Thursday, July 3, 2008

Faith in Life's Darkest Storms

How do we respond to life's storms?

I've been thinking this week that while we may disdain a Prosperity Gospel in terms of monetary wealth, deep down many of us, especially here in the abundant land of the USA, hold on to a Prosperity Gospel in relation to the storms of our lives.

Because surely, if we are "Christian" enough, faithful enough, or strong enough, the unthinkable will not happen, or if it does, God will minimize any harm or heartache, right? (This erroneous belief has become a bit of a soapbox passion for me, as you may have read when I blogged in January about my 5 favorite words in the Bible and a life-changing book I read several years ago.)

I may be the only woman who was not familiar with Carol Kent, but I had not heard her testimony until Angela Hunt shared this video on her blog last week:

I can't even wrap my mind around such circumstances. And I found it interesting that the whole time I was watching, I realized I was waiting for the "deliverance." I thought that surely her son would have a lesser verdict, or a reduced sentence. After all, dynamic testimonies always have a dramatic miraculous element, right?! In her book When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances, Carol Kent addresses this in the chapter "But Where is the Lamb?," referring to God's provision of a ram in the thicket when he tested Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. She writes:

The provision of a ram in the thicket seems to represent the answer to fervent prayers. . .or the predictable result of deep and abiding faith....But is true faith always dependent upon the provision of whatever the "lamb" represents to us? Is faith more powerful when the lamb appears - or can faith be even greater when the desired outcome doesn't happen?

As we lay our Isaac down without demanding that the thicket produce a ram, we will discover that our Jehovah-Jirah is the God who provides. He lays His heart over our heart and holds us tenderly, loving us as we trust Him for what we cannot see.

When a challenge rises up in our path, we who have had a long-term relationship with God may feel that our faith will surely conquer the challenge, even if we must wait and struggle for a while. but when we're confronted with an Isaac experience -- something far beyond where our faith has tread before -- we have the opportunity to learn what the essential nature of true Christian faith really is....I have found that the greatest power of faith lies not in how we think we might use it to conquer challenges we're sure a loving God would not put in our path, but in how we live -- with courage, passion, and purpose -- in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable, obstacles.

I want that kind of faith. (I just don't want the opportunity to use it! LOL) And the result? There are many hard days still, her son remains in prison with requests for appeals and clemency denied. As Carol puts it, they remain "in the middle of our circumstances, which do not appear to be changing." There is no (earthly) "happily ever after" to their story. And yet their tears "are rebirthing faith, hope, and joy."

If Gene and I had never endured unthinkable circumstances, we might not have understood the pain of brokenness. If we had gotten our miracle easily and quickly, we wouldn't have experienced the needs of "the least of these" in our society. If there had been "a lamb in the thicket" for our family, we wouldn't have launched Speak Up for Hope. If life hadn't held unspeakable tragedy, we never would have been the recipients of such extravagant love.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone
And our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come;
Be Thou our guard while troubles last
And our eternal home.

Carol Kent has written a follow-up book detailing more of their journey: A New Kind of Normal: Hope-Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down.


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LauraLee Shaw said...

What depth you have in your message. Wise insights that many need to hear. Excellent post.

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

I read that book last year...truly amazing. I didn't know there was a follow up book! I'll have to go get it :)

What you wrote is so true. I often think that God's provision for me means rescuing/removing from harm...and sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes, I'm meant to walk through it...praise Him for never leaving my side, no matter where I find myself.

Thanks for speaking these truths.

Angela said...

Wow, what a message. As my kids grow I watch them and can't imagine them growing up and being anything less than perfect, but this is such a reminder that we cannot control the future, and the the most important thing we can do is instill in our kids the love of God, and love them unconditionally as God loves us. Her faith and love for God is evident in this story.

Leah said...

I'm gonna get that book! Great post...we're were kinda on the same brain wave!!

boutcrazy said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've made a note of the book to pick it up. Awesome story! People expect a Christian's life to be full of nothing but blessings and it is...but the blessings sometimes come as the result of tribulations.

sumi said...

Hi Linda, I came here via a comment you made on Lisa's blog.

I am walking an unthinkable road, and I loved reading the snippets that you quoted from Carol's book. I have to get me a copy!

There are no easy answers for me, but knowing the character of my God, that he is good and merciful and that everything he does/allows is always redemptive, has kept me.

Rom 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

A Stone Gatherer said...

I haven't read her book yet, but I met her sister last year, and she has spoke around our area! Thanks for the wonderful post! We sure do have to remember that God sometimes carries us through without the happy ending, and we need to be at peace in that! Hard to think about though isn't it! Especially when It's our children!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

This is exactly where having a right knowledge of the sovereignty of God makes it all come together. Knowing that we may never get past our circumstances is somehow okay, when we view our circumstances though the lens of heaven.

All things work for our good. All things. Even the bad...even when we can't see it. God is good!