Faith Amid Affliction

Part 1

The Bible defines faith as believing in that which cannot be seen or clearly understood.

Amid affliction, we exhibit faith when we believe in God and all his fullness—that which we cannot see—even though we have misgivings about him.

We exhibit faith when we trust in the wisdom and logic of his grand plan—that which we cannot understand clearly—even though we dislike its details.

Part 2

Faith in God is ultimately a choice, not a feeling.

It is a decision to rely on God based on what he has revealed about himself through nature and in the Bible, irrespective of our circumstances.

It is not a transient sentiment that fluctuates according to what we might infer about him from our momentary blessings or persistent adversities.

Part 3

Faith is an active reliance on God, rather than a passive assertion about his trustworthiness.

Claiming that a parachute will safely deploy is a passive assertion before the skydiving plane departs. Faith is jumping out of the plane in a freefall.

Declaring that God is good is a passive assertion when life is easy. Faith is following him without hesitation when risks and uncertainties abound.

Part 4

The object of our faith is more important than its certitude.

It is better to have tenuous faith in the almighty God than resolute faith in a lie. Jesus said even a little faith in God is enough to move our mountains.

We can harbor doubts about God during distress and still exercise faith in him. We simply need to set aside our distrust, take God at his word, and act accordingly.

Part 5

Faith is to reborn believers what finding second wind is to marathon runners.

Instead of quitting the race at the first sign of fatigue, marathoners keep running until new energy enables them to maintain the same pace with more comfort and less distress.

Amid affliction, faith sustains us through the doubt and anger until our subjective feelings once again reinforce the objective evidence of God’s goodness and benevolence.

Part 6

We frequently exercise faith in everyday life.

Most of us sit on chairs without checking to see if they are structurally sound because we trust the expertise of the furniture designers. That is faith.

We believe Airbus engineers understand the components of aerodynamic force, so we fly in their airplanes. That is faith.

We believe that Bayer scientists know what constitutes safe and effective aspirin, so we use their product without reservation. That is faith.

We may not understand why God lets us suffer, but we believe that he exists, he sees our plight, he cares for us, and he has the resources to help us.

Therefore, we trust that he will help us endure our distress and produce goodness from our affliction, either in our lives or in the lives of those within our orbit.

That is faith.

Part 7

Our faith in God can waver when he fails to meet our expectations.

But what underlies our disappointment? An uncaring God? An inept God? Or faulty expectations?

God’s promise to come to our aid during distress evidences his compassion. The sophisticated functionality of the universe attests to his competence.

Our distrust stems from faulty expectations, which arise from an incorrect view of God and ourselves.

Here are the primary reasons why we distrust God. The paragraph titles link to other pages on this web site that provide more details.

  • Misunderstood Metaphors. God uses metaphors in the Bible to describe in simple terms that which we cannot fully comprehend—how he relates to us on a personal level. We will be disappointed if we expect him to embody every nuance implicit in these figures of speech.
  • Unanswered Prayers. God tells us to pray continuously about all our concerns, but he grants only those petitions that align with his will. Since we cannot fully ascertain his will from our earthly viewpoint, we often ask him for things that are outside the scope of his intentions. Unanswered prayers raise doubts about God.
  • Misapplied Promises. We will be dismayed if we presume the unique commitments that God made in the Bible to certain people under specific circumstances always pertain to us in situations of our choosing. Misinterpreting the general promises that God makes to all reborn believers can also create false expectations.
  • Misconstrued Intentions. Sometimes we distrust God because we interpret his intentions in light of our current desires. And when he fails to satisfy us, we lose confidence in him.
  • Miraculous Expectations. Faith contingent on the occurrence of miracles risks disillusion. God does many marvelous things every day, but he sovereignly chooses the nature, occasion, and recipients of these wonders.
  • False Attribution. We are destined for disappointment if we expect God to direct us routinely through signs, assurances, and coincidences. This expectation opens up the possibility of mistaking everyday occurrences for his overt guidance, which can lead to poor choices that produce adverse outcomes he never intended.
  • Unforeseen Outcomes. Following God’s clear direction does not always guarantee a good outcome, at least initially. Sometimes his guidance leads us to arid desert locations instead of green pastures and still waters. These outcomes can diminish our trust in him.
  • Self-Magnification. We are bound for disappointment if we think we can impose demands on God. We are not his peers. He is our sovereign. He is not subject to our will. We are subject to his will.
  • Sense Of Entitlement. We will lose faith in God if we expect him to reward our righteousness with personal success, safety, and satisfaction. Our relationship with God is not transactional.
  • Personal Iniquity. We will give up on God if we think our unrighteousness means that he is ineffective or non-existent, that we are irreparably defective, or that this “God-thing” works for a select few, but not for us.
  • Hypocrisy. The unrighteousness of other reborn believers can distort our view of God and destroy our faith in him because his influence seems to have little bearing on their behavior.
  • Unfairness Of Life. We will distrust God if we expect him to make life fair. Our lives are unfair because we are surrounded by the adverse consequences of wrong choices made by others, ranging from Adam and Eve to those presently in our orbit. Conversely, our mistakes contribute to the unfairness in the lives of others.
  • Flawed System. Some of us are wary of God because we mistakenly believe he set up a flawed system with inherent vulnerabilities that produce suffering.
  • Divine Sexism. We may distrust God because we have been deceived into thinking that he sanctions sexism and authorizes the subjugation of women.
  • Value Differences. Some of us distrust God because we disagree with his moral values. We condone things he condemns. He draws distinctions we dispute. We elevate issues he considers secondary. He esteems that which we deem dispensable.
  • Unequal Blessing. Reborn believers can lose faith in God because he blesses us unequally. Some of us endure more distress than others. Our temporal needs are more persistent and acute. We get less relief. Others enjoy more abundance than us.
  • Unjust Condemnation. Some of us distrust God because we question the fairness of his salvation plan. If the only way to heaven is through Jesus, then it seems grossly unjust for God to condemn to hell those who live and die without ever hearing about him. Fortunately, this is not the case. God’s salvation plan is fair to everyone.