Faith is Not a Feeling
|By: Nancy Missler; ©2000|
|What happens to your faith when you are faced with a devastating tragedy? Nancy Missler explores that question from painful personal experience.|
As we said before, faith is not a feeling: it’s simply the power to believe. It’s the ability to see everything through God’s eyes. The only way our eyes ever get dim is by sin and self. This is why Scripture always exhorts us to walk by faith and not “sight.” Through faith everything will eventually be turned to sight and understanding; but, it never happens the other way around. Only faith allows us to become freed of things “seen.”
Only through faith can a human being leave his familiar comfort zone and move out into the realm of the unknown Hebrews 11 is a powerful chronicle of those who faithfully stepped out into the unknown by listening to and obeying the voice of the Lord: By faith Noah prepared an ark… by faith Abraham went out… by faith Sarah received the ability to conceive… by faith Moses kept the Passover… by faith the people of God passed through the Red Sea… by faith the walls of Jericho fell down… by faith Rehab the harlot did not perish.
Only faith can give us the strength to lay aside our “own” agenda and stand on the solid foundation that is Christ. Noah laid aside his reputation to build the ark; Abraham laid aside his wealth and property to follow God into the desert; Moses laid aside the treasures of Egypt to pursue his destiny; and Rahab laid aside her cultural identity to seek refuge with the people of God. In every case, these men and women chose to follow God in a completely “unreasonable” route, and allowed their faith to silence all protest coming from their own thoughts and emotions.
Faith is letting go of the familiar and consenting to the new and the unknown. Faith is what integrates the knowing and the unknowing. Faith is learning to leave ourselves in order to find ourselves. It’s deliberately choosing to move off of ourselves and to stand on Jesus. It’s looking away from ourselves and looking only to Him. Diana did this. Abraham did this. Can we do it?
Faith is synonymous with abandonment to God’s will, and that means being “obedient unto death.” (Philippians 2:7-8)
An Example: Joe
“I have a love-hate relationship with God,” wrote Joe Hallett, an incredible Christian man who recently died of MDS. “He asks things of me that no sane, reasonable or rational person would ever ask. It really annoys me. This God of ours keeps asking me to hope in the impossible. He invites me, or rather commands me, to push through to a place that is completely beyond my understanding and my experience—a place of scalding and naked brilliance. Oh, He’s gentle and polite about it, but He’s still inviting me to lay down my life. He’s still asking me to die.”
How accurately Joe describes our human reaction to the words of Jesus in John 12:24 and 25, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die; it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
Faith is trusting in God’s Love even when we’ve been stripped of reputation, comfort, family, position, finances and even our last ounce of understanding (Luke 13:33). Faith is getting to the place where we can say and mean, “[let] none of these things move me,” even when that means letting go of all that we hold dear. (Acts 20:24)
The Lord brought this Scripture to my heart the beginning of last summer and I made it my life verse. He knew that I would really need it for what He was about to allow in our lives.
An Example: Our Beloved Chip
August of 1998, God allowed one of the biggest tests of our faith ever—probably the hardest thing we will ever have to face. As we sat around the dining room table eating dinner one Saturday night, we got that “dreaded” phone call: “We are very sorry to inform you that your son, Chip, has just died.”
Our beloved “Chip” (our firstborn son—Charles Jr.) was out jogging and suddenly died of a heart attack. He was only 39 and he leaves behind a beautiful wife and two precious little girls, Emily (four) and Madeline (one). Chip had not seen a doctor for five years. He was in excellent health and had no prior medical problems. He had run for fun and pleasure all his life, from high school races to recent city events.
There is no reason on earth why this should ever have happened. There is simply no human understanding for it and we could spend years trying to figure out “why” God allowed it. The fact is that He did, and only He understands the full ramifications of “why.” We have chosen to leave all our “whys” and all our “questions” at the cross, and by faith, we have chosen to trust Him in it.
