Faith in all the wrong places

Describing the last year and a half of my life is difficult, because I prefer not to use cuss words.

Words like ‘confusing’ and ‘frustrating’ are in the right vein, but they don’t feel anywhere near strong enough to describe just how difficult this season of life has been.

Trying to keep your faith when nothing makes sense and you can’t catch a break is hard.

My hopes were raised and dashed repeatedly. I have struggled with being depressed.

Sure, in the midst of all this, I would pray “Not my will, but yours be done“, but what I really meant when I said that is “Not my will, but yours be done, but really let’s use my ideas.”

Trying to hold onto hope when it seems like God has forgotten you feels not only impossible, but foolish. Hope feels like an instrument of torture rather than a pillar within the life of a person of faith.

Yet the question I have asked myself and God repeatedly during this season is: If you give peace beyond understanding, why am I such a mess?

To put an even finer point on it: What good is my faith if it doesn’t stand strong during the worst moments in my life? That’s when I’m in the greatest need of what faith promises, yet I’ve had days where I felt like ashes were being poured down my throat.

I bring these questions before God, because I trust God with my feelings. Even the ugly, selfish ones. Reading the Psalms has taught me that God really does want me to be open with him. In fact, my past experience has taught me that I don’t have any possibility of being emotionally healthy (or healthier than I would be otherwise) if I’m not willing to be completely honest with God about how I feel.

God already knows anyways. It’s not like me saying it is going to make God gasp and go sulk in a corner of the universe.

I need to be open and honest with God for my own good. It’s only when I’m open with God that I open the door for transformation by the Holy Spirit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was whining to God about why I was dealing with such despair. Why isn’t the Holy Spirit giving me peace and faith and trust in God?

Why was I having such a difficult time? Granted, my situation has been pretty crazy, but what good is faith in the Savior of all humanity and Creator of all the universe if it can’t handle my worst case scenario? …which, by the way, doesn’t even compare to some of the problems and suffering that exist elsewhere in our world.

I went for a prayer walk one particularly raw evening and I believe God showed me something very important. Perhaps the lesson for which all of this has been leading me towards.

I’ve been placing my faith in my own understanding and in my circumstances. The only place faith can stand up to anything is when that faith is in Jesus.

It’s funny that I’ve been writing a book about following Jesus and having faith in this season of life. It was at the end of the book, when I was discussing Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27 that this hit home for me.

To summarize, Jesus says if you build a house on what he says, it’ll stand up to the storms of life, but a house built anywhere else can only take so much.

I love Jesus and I have faith in God, but this time helped me see that sometimes I shift that faith into other areas. As a mentioned, my own understanding is a big one for me, and my circumstances.

It’s so, so easy to revert to old, bad ideas that “when things are going well for me, God loves me; but when things are going bad for me, God must not care.”

So for the past several weeks, I’ve been choosing to look to the cross.

Does Jesus love me? My current circumstances, and understanding of those circumstances could cast doubt on that idea. But when I look to the cross, there can be no doubt. Why would Jesus accept a cruel death which frees me from sin if he does not love me?

Why is my life so dang hard/confusing right now? The cross says I can trust that God has a plan, and that God can bring redemption from the darkest of situations.

Jesus guarantees that we will have trials and sorrows in this life.

I wish I could pick and choose which trials and sorrows I had to face, but that’s not the way it works. Jesus calls us to take up a cross when we follow him, and crosses don’t come with padding and cup holders. Other people’s crosses sometimes look like they’re much lighter and easier than our own.

We can’t control any of this. And if we try to place our hope, our faith, our trust into ourselves, or our own perspective, or our own circumstances, we’re going to be let down.

Only Jesus can give us the spiritual life we desperately need in these times.

Only Jesus will never give up on us.

Only Jesus is the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

Only Jesus will finish the work of faith that was started in us. (Philippians 1:6)

There’s only one place for me to put my faith as I continue to seek ways I can strengthen and expand God’s kingdom in a corrupt and broken world. I hope you’ll join me, as we put our faith in Jesus.

Now watch: How should Christians view suffering?

This post originally appeared on makingfaithpractical.com and was republished with permission.

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