Jesus helps us to heal from PTSD soul wounds. Understanding how Jesus is the Christ can help us better engage Jesus as a healer. The fact that Jesus is fully human and fully divine enables us to …
You know, there’s a big difference between faith and faithfulness. I think, at times, I confuse the two. Two years ago in March I posted, “A Mother’s Musings” on the blog site my sister-in-law, Sandy, set up after the car wreck our family was involved in. It’s also the first blog post I published on Boxx Banter.
In March of 2014 I had things to say, things I wanted others to know or understand, and misconceptions I wanted cleared up. In the months between the collision and that blog post, my Facebook had become filled with comments about my strong faith. That was the biggest misconception I wanted to clear up.
I was bothered by those comments for several reasons. One reason is that I feared people were placing me on some spiritual pedestal I knew I was completely unworthy of, and once there, well, it was only a matter of time before I fell from it in spectacular fashion.
Let me give you an example. Last summer I took Gracen to one of many medical exams. That particular day the doctor had a medical student in tow. During the course of our visit the doctor asked me how Gracen was doing emotionally; how we were all coping with the events that had so drastically changed our lives. Among other things, I commented that humor (dark though it may be) was playing an unexpected role in our recovery. At that point the well-meaning physician interjected something along the lines of, “And faith. Faith has helped you.” While this was true, his comment served as a verbal rebuke. You see, as a fellow believer he knew faith was our anchor. He had an ulterior motive when he asked his question and I failed his test. He wanted a testimony before his shadowing student, and frankly, I missed the cue. Had he said, “I know you are a Christian, has your faith helped you to cope?” or “Have you seen the hand of God in the aftermath of your accident?” he would have received much different response. However, in my own little grief bubble, I didn’t realize his intent. And that quickly I fell from the pedestal he’d erected and as a result set myself up for criticism and judgment – not that he did either of those things. But such is the nature of elevating the faith of any Christian because every single one of us will fail.
But even more worrisome than the exposure of my all too human faults, was the idea that people assumed I had some great faith at all. I felt in failing to correct that misconception, I was sinning by omission. And this is the place where I think my mind blurred the lines between faith and faithfulness.
Faith is being confident of something beyond the reach of total fact.
Faithfulness, on the other hand, is the consistent repetition of an act. People live their lives doing many things faithfully, from the tasks required for their jobs to exercise.
The thing is, a believer can become a Christian (by grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8) without becoming faithful and also without faith becoming an integral part of who they are. Faith can be something we put on and take off in situations we deem appropriate when we continue to feed on the milk of the Word (basic Christian teachings) instead of moving on to the meat of the Word (more challenging Christian doctrines). In other words, if we don’t commit ourselves to learning and growing in our faith, then our faith simply won’t grow to any significant degree.
Quick Sidebar – I love the way these two translations render Ephesians 2:8!
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For it is by his grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God,
GOD’S WORD® Translation
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.
Okay, back to business!
When I conceived my first child, I became a mother. However, conception didn’t initially alter the way I thought and behaved. In fact, even after I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, I didn’t think like a mother all the time. One occasion in particular comes to mind; an evening when my husband wasn’t home. I recall thinking, “Ok, after I get the baby to sleep I’ll put a load of wash in then run to Walmart . . . Uh, what am I thinking? I can’t put the baby to bed and run to Walmart!”
It took time for motherhood to become ingrained into my being to the point where every decision I made was filtered through my love for my children and my responsibility as a mother. At that point, I didn’t have to remind myself to think about my children, it became second nature. The more I behaved like a mother, the more motherhood became enmeshed in my daily life, in my very being.
Christianity (faith) works much the same way in a process known in theological terms as “sanctification”. Sanctification is a fancy term that means to be made Christ-like. Sanctification is a three phase process. When a person chooses to accept Christ as their savior, they are deemed “positionally” sanctified, or set apart for a holy purpose. The new believer then embarks upon a process of “progressive” sanctification. Every believer stays in this phase for the remainder of their earthly lives. It is the place where the Holy Spirit in cooperation the believer, changes the believer’s heart, mind, attitudes, motives and behavior in progressive holiness. The final stage is known as “perfected” sanctification which describes what takes place at death or Christ’s return when the believer is actually made fully Christ-like, completely holy.
