BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
FAITH THROWN OVERBOARD
Many people who hear the word faith feel the bitter cold rush of uneasiness creep up their spine. How can so many people be sure about things? they ask. How can they claim to have a better grasp on all of this than I do?
Faith is certainty to many. Unwavering. Commitment. Belief in something no one can see, and no one can feel. How can you be sure?
Those who believe, those who hold tight to faith or a certainty in things not quite understood, still have room for uncertainty, for doubt, and for questions. Yes, the uncertainty is still there. The lie we’ve bought and sold, the lie told to those of us who are less certain, the lie that we can never be allowed to see, is the existence of uncertainty in those persons professing certainty. This lie has not only harmed the faith of others, but our faith as well.
There are different levels of certainty. The hitch is, they’re unpredictable. Some come easy, while others feel so unattainable and far away that we push them back under our night pillow, to deal with them another time.
Jeremiah, an Old Testament Hebrew prophet, a young man, was charged by God to give the worst message one could give to a people group. His cries of destruction in a time of peace were as lost on those who heard them as a child lost in a dark forest.
What’s unique about Jeremiah, though, is his own uneasiness, his own questioning relationship to God. His depression was held within his own mind, as he tossed and turned in his uncertainty, akin to two wrestlers grappling on the mat.
When the task God gives leads you to the stocks in the city square, a cry of complaint is understandable.
O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Jeremiah, the prophet of God, laid bare in the center of the city for the world to mock and scorn, was led to question his faith: “Is this the plan? Is this what you intended for me?”
Yet the beauty of faith, for those who embrace it as hard as it is for others to understand, is the stabilizing of our emotions. Faith brings bandages when we’ve been overpowered.
But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
Sing to the LORD!
Give praise to the LORD!
He rescues the life of the needy
from the hands of the wicked.
The song of faith somehow finds our lips as if it had been stored somewhere deep inside us without our even knowing. It comes in our weakest moments. Our grandmothers words, prayed over us while we sat on her lap, or the sound of a hymn we were sure we had forgotten long ago, surges through our thoughts.
Faith flows like a rushing river. But it can be fleeting.
Here and gone.
There’s a special place in my heart for Jeremiah. At times he seems delirious, confused. Other times he’s composed, sure, and strong. From one moment to the next he is unique.
He feels and looks like me.
From complaint to praise, from accusation to despair, and back again. What a song of faith he sings in verse 13: “He rescues the life of the needy. Sing to the Lord!” Followed by cursing the day he was born, and the one who even carried the news to his father!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
who made him very glad, saying,
“A child is born to you—a son!”
May that man be like the towns
the LORD overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
a battle cry at noon.
For he did not kill me in the womb,
with my mother as my grave,
her womb enlarged forever.
Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?
If this were your first introduction to Jeremiah you would think he was out of his mind. From one moment to the next his mood flips from sturdy to unstable, from faith to despair. He is the “weeping prophet” because his heart was ripped apart by the message God put in his mouth for his people. His city would be lost, his people would be without a home, because they continued to run from being righteous and just. Their streets were be crowded with the poor, with the widow and the orphan, yet their temple was filled with the rich and upright. Their lips gave words, but their hearts carried different actions.
Jeremiah, reluctant, young, and unprepared, came into the mess to call them back.
Faith, though, has a funny way of calling us to something we can’t do. For me, belief comes out of nowhere, to get me through what will come next, my venom like complaint, my cursing, my despair, and my despondency.
The owner of faith also knows hope. The promise that in the middle of our uneasiness, in the middle of our doubt or anger, things are ultimately not determined by us alone. Jeremiah’s depression and joy finds its moments of peace in the promise of hope. “He rescues the needy.” He knew that what saved him in his moments of weakness, his times of mental and emotional instability, was the hope that someone could save him from the pain and uncertainty.
When Jeremiah wavers, when you and when I waver, when we are strapped by our depression, our inner agony, we buckle. Our faith, like a ship that’s lost its man at the wheel, crashes on the rocks.
It’s OK. This is the center of faith and hope. Our faith has thrown us overboard.
Jeremiah and I have been lost time and time again in our own faith, but the ultimate hope comes not in our faith, but in the certainty of Jesus.
During the last night before his death, Jesus found himself alone in a garden praying. There he wavered and shuddered in the pain of mental and emotional stress. Like Jeremiah moving from one thought to another, contemplating the message God had called him to carry out, he came to the place where he cried, “Father, may this pass from me?” The basis of our faith however, the center of our hope, is that in that moment, Jesus answered his own question: “Your will be done.” He carried on with the task.
In his moment of weakness, Jesus carried on so that in my moment of weakness, my moment of doubt, I can hold onto him and not myself.
Faith is not being certain in yourself, or in everything this world throws at us. Faith believes that in our moment of trial, cursing, or joy, we are holding onto something other than ourselves. We’re holding onto the one who was made weak for us, that we may be strong in him.
Even in the darkest of nights, and the happiest of days.