Christian faith means hearing and responding with trust in God when God reaches out to us, offering a promise, wooing us, and calling us into a living redemptive relationship. There is an historic pattern to the phenomenon of faith: God calls, promising to use our lives for God's high purposes. The recipient of the call expresses fear, doubt, or anxiety. Then comes divine reassurance. Finally, there is a faithful response. We see it in the life of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, Jeremiah, Mary and Joseph, the Apostles, and others through the ages.
We also see it in the life of Jesus. In his Baptism and Transfiguration there is the call. In the wilderness there is the question and divine reassurance. In the cross there is the faithful response. He does not allow the warning of friends nor the threat of foes deter him from what God has called him to do and the promise before him.
In his book, Living Faith While Holding Doubt, Martin Copenhaver writes, “There are times when we must make a 100% commitment to something about which we are only 51% certain.”
But faith is not a momentary phenomenon, an act at one point in time. Faith is a long-term trust, a committed, continuous response to God’s promises. Out of real doubts and deep questions, Abram ventures forth with God. The venturing forth does not erase those doubts and questions. Rather, he gathers up his doubts and stumbles on trusting God into a future on the basis of nothing but the promise.
God told Abraham that he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the people of the earth and that the promise would last forever. The old Rabbis said that when God promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the dust, he was referring not only to numbers but to the fact that they would outlast those who trampled upon them. Given the way some in the three great Abrahamic faiths have fought one another for centuries, it is a wonder we have survived thus far.
St. Paul tells us that all who trust God like Abraham are his descendants, not just those who have his genes (Romans 4:13-25). Jesus shows us that the way of the cross is the way of faith. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
When God calls, how do you answer? With doubts, anxieties, fears? You are not alone! But can you listen beyond those obstacles to God's reassuring voice, calling you to trust him to lead you through them, perhaps even to use those obstacles as bridges into the future where he is trying to get you to go with him? Can you say, I'm 51% sure, Lord, but I'll trust you with the other 49%?
There is a beautiful prayer by Thomas a’ Kempis that expresses the heart’s desire to live with faith in God:
Write thy blessed name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraven, that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from thy love. Be thou to me a strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life. Amen.
In our Lenten journey together with our Savior, let this prayer be on our lips and learn from him what it truly means to trust in God.
I’ll see you in Church!