I became a Christian long ago and while I was positionally sanctified I didn’t automatically starting acting and thinking like Christ.
Faith is an integral part of my life. In many ways it defines me. However, my true nature is that of a sinful human being. Faith is second-nature to me. My first nature, sinfulness, far too often drives me. Yet, I committed to following Christ and over the years the Holy Spirit has been busy. More and more often I find my initial thoughts ruled by Biblical truth. I’ve been changed by God’s unmerited favor with increasing confidence and assurance (faith) that not only does He exist but that I can trust Him to keep His promises.
But regardless of my growing faith, my sin nature can and does lead me away from being faithful to the God I love and believe in. Sometimes I allow human frailties such as fatigue, disappointment, selfishness and anger as an excuse to skip church, quit reading God’s Word, and avoid ministering to others.
I have discovered that I do have a strong faith after all; but that I am less faithful than I expect myself to be. I don’t need Satan to denounce me as a fraud, my own heart and mind taunts me with that truth. However, the same grace that enticed me to faith, is poured from a fountain of unlimited supply.
Men of faith have shown themselves to be completely incapable of maintaining a covenant relationship with God since creation. We have failed to keep our commitments, but God has consistently kept His in spite of our faithlessness. Does God’s grace give me license to sin? Of course not. But His faithfulness, His loving kindness, His gentleness, His mercy and compassion leads Him to fill my cup to overflowing with grace – grace that is greater than all my sins.
I’m not faithless, but I do fail to be faithful. Hearing others say my faith is strong no longer makes me feel like a fraud; in spite of the fact that I am not as faithful as I want to be.
No, I neither lack faith nor do I fail to be faithful. I know this because as much as I’ve wrestled with my beliefs, with God Himself, over the last two years, the foundation of my faith has not been shaken. I continue to seek God faithfully, even if it is little more than trying to understand God and His ways in light of my circumstances. And I think God is teaching me about the fullness of His grace and unconditional love. I am thankful that God is forever faithful even when I’m not.
I made a personal discovery today, or maybe God revealed it to me. It has left me feeling even more emotionally fragile than I was before. I discovered that I know a lot about God from an intellectual standpoint. I discovered that I know a lot of scripture, even if I can’t associate the Bible reference with most of them. But I also discovered that I don’t “feel” the most basic of Biblical truths; at least in regards to myself. What is this truth that has left me reeling? This truth I know in my head but not in my heart? This truth that staggered me to the very core of my being when I finally became aware of it? This is the truth that knock my feet out from under me: God loves you, Janet.
Now, I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in sanctuaries and auditoriums and heard how “it’s not about emotional responses.” That we can’t always trust our feelings – which is why we rely on scripture. I certainly understand that argument on an intellectual level. I do. I get it and I’ve practiced it. When my heart’s been decimated, I’ve clung to the truth that my circumstances are not a reflection of God’s feelings toward me. I’ve held fast to the teaching that God is sovereign but that man has free will. I’ve believed that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen but that He does allow them to happen. I’ve trusted that He never leaves me, that He walks through the bad stuff with me, that He uses the bad stuff to refine my faith and conform me into the imagine of Christ and to somehow use that testimony to bring the lost to salvation; that I’m a tool in the Master’s hand used to bring Him glory.
But somewhere along the way my understanding has become warped. All the losses and the role disease has played in our family is all intertwined with my faith. I’m messed up. If the purpose of my life is to bring glory to God and if God allows me to be hurt over and over solely for the purpose of conforming me into Christ’s image and to bring Him glory through obedience, service and evangelism, without any regard for my emotional and psychological well-being, then we aren’t describing a God of love, we are describing a self-serving or an ego-maniacal God and that, of course, is in complete opposition to scripture.
