A simplistic telling of Bible truths can make genuine God-seekers feel guilty, faithless, or forgotten when we face periods of doubt. We have not lost faith when our journey has become clouded with disappointment, grief, and discouragement. These struggles do not mean we have lost God's love and favor. Hard times do not mean God has abandoned us. Between the normal hardships of life in a broken world and Satan's determined opposition of all who follow Jesus, those who follow Jesus will face times of testing, trial, and difficulty. God's stories in the Bible repeatedly remind us that these dark times are part of faith's journey.
Our questions directed at God during these challenging times don't indicate that we have lost faith. Instead, our questioning of God can actually show that we are on the pathway of faith. Someone who is without faith in God doesn't yearn for answers for their deepest questions from God. Our questions as believers can be signs that we are reaching out to God for reassurance. They are reminders that we need to know that God longs to draw us close to him and that we can trust our Father's promises for us, afresh.
We can read a few of the highlight passages in the Bible about the great heroes of faith and disconnect them from the overall story. We can easily forget the hard grinding times of real life that Abraham and Sarah faced. We can hear a sermon or read an article that shares the following verses and forget the rugged moments of life that went with these truths:
The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him... (Genesis 12:1-4).
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8-9).
Yes, Abraham and Sarah were remarkable examples of faith. However, what makes them remarkable is that they struggled with hard times like most of us. Abraham lied on several occasions to protect himself while exposing his wife, Sarah, to great danger. Of God's promises to Abraham — of greatness, a great people, and a great land — the only property Abraham ever possessed in the Promised Land was a grave plot to bury Sarah. Decades passed and doubts arose in the hearts of Abraham and Sarah about ever having a child of their own.
Along the way to the Promised Land, Abraham and Sarah faced hardship after hardship, struggled with doubt, had disagreements with family, endured sinful betrayal, and wrestled with deep discouragement. Faith eventually triumphed over their struggles, so, Abraham and Sarah are part of the Bible's "Faith Hall of Fame" (Hebrews 11:8-19). To help this couple's faith endure, God reiterated his promises to them repeatedly. God repeatedly reminded them that he was going to use them mightily despite the difficulties of the moment. Their faith, the completion of their journey, were hard-won victories over their own doubts and troubles.
We don't know where you currently are in your story of faith. Maybe you are buoyed with fresh hope. Perhaps you are struggling with doubt and discouragement, holding onto faith by your fingernails. Maybe you are passing through a long period of the "spiritual blahs" — a time of boring sameness when faith doesn't feel relevant and life seems as barren as the Negev Abraham wandered. No matter where you are on your journey, please remember that you are living a story — not a snapshot, you are on a journey and have not arrived at your destination.
How do we keep faith alive in the hard times as well as fresh in the long "blahs" of life?
How do we remain faithful during the blessings while overcoming our self-condemnation in our times of failure?
How do we move past our doubts in God's love when we are discouraged, and our hearts are threadbare?
Like Abraham, we must be honest with God about where we are emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are blessed with 150 Psalms to help us give words to our feelings. We have the Holy Spirit to communicate our groanings that are too deep for words (Romans 8:26-27). These gifts remind us that we can be honest with God about our doubts, discouragements, and questions.
Like Abraham, we also must be open to God's reminders of his love and promises. The Scriptures in general, and the Holy Spirit if we will ask for his guidance, can remind us of God's promises and his presence in our lives.
Being a person of faith doesn't mean our problems go away. Faith does mean, however, that we have the resources to sustain us and a God who longs for us to come to him, questions and all. Like Abraham and Sarah, our prayer is that you will remain on the journey with Jesus and find your strength, hope, and inspiration for the hard times, in him.
When faith feels weak and all hope seems too worn, we are reminded of a great image for the gritty faith that has helped sustain us:
May this faith, a faith like Abraham's and Sarah's, guard your hearts as you continue your journey toward Jesus!