Notes on Faith

Posted by on Jan 12, 2006 in Clinical Examples

A patient of mine is struggling with complicated grief following the death of his handsome 5 year old son from cancer about 3 years ago. The grief is complicated and becoming pathological because of many unresolved conflicts surrounding the death. As keen Christians, he and his wife held strongly to a belief that God would heal their precious boy.

So determined were they to have a non-wavering, non-doubting faith, they did not tell discuss with their 9 year old daughter the possibility the boy might die. After his prolonged and pain filled death, their daughter became very angry, depressed and rebellious mainly because her parents had not prepared her. The dilemma for many Christians is how can you have a determined faith, and at the same time consider the possibility that what you believe will happen, won’t?

Too often Christians misunderstand about faith and doubt. The book of Hebrews lists in brief the “heroes of faith”. You will note that Barnabas writes about what they did, not how they felt. Faith, after all, is belief in action; it is not just a belief. If you do not act on your belief, as James would say, it isn’t faith. Faith is something that must be put into action, otherwise it becomes just another nice idea.

It’s not hard to think of Noah while building his ark, year after year, having the crowd jeer at him, his sons complain, his wife question his motives or his sanity, and silence from God, begin to wonder was he doing the right thing, was it worth it, would he be able to finish on time and how could he afford all the building materials. It’s not hard for any human to understand the qualms in Abraham’s heart as he heads for Mount Moriah at the request of his loving God and friend, to sacrifice his only and desperately longed for son. Would he not be thinking, “God, you don’t believe in the heathen practice of child sacrifice, so why are you asking me to do this?” Is it unchristian to think of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem having doubts? Of course not. It’s human to doubt and Jesus was fully human. In fact, the amount of doubt is proportional to the amount of faith. The more the bigger and more frightening the task you attempt in faith for the Lord, the more questions arise in your heart and mind. God is does not ask us to quell our feelings. He made us with emotional responses. They are sensitive and very useful indicators what we are experiencing, much like the myriad lights and indicators in the panel in front of the 747 pilot lets him know how his plane is flying and the engines performing. They don’t tell him what to do next. That is always his decision. Feelings are indicators to inform us, not to tell us what to do.

God does not want us to control our feelings but He does desire we control the expression of feelings, especially those which could hurt others. Because of feelings sometimes, in spite of feelings sometimes, God orders us to always be loving and usually do what is difficult. After all, that’s what a soldier must do. A brave man is not someone who has no fear. A brave man is one who has realistic fears, faces them and does what needs to be done. To have no fear is not courage at all; it’s stupidity. To have doubts is wise. They make us wonder about the nature of God, question our motives, seek advice from trusted friends and elders and at the same time continue pursuing the most God honoring course. And when this turns out to be wrong, apologize, try to learn from experience and avoid recriminations and flagellating ourselves.

When it comes to faith for healing, God understands that we will have mixed feelings, but he does intend us to go ahead on the assumption that what we believe will happen. If we believe that God can heal a person dying of cancer, then we do our very best to keep them alive as long as possible. That is faith.