I wrote a book called Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives, in which I describe how “crazy faith” can and does propel people to do amazing things. Faith doesn’t make sense, it is not logical, but it brings stability to unstable situations and gives sight where the circumstances at hand would beg blindness.
Then, this morning, I heard Rev. Lance Watson describe “courageous faith,” a faith that made the Biblical character Joshua tell the sun to stand still so that the Israelites could face their enemies. Whoever heard of such? And yet, courageous (crazy) faith makes people staunchly believe in something greater than themselves, and in standing on that belief, beat incredible odds.
Faith, it seems, gives people courage, the “courage to be,” as Paul Tillich describes. The very last line of his book, The Courage to Be, reads: “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”
The anxiety of doubt comes when we are in the midst of the most scary, the most traumatic situations of our lives. We wonder where God is, if God hears, if God cares …I imagine the slaves in America wondered about the presence and goodness of God as they endured that horrible institution; I imagine, as well, that Jews, suffering under the brutality and insanity of Adolph Hitler during the Holocaust, wondered the same thing…”Would God allow such evil?”
And yet, it seems, God does allow evil, and the courage to be means that one is able to hold onto his or her belief in God “in spite of” one’s situation.
As a pastor, I have seen many a person struggle with the whole notion of the goodness of God, the presence of God, and the purposes of God. Why would God allow an innocent child to die of brain cancer, or a beloved mother to die an early and brutal death? Years ago, I watched a young mother struggle with her idea of God as she mourned, in excruciating pain, the death of her teen son who was murdered in a drive-by shooting. In the recent unrest in the Middle East, I can imagine mothers and fathers both in Gaza and in Israel wondering why God would allow such evil – the evil of war caused by people who will not listen to each other – to exist and to flourish.
God does allow evil. That is a bitter pill to swallow.
But there is something weird about faith, because even in the midst of going through and suffering through abject evil, those who have faith experience a “weird” peace, the “peace that passes all understanding.” After a while, the person filled with faith has an ability to surrender doubt into the unknown. He or she is not aware of where the anxiety of doubt is going; one only knows that yesterday, he or she was upset and worried, and today, the worry, the anxiety, is gone.
And that is in spite of the fact that God allows evil to be.
We might feel better if God put a hand in front of all evil and all discomfort that confronts us, but God doing that would not necessarily increase our faith. Faith actually comes in the enduring and survival of, evil in our lives. Evil comes at us like a giant Tsunami, sometimes stunning us in its ferocity and intensity, and if we can find ourselves standing when the giant wave of evil passes back into the sea, we find that our faith in God increases. Somewhere in the midst of the fury of the evil that sometimes boxes our spirits, if we get to that place of weird peace, we are able to ride the evil and not allow ourselves to be consumed by it.
Evil is strong and distasteful, but God is greater than any evil. That does not mean that God prevents evil; we have already established that God allows evil, and we may never understand why …but in the end, God really is greater than evil.
Maybe that’s why faith is so perplexing. Anyone who has experienced a weird peace in the midst of adversity knows exactly what I am talking about …
A candid observation …