So, I know I’ve gotten it wrong somewhere along the way. Maybe I simply accepted the easiest answer to explain God’s sovereignty because I needed an explanation, a purpose, when no real answer could be found. God rarely answers the why question, so I found one I could attribute to an overall grand design. But I can no longer cling to this idea that all this pain is for my good or that it’s justified for another’s salvation. I need to “feel” God’s love for me, not just know He loves me in my head. Otherwise, I’m left feeling as if I’m expendable for the benefit of others. That God loves others more than He loves me. That I’m little more than a means to an end and that the pain it all causes me is not of concern to God. If His purpose is simply to conform me or lead the lost to Christ, then I don’t feel individually cherished or worthy, or precious in His sight. I feel used – that I’m being conformed into a Christian Stepford Wife. I think that is why the idea that some ministry might rise from the ashes of Bethany and Katie’s deaths, from Gracen’s injuries and progressive disease, has been so repulsive to me.
The logical part of my being recognizes that God loves me but I can’t reconcile my theology and my reality. I can’t feel it in my heart – I need to experience His love for myself instead of simply reading about it in the Bible. And I don’t know how to go about it – I’m not even sure there is anything I can do about it. I need the Holy Spirit to do it – to change my heart so that I can experience the depth, width, height and breadth of His love.
I can’t even describe how broken I am, how tired I feel. I’ve got no words to enable another to understand the prison that my brain has become. The ache, the hollowness left in my heart – the utter and complete devastation not just for what has already happened but for what is yet to come. I don’t know how many more blows I can take, because I’m not fending them off, I’m taking them on the chin.
I’m worried about sending Gracen off to college but I’ve come to realize it is something we both need. She needs to experience it and I want her to as well. I feel so selfish saying this, but I need a break – Not from Gracen! – I need a break from the constant reminders of the collision. From the visceral response I have to seeing or hearing that wheelchair coming down the hall. From the things I now do for Gracen that she used to do for herself. It’s about the tasks and lost health resulting from her disease and the wreck – not Gracen, herself. It’s about all the unpleasant changes that have happened to the child I love more than life itself endlessly assaulting my heart and mind.
It’s relentless. I just can’t escape it so that I can somehow work it out and live with it. Not just living without bitterness but actually continuing to survive the emotional, spiritual and physical destruction. Oh to be able to escape, to flee from it all if not permanently then temporarily so that I can catch my breath and get my feet back under me. So that I can quiet the constantly striving voices in my mind. So I can find some peace. I’m so desperate for a little bit of peace!
Realizing that I struggle with one of the foundational truths of Christianity may have come as a shock to me, but it certainly wasn’t to God and dare I say that I’m not alone. My struggle is little more than an age old reflection of Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” Our human hearts long to know and experience intimacy with God. It explains our existence and gives us purpose. Intimacy with God ultimately reveals who we really are to ourselves. I’m more than a product of nature and nurture and life experience. According to the Bible I was designed with intention. I think I know myself so well, but the truth is that God knows me far better because I am His unique creation. So it stands to reason that in order to know myself better, I have to draw closer to my creator.
I’m missing the emotional component that creates a personal connection with God. I need to feel as if there is some distinct quality about me personally that allows me to have a relationship with Him that He has with no other person spanning all of creation. I need to feel as if I’m not a Christian Stepford Wife, that I’m not easily expendable for others but that while in the process of conforming me into Christ’s image and leading the lost to salvation that anything God allows to happen in my life is only allowed out of love for me individually, not at me expense, but only for the love of Janet. I know that’s true; it’s scriptural, but I need that truth to permeate my heart as well as my mind.
I’m hoping the Holy Spirit will brake down the self-protective walls I’ve built within my own heart when God didn’t behave as I expected Him to. The walls of justification I created to anesthetize the pain that came from feeling disappointed and even betrayed by the God I thought I knew. I need those walls to come down so that I can clearly see, experience and feel God’s love the way He always intended. I need more of God and I need Him to provide it because only He can. So, I continue to wait on the Lord for His revelation of Himself, at the time I’m most ready and able to receive Him. When He has been able to quiet me with His love, so that I can hear His still small voice and I can comprehend the height, width, depth, and breadth of His love for me. Scripture promises me that that’s His desire for me so I know it’s not a vain hope. And that’s a great comfort amidst so much angst and uncertainty.