I really like these simple but very insightful thoughts from Paula Rinehart. In this article, she is discussing three stages of faith.
1. A Faith that Insists
If you asked me for a word to describe the most rudimentary form of faith, I would choose predictability. Early faith hopes against hope that God will move in our lives in predictable ways. We seem to think God’s promises are connected by an invisible string to the dreams and expectations in our own minds. “If I do this then God will . . .”
Faith, at this point, is a manageable belief system where our faithfulness or obedience obligates God to bring about our desires. At its heart, it’s a faith that insists.
God does not allow us to continue to reduce Him to a size and shape we can manage. He moves in our lives in ways that burst our categories and overwhelm our finiteness. When we realize He’s bigger than anything we can get our minds around, we can begin to relax and trust Him.
The disappointment that leads to this second passage of faith is usually quite unexpected. To think that faith would turn to disappointment appears contradictory, as though God were defeating His own purposes. Yet, we rarely see the extent of our expectations until, for one reason or another, they are not fulfilled.
At this point, many reactions are possible. Confusion and doubt are two of the most common ones. For others, disillusionment leads to cynicism and apathy, a kind of dead-in-the road state, as though someone has let the air out of your tires. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What feels like the end of faith actually holds the potential for its true beginning. When we let go of our determination to make God conform in safe, predictable ways, it is possible to receive something better in its place.
One of disappointment’s hidden benefits is that it moves you out of your head— your cognitive understanding—into some of the messy, broken places in your heart.
3. A True Hope
Recently, a friend asked me, “How is faith that comes on the far side of disappointment better than faith that precedes it?” She was saying, “Tell me how loss adds up to gain and how your relationship with God is different.”
Hmmm . . . I thought. How can I put this into words that make sense? In my early Christian life, answers came quickly for me. I saw faith as a set of propositions to be defended, a body of knowledge to learn and pass on, a storehouse of sure answers.
But the faith that emerges out of broken dreams is different and harder to describe. There is room for mystery—for not knowing all the answers. The passage of faith that follows disillusionment begins when there is no experiential reason to believe. It is born in the fearlessness that comes when you’ve already lost a good portion of what you were so afraid of losing in the first place.
Somehow, you know God is there in the midst of this passage—in ways you didn’t expect. He makes His presence known by the pain of His seeming absence. He doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances; He gives you the courage to face and move through them.
Faith that withstands its own demise is free of the need to control life. It moves beyond the safe confines of predictability to a place where we begin to enjoy a relationship with a Person—a relationship that is often elliptical, full of ebb and flow, desert and garden.
The focus of our faith shifts from discovering ways to get a fix on God to experiencing the reality that He is the One who has hold of us. That inner shift of surrender must happen over and over throughout our lives, in ever-deepening ways.