I used to believe that faith meant certainty, that if I prayed hard enough and believed hard enough that I would get the outcome I expected. I thought God would make my path clear, with no questions to be asked or hardship to be endured.
Well, life taught me otherwise and then I noticed the Bible showed otherwise, too. In the book of Job, there was a man who had everything. When all his possessions were gone, when he lost family and his own health, he and his friends encountered life that did not look how they expected. Job’s friends told him that God must have abandoned him because Job did something wrong, expecting that bad things only happen to bad people, and only good things happen to good people. But Job had done nothing wrong and God was still there with Job even in his suffering.
When Jesus was on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The suffering Jesus endured was not a life event the people of Israel expected of the Messiah. Despite the expectations and the anguish, God was still present. And Psalm 22 ends triumphantly with, “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (NIV). As we near Easter, we also rejoice that Jesus has done it, endured death and rose again, saving us from an existence far from God.
I have drawn comfort in the kind of faith that focuses on God’s presence through it all instead of looking to whether or not my life looks how I want it to. There is peace in knowing that I am not in control. What I am called to do is love God and love my neighbor as myself. God is in control, and ultimately all will work towards God’s good will.
I have drawn comfort in Jesus’ promise that he would be with us always and in the hymn about how It Is Well With My Soul even in tragedy. I have also drawn comfort from the words of Julian of Norwich. Hers are the first recorded words we have by a woman in the English language. She was a Christian who lived in seclusion most of her life. She lived during the 14th and 15th centuries when the Black Plague ravaged England. She got ill herself and almost died. When she recovered, she wrote down all that she had learned from God. This is the passage that she is most famous for:
See that I am God.
See that I am in everything.
See that I do everything.
See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.
See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before the time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it.
How can anything be amiss?
God loved us before God made us;
And God’s love has never
diminished and never shall.
God that made all things for love,
by the same love keepeth them,
and shall keep them without end.
And all shall be well.
And all shall be well.
And all manner of things
shall be exceeding well.
I love those last four lines. They are a reminder, along with the psalms, to trust God through all the things I face. I repeat them not because I am without fear. I am often anxious and frustrated and sad that things are not the way I want them to be. I love these words because they are a reminder that someone else has experienced the ups of downs of life and still maintained faith and hope. And ultimately all shall be well.
Hebrews 12 says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us, who demonstrated their faith and shared what they learned from God during their lifetime. May the examples of faith in hard times be a guide for us at this time.