Faith Amid Affliction

Part 1

The Bible defines faith as the belief in what we cannot see or clearly understand and the conviction that what we hope for will come to pass.

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 clearly understand—even though we dislike its details.

We exhibit faith when we rest in the knowledge that all the goodness we genuinely desire is waiting for us in heaven, even if it never materializes on earth.

Part 2

Faith in God is 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.

Not an affection that fluctuates according to what we might infer about him from our momentary blessings or persistent adversities.

Steadfast faith is a series of grinding decisions to trust God, not an unwavering lightness or buoyancy.

Part 3

Faith in God is an active dependence on him, not a passive assertion about his dependability.

Claiming that our parachute has been properly packed is a passive assertion in the skydiving plane. Faith is jumping out the door in a freefall.

Declaring that God is good is a passive assertion when life is easy. Faith is declaring him to be good when suffering abounds. 

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 unwavering 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 must set aside our feelings, take him at his word, and act accordingly.

The absence of doubt is not a prerequisite for faith in God. But a disregard for doubt accompanies our decision to trust him.

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 resulting doubt and anger until our subjective feelings coincide with the objective evidence of God’s goodness and benevolence.

Part 6

We frequently exercise faith in everyday life.

We may not understand ergonomic engineering, but we sit on chairs without checking to see if they are structurally sound because we trust the proficiency of the furniture designers. That is faith.

We may not understand the interplay between aerodynamic and body forces, but we trust that Airbus engineers know how to balance lift, drag, and weight, so we fly in their airplanes. That is faith.

We may not understand how acetylsalicylic acid interacts with our body to reduce fever, pain, and inflammation, but we trust the expertise of the Bayer scientists who formulate it, so we use their aspirin without reservation. That is faith.

We may not understand why God lets us suffer, but we know he exists, he is present with us, he recognizes our plight, he cares for us, he has the resources to help us, and he has promised to come to our aid.

Therefore, we trust he will help us endure our afflictions, produce goodness from them, and resolve them in accordance with his highest purpose for us and those in our orbit.

That is faith.

Part 7

By faith, we acknowledge that God’s highest purpose encompasses more than the goodness of our current circumstances.

We agree that it also includes our understanding of his excellence and the effectiveness of our ministry, now and in the future.

We accept that God may let our suffering linger amid unanswered prayers for relief so we learn experientially that he is always good, even when we are distraught.

He may permit our misery to persist because he is using it to build a unique message into our lives that he intends us to share with others.

He may allow our afflictions to endure so he can produce goodness in the lives of those around us as they observe our response to suffering.

Part 8

Our faith in God wavers 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 that arise from an incorrect view of God and suffering.

Conversely, faith in God is the logical response to an accurate understanding of him and his provision for affliction.

Part 9

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

  • Presence Of Suffering. If God is good, why does he let us suffer so much? Why does he not use his power and authority to make life easier? The pages in this section address the source of our suffering and related topics.
  • Misunderstood Metaphors. God uses metaphors in the Bible to describe in simple terms how he relates to us personally. We will be disappointed if we expect him always to embody every implicit nuance 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 God for things that are outside the scope of his intentions. These unanswered prayers raise doubts about him.
  • Misapplied Promises. We will be dismayed if we presume the unique commitments God made in the Bible to certain people under specific circumstances always pertain to us in situations of our choosing. Likewise, misapplying God’s general promises to all reborn believers can also create false expectations.
  • Misconstrued Intentions. Sometimes we distrust God because we interpret his ultimate intentions in light of our current longings. We lose confidence in him when these immediate desires go unmet.
  • Miraculous Expectations. Faith contingent on the occurrence of miracles risks disillusion. God does marvelous things every day, but he chooses the nature, occasion, and beneficiaries of these wonders, not us.
  • False Attribution. We are destined for disappointment if we expect God to routinely direct us through signs, assurances, and coincidences. This expectation opens up the possibility of mistaking everyday occurrences for his overt guidance, leading 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 to be disappointed 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.
  • Transactional Entitlement. We will lose faith in God if we expect him to reward our righteousness with personal success, safety, and satisfaction. Our relationship with him is not transactional.
  • Personal Iniquity. We will give up on God if we think our unrighteousness means he is ineffective or non-existent, we are irreparably defective, or this “God-thing” works for a select few but not 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 question God because we mistakenly believe he set up a flawed system with inherent vulnerabilities that produce suffering. On the contrary, his system respects and preserves our volitional freedom.
  • Divine Sexism. We may distrust God because we have been deceived into thinking that he sanctions sexism and authorizes the subjugation of women. The truth is men and women are equal in his eyes.
  • Value Differences. Some of us reject 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. We may lose faith in God because he blesses reborn believers 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 people distrust God because they believe his salvation plan is unfair. 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.