We have cried, we have grieved and we have cried some more. Words are inadequate to describe the depth of how much we loved our son. He was the “hub” around which this family lived and laughed and moved. We miss him beyond words. But God has supernaturally carried us through and filled us with a peace that passes all understanding. Somehow, in God’s overall scheme of things and from His eternal viewpoint, this was Chip’s time to come “home.”
What Chip’s death has done for me personally is to bring heaven and earth closer together. I now have one child in heaven waiting for all of us to come home, and three children here on earth, waiting to go home. The reason death is so difficult for so many of us, I believe, is because we are so preoccupied with the here and now. We see only our 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 etc., years here on earth. God, however, sees the “whole picture,” and that includes our life in heaven. Thus, when He says “all things work together for good,” He is figuring in the heavenly perspective, something we are totally incapable of doing.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
Erwin Lutzer has said, “What is life, but [simply] preparation for eternity.”
Several people have asked me, “Are you mad at God?” I must answer them honestly and say, “No, I actually find myself closer now to God than ever before” (I don’t know how else one would survive something like this without Him carrying you through). I am experiencing more of His Love and more of His peace than ever before, probably due to the fact that I’ve had to trust Him to a deeper level than ever before.
I constantly have a choice: either to believe that God somehow is in these circumstances and knows exactly why He has allowed them, or to crumble in doubt and anger and fear that this is all just a cruel joke and that “life” has no meaning at all.
If I choose to doubt God’s Love for me in all of this, then I immediately crash and burn and experience overwhelming depression. I become emotionally wiped out, not only for the moment, but also for anything I do in the future. My faith affects every choice, every thought and every action I take, not only for today, but also for tomorrow. If, however, I can choose by faith (not feelings) to believe and trust what God says in His Word is true (that He loves me and that He will work these circumstances out in my life for His glory), then I’m able to experience, once again, His presence and His peace.
Our faith is never more alive then when what we are experiencing in our spirit contradicts what our senses are saying. Faith is trusting that God loves us and will work out every detail of our lives for His glory, even if our senses are screaming just the opposite.
All of this has also forced me to determine in my own mind what exactly I do believe. Do I really believe what the Bible says about eternal life? Do I really believe that one day we will be with our loved ones who have gone on to heaven before us? Do I really believe that the “present” is only a precursor to what “real life” in the future is going to be?
I have chosen to believe that soon we will be with our beloved Chip, and it won’t be just for 39 years, but for an eternity. I believe this with all my heart.
Of all the thousands of loving cards, letters and poems that we have received, there’s a particular one that has really ministered to our hearts. I’d like to quote it for you here: (To me, this sums everything up.)
- When I am gone, release me, let me go. I have so many things to see and do. You mustn’t tie yourself to me with tears. I gave you my love, you can only guess how much you gave to me in happiness. I thank you for the love you each have shown. But now it’s time I traveled on alone.
- So grieve a while for me if grieve you must, but then let your grief be comforted by trust. It’s only for a while that we must part, so bless the memories within you heart.
- I won’t be far away, for life goes on. Through you can’t see or touch me, I’ll be near. And if you listen with your heart, you’ll hear all of my love around you loud and clear. And then, when you come this way alone, I’ll greet you with a smile and say “welcome home.”
When we study the lives of Abraham and Moses and Joshua, we quickly understand that faith is not something we hold onto, but rather Someone who holds onto us! True faith steps out of the crowd still clamoring for understanding, lays itself humbly at the foot of the cross and whispers, “Though You slay me, yet will I trust You.”
“There was a time in my life when I thought He was a hard Master,” wrote George MacDonald. “But now that I have learned a little more of what He means with me… how He would make me pure of sin, clean from the very bottom of my heart to the crest of my soul… truly, I am no more content to merely submit to His will. Now, I cry out in the night, ‘Thy will be done, Lord let it be done, I entreat Thee?’ and in the dare I cry, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Lord, let it come, I pray Thee!’” (source unknown)
Faith is giving God permission to penetrate our souls with His fire of Love and burn up all that is not of Him. It’s opening ourselves up to the true depths of reality—not only believing and trusting in what God does through us, but also believing and trusting in what God does towards us.