A light switch. They turn on lights. (Thank you Captain Obvious!) In some avenue of my brain I used to think faith in God was like a light switch. You simply quoted a verse or truth about God and then moved on with your life, newly refreshed and built up in your faith. If you’re struggling with worry, no problem, simply quote Philippians 4:6-7 to yourself and move on as a non-worrying individual.
As I grow older, and hopefully more mature, I’ve realized faith is not a light switch. It’s not something you flip off and on with the quotation of a verse or two. No, walking with God by faith in the nitty-gritty of life, suffering, sin, doubt, and struggle is a fight you must engage in at all times so as not to surrender any ground. Walking with God by faith is sometimes a knock-down, drag-out fight.
King David experienced this. In Psalm 42 David is battling for his faith in God against doubt and hopelessness. Like a heavyweight boxer he goes back and forth against the enemy of despair, willing himself to trust God and his goodness. He thirsts for God like an dehydrated animal. His tears have consumed him day and night. He is beset by those who have taunted him, saying “Where is your God?” He achingly remembers the past times when he was in God’s favor, when God had blessed him, (1-4). It seems as if God has altogether forgotten him, (9).
In the same chapter David is seen engaging in the earliest form of “self talk”, telling himself not to be in despair and to continue to hope in God. He tells himself God is going to work in his life for good. One day he’s going to praise God for how he responded in this time of trouble.
Psalm 42 is a like a wrestling match between hope and despair. In one verse David is asking God why he has forgotten him, the next he is reminding himself of God’s faithfulness. David is a man arguing with himself. He doesn’t give the appearance of a man who has quoted a verse and entered a state of zen-like rest; instead it’s like watching a pair of boxers battle each other in the ring, with both parties, (faith and despair), bruised, bloodied, and broken. It’s a brawl.
I dare say I’ve been there. One moment I’m clinging to the promises of Scripture, the next screaming at God in anger and doubt. So what about you? Where’s your faith? How are you doing in the fight?
I’d rather not be doubting Travis. I like the sound of faithful Travis much better. Faithful Travis is a much more peaceful and hopeful guy, but the fact of the matter is life in a fallen world presents a bit of a challenge to an undisturbed faith. Evil people, stress, sickness, children (oy vey!), money, employers, lions, tigers, and bears, (oh my!), all can pull and fight against our trust in God. Unfortunately there’s no light switch to peace and rest. Quoting Proverbs 3:4-5 once doesn’t make anxiety go away as easily as blowing out a match. It’s a constant battle. Heck even Jesus had to quote scripture over and over again to get the devil to go away.
Faith is hard. David knew that. It helps to know I’m not the only one who has fought against doubt. It’s good to see David’s heart wrestle against anger, despair, and feelings of being forsaken. Even he, the greatest king of Israel and the man after God’s own heart, was bloodied by doubt and fought to believe in God.
To my fellow fighters, keep swinging in your faith. Get “bruised, but not crushed; confused, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in your body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in you. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies,” (2 Cor. 4:8-11, my paraphrase).