Saved Humans. Creatures capable of such outstanding declarations of faith and yet, at the bat of an eyelid, they become cowards and it seems that the astounding miracles they have witnessed mean nothing in light of their current tribulations.
Like a pendulum, we oscillate between believing - waiting for deliverance and lack of belief.
I'm at the top of the list when it comes to what I've described above. And it's been on my mind recently. I am actually going through a period of doubt right now.
But before I continue let me recall the men and women of the bible who have been afflicted with the same condition. Actually I'll only name one.
Enter Elijah, a Hollywood tale
We have Elijah whom longing to show the people of Israel the power of the one true God, beckoned them to Mount Carmel, for a showdown of Hollywood proportions. (1st Kings 18:1-39)
Four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal showed up that day, offering a sacrifice to their God, calling out his name, requesting that his fire consume the sacrifice. But nothing happened.
When Elijah's turn comes, we read the following:
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again.
"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"
This was a man who prayed and saw fire fall from the skies. Fire.
Afterwards, the prophets of Baal were slain and of course Queen Jezebel, in a rapt of fury over her prophets went after Elijah.
We read that Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. So much so that he prayed he might die. He was tired, weary, afraid and lacking the faith that had made the miracle he had seen before, possible.
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
Now, if a man who prayed and believed the good Lord would in fact show his power and then saw FIRE fall down from heaven can, two seconds later, throw the towel, fear for his life and get utterly depressed, then what is to say that we, the many who are not prophets of such caliber, the many who have not seen fire fall from heaven at our request... what is left for us then, but to realize that we too can have horrible faith swings.
A Personal Testimony
In December 2006, Christmas eve, I was sitting on a park bench, weeping while a friend held my hand. I had been unemployed for 6 months and had lost my house and everything in it. I was reduced to living in a room at a relative's house where I was humiliated and treated unkindly for not contributing with enough $ to the household.
My prospects of finding a job and ever moving out of there were bleak. It is nearly impossible to rent a furnished place in Chile as rent is so high. And for years I would have to save money to be able to have all that I once owned. That meant living at that relative's house for an even longer time and I was afraid bitterness would fill my heart. I feared I would not be able to cope.
This particular Xmas eve my relatives had picked a fight as there was not enough $ for Xmas supper and it seemed to be my fault.
Every single day, from my bedroom window, I saw a cross against a backdrop of mountains. The angle made it so that this stubborn cross peeked at me wherever I moved. Stubborn in its determination, a reminder that I should not give up, that help was at hand. This cross was no architectural whim, it was God's way of strengthening me, perhaps not with an angel like he did Elijah, but with an object that made an indelible imprint on my heart.
I prayed that my circumstances would change, I prayed that I would be able to forgive these relatives and not be filled with bitterness, I prayed for deliverance.
One night, after another bitter fight, I wept and prayed until 6AM.
Two months later I received a call from a Canadian company willing to have me relocated to the South of Chile. A chance to start over. A job.
Today, I'm off to Canada in a week or so to take over their marketing and IT section. I am also studying at the university (courtesy of the company).
The company owner is Christian.
I have a house of my own. Mine.
I have seen the hand of deliverance in my life, I've seen answers to prayer in what is nothing short of a miracle.
(I must also mention that once upon a time I asked for a street prophet and I got a Christian street evangelist follow me with a message. He told God he would not speak to me unless I spoke to him first, otherwise I'd think he was a stalker. And guess what. I spoke to him first for no apparent reason... but that is another story).
In light of these miracles in my life then why, I wonder, am I so f****ing sad? For over a week I have not slept right, I've been fearing financial struggles, I've cried (which is something I do not often do), I've felt lonely (I'm at that age where you need a husband)... I've worried about my mother's future (I support her financially so she means the world to me)... I've been ungrateful thinking that I don't enjoy office work (and I have the best work environment you can ever want, my boss is my best friend in this city). I've longed to find a place where I feel I belong, a job that makes me feel alive. A husband.
And in all these "wants" I forget where I was taken out of a little over a year ago.
Yes, I'm ungrateful. Yes, like Elijah I forget the miracles, the love and the deliverance. Elijah wanted to die, he was feeling a man of little courage. I wanted to sleep for ages, feeling a woman of little value, of bitter thoughts, a woman who in spite of seeing God's hand feared she would end up an old maid working in an office, with a heavy heart and a bitter countenance...
As if God could ever be that cruel!!
Yet my shallow mind has irrational fears and like a pendulum I get these faith swings.
And I feel like a faithless underachiever.
Me, the Eternal Trier
Yet I stumbled upon the writings of Grantley Morris, who wisely states:
It is not unusual for an explorer trekking through new territory to stumble. It might be an unpleasant hindrance, but what matters is not his falls but whether he keeps pressing on. It's his determination to keep forging deeper into virgin territory that makes him a hero, and his falls cannot detract from it. In fact, even if his progress seems abysmal, the more setbacks he suffers, the more impressed people are when he keeps trying.
If ordinary, self-centered people have this attitude towards those who have the tenacity to keep trying despite enormous failures, imagine how much more impressed God is when you keep trying. More than anyone in the universe, the God of infinite knowledge understands just how tough you find it. Moreover, love sees a person in the best possible light, and God loves you infinitely more than anyone else is capable of.
Yes... we can fail and fall a thousand times, we can become an Elijah... we can have faith swings. But we can forgive ourselves and choose to not give up, knowing that God sees our faith swings with love. And knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, how much he delights in us getting up and holding on.
We can become Eternal Triers and that's not a bad thing.