It isn't long before a Christian realizes that a life of faith requires that he mentally and spiritually assent to truths that don't always feel or seem true to him in this dark and broken world.
The woman who has just lost her unborn baby to miscarriage is called to believe that her sovereign God is still good.
The man who's received a devastating medical prognosis is asked to believe that his God still loves him.
The family who's experienced bankruptcy is told to trust that their God still has a good and perfect plan for them.
The church whose pastor has resigned due to a moral failure is called to believe the same gospel message he preached from the pulpit every Sunday..
Such realities -though Biblical and true- can feel very foolish when all the physical evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. Indeed, when you are in the midst of life's most difficult trials, the pain you experience can be so thick that you hardly remember the good and holy words of our God, written down for low moments such as these. And when the tears are plentiful and constant, it is hard to see the Savior's loving face through them.
In these dark moments it doesn't feel rational to assent to his goodness, wisdom, and love.
And yet, this type of faith-fueled foolishness is exactly what our Savior asks of us.
For it is in this foolishness that the wisdom of God is revealed to our hearts.
In truth, we do not praise God in the midst of difficulties because it makes sense to, but rather we praise God in the midst of our difficulties in order to make sense of the trials themselves.
I have experienced this reality first hand - this absurd and powerful peace that can steady a Christian in the midst of the unthinkable. I was reminded of one such moment when a song came over my radio a couple days ago. It was Shane and Shane’s version of Our God is Greater. As the words, "And if our God is for us, then what could stand against?,” rang out, I was transported back to a Sunday following one of my miscarriages. I remember singing this song with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was unable to keep them in, hardly able to sing a full line of the song without gasping for breath. And yet, our kind worship pastor kept pounding the line into my broken heart, telling me a story about a God who was for me.
This particular song is quite an encouragement when things are looking up for you - when you are standing on the precipice of the great unknown. But when suffering becomes known to you and you're deep in the trenches of spiritual warfare, being attacked from all sides, experiencing the devastating fruits of the fall, this song can feel like a cruel lie.
When death robs you of your child, and you experience its cold grip within your very womb, it doesn't really feel like God is fighting for you as the song says... it doesn’t feel like he is in any way for you.
Yet the Bible assures us that in the midst of our pain, God is at work for our good:
I love this verse, don't you? It is like a spiritual punch to the gut for my doubting soul. It's as if God is saying: "You think I don't love you, daughter? What more can I do to prove it to you than crucify my eternal Son? I've given you everything! Believe."
But this beautiful gospel story can stray so far from our minds when we are hurting. Jesus said that if we eat of his body and drink of his blood we will never hunger, nor thirst, yet here we are feeling famished and parched in the midst of despair.
Could it be because we have not seen the gospel for the sustenance it truly is?
Could it be that we have forgotten that it is in Christ that there is fullness of life.
Not in a baby. Not in good health. Not in a steady job. Not in a faithful pastor.
His gospel is light in our darkness because it illuminates eternal realities. It reveals to us the reason for our suffering and the hope for its end. It gives us a cosmic understanding of our pain, and draws us into the healing embrace of the One who holds the galaxies in his hands.
The Word of God may be foolishness to this perishing world, but to those who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, it is the unveiling of true reality. Within its pages are found the answers to our souls' most vexing anxieties.
Why pain? Why suffering? Why sorrow? Why regret? Why death? What is the point of life when it is so hard? Will their ever be an end to this darkness? Can happiness be possible? Is there reason to hope? Can I be happy in this world? Why do I long for something that isn't possible? Where are we all headed?
The answers are in a Book given to us by the very breath of God, so that we could know the Story. Our story. His Story. The Story that makes sense of everything.
The gospel story.
And so, when we are crushed by our circumstances and tempted to doubt God, we must redirect our gaze to the unwavering proof of his love for us - to the only One in whom we find joy and peace. We must run to the gospel.
We must tell ourselves The Story. The one that's been faithfully passed down from generation to generation because it is like a candle in a dark room - banishing our fears and uncertainty.
It is the story of a baby born in a stable - a holy mixture of frail humanity and omnipotent divinity. The story of a sinless man whose dry, callused feet, crusted in mud, faithfully roamed a middle eastern land bringing good news wherever they went. It's the tale of an unattractive, unimpressive man -whom we never would have thought twice about - except that he claimed to be the God of the Universe. Yet this man asked not to be served by his followers, but rather to serve. We must remember how in the moment of his ultimate act of service the sun refused to shine and the earth broke apart in anguish. As the sinless Son of God hung on a cross suffocating to death, experiencing the wrath of God against our sin his creation couldn't help but convulse.
We look to that cross and we remember love, even in our darkest, earth shattering days, we remember Love.
For Christians must be storytellers.
We must spend our days retelling the same exact story over and over again of a God made man, sent to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins.
Yes, we tell this story to the world, hoping and praying that God will open the eyes of more blind people in the same way he has opened ours. But we also continue to tell this story to our own hearts, knowing that just as Jesus' frail disciples were swift to sleep while he suffered in the garden alone, so too are we quick grow unaffected by his suffering.
The only antidote to our doubt in these times is to tell ourselves The Story.
For as Kate DiCamillo so eloquently spoke into one of her characters: