all isn’t in keeping with the tenets of Scripture. There is One and only One who exists on our side of eternity who knows it all, and I’m not him. Neither are you. Therefore, we concede our ignorance to God and say to him with all the passion and fervency of Mark 9:24:
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
That is the prayer of my heart in this season of struggle. That my faith, already well-anchored within the soil of my heart, would continue to grow and flourish in order to root out the weeds of faithlessness that still reside alongside. It’s the most honest petition of my heart right now, because I don’t want to get to the other side of this cancer journey with a fragmented faith. I want to get there with the bloodied, beautiful wounds of grace that have allowed me heaven’s understanding in regards to my suffering.
I willingly take this wounding because I believe in its merits. As I’ve written before and believe more firmly now than in my before, “cancer will not be my undoing; rather cancer will be the threshold of my emerging.” That threshold begins and ends at the feet of Jesus, and my emerging? Well, as it comes, I move from dimming darkness into the marvelous witness of his glorious light, bursting forth with the firmest faith allowed a fleshly frame.
Accordingly, here’s to the fight of faith, good pilgrims, and here’s to bowing and bleeding and willingly agonizing it through until it finishes me home, and I stand before my Jesus complete. And here’s to you, faith-filled or faith-lacking ones; may the truth of our Father’s witness—his love for you and his contending for you—be the underpinning of your quest for more faith today. Be not weary in your suffering, your struggles and your strains. Our Father understands, and at his feet, grace remains.
Always… grace remains.
Peace for the journey,
PS: My final chemo is postponed until Wednesday of this week due to weather conditions. I appreciate your continuing prayers as I finish this portion of my journey and move onto the healing days ahead. Look for a video post to benchmark the “crossing over.” Shalom.