“I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness watch and pray. Find in Me, thy all in all.’”
Worship Circle’s rendition of Jesus Paid It All is on one of my playlists, and it recently came up during my regular morning workout. As I went through my routine and listened to those familiar words, I was reminded that as a Jesus-follower I can speak thoughtlessly of my love for and obedience to God. And I know I’m not alone.
We mean well, but a true grasp of God’s love for us and our love for him is not as deep as we think. It’s when times roll over us that are soul shaking, sleep extinguishing, fear producing, that we see how shallow our understanding of love and subsequent obedience are. It’s not that we lied about our affection for God and our desire to do his will, rather we have not been in a place of such desperation that our only hope is God. This changed for many when the pandemic showed up.
Most of us find ourselves at a monumental crossroads: do we really love God for himself, more than the life we knew four months ago? Or do we find ourselves longing for the perceived security we thought we had before disease and fear swept the globe and took personal aim at us?
In his deeply personal book,A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote the following:
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
Back to my morning workout. As I pushed through the last set on my circuit and pondered the lyric “Thy faith indeed is small”, I was mentally transported to a time when my faith was tested to the point of shattering.
I will not go into detail, but I will say this: during that season, which lasted years, I saw everything that I valued either significantly damaged or destroyed. And I mean everything. This was not a probing attack that was an inconvenience. It was a full-frontal assault from hell that overwhelmed me.
People attacked my character by spreading lies. The emotional and spiritual walls I had carefully built to protect my family were leveled by the enemy. Areas where I had previously excelled were suddenly closed off. Friendships that I believed would last a lifetime evaporated. The ability to financially care for my wife and daughters disappeared. And in the middle of all of this, I went dark spiritually. I raged in my soul at God. In fact, my emotions and thoughts were so raw, I recently shredded my journals from that time period. It was ugly. I was ugly. But it was here that God began to rebuild me because it was here that I had to face two questions: Do you really believe God exists? If he does, do you believe that he loves you?
Before all hell literally broke loose, I would have quickly said yes to both. The words “of course God exists and of course he loves me” would have rolled off my tongue with little thought. But when my soul was bleeding out, when I wept from an anguish I had never before experienced, I wondered what I really believed about God and his love.
Back to C.S. Lewis and A Grief Observed.
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”
My kind King had to knock down my house of cards and bring me to a point that all I had was him. My life boiled down to a simple question. Do I believe God exists and that he loves me or do I not? Every morning I had to choose, and every morning I prayed, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Every day when I sat alone in a silent house with Kim at work and the girls at school, I prayed, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Every night when the house was still and I lay awake in my bed, I prayed, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
And God answered. Slowly the darkness began to give way to light. Slowly the ugliness was replaced with beauty. Slowly my spiritual eyesight began to clear. God grew my faith. He grew my love. He grew my understanding.
I once told Kim that I felt like an oncologist who was told he had cancer. The one used to dispensing wisdom, comfort and a course of action was now in desperate need of healing. As painful as the years were, there was a deep mercy; a mercy by my Abba to show me how deep, how wide, how great is his love for me.
I end with I John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” And so we are. And so you are. Rest in that massive truth.