“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
I just finished talking with a friend and shared how I’ve been. She challenged me to consider my functional beliefs about God– not what I know inw my head but what I truly believe in my heart. That’s not to say that I don’t truly believe the truths about God. What it brings up, rather, is the coexistence of belief and unbelief.
At first, it seemed like she was questioning my faith. Do I believe God will protect me? Of course I do. Do I believe God is present every moment of my life? Of course I do. However, she was right in asking those questions. I had been functionally living as if God would not protect me, and that was revealed in my fears, mindset, and actions that were determined protect myself.
As our conversation continued, I asked myself, why did I feel guarded as she challenged me? That question was answered with an image. (Perhaps, a light-hearted, childish one, because God knows what will lighten me up). My sister was getting closer to a place in my heart that I did not want to look at. While I had healed significantly from some difficult events, I was not done dealing with the aftermath. I, nevertheless, shoved my questions, doubts, and emotions under a rug. I wanted to be done with all of it.
Humorously, I put a rug over all my “stuff,” but it’s just so obvious that there are things under it! The rug is lumpy, and its edges are framed with things spilling out beneath it. The rug that cannot hide everything is a rug I called “faith.” I wanted to believe that I have faith strong enough to cover over everything. I wanted a heart clean of any unbelief, questions, and emotions– for they, my friends, were terrifying.
Interesting enough, I thought having this “cleaned up” space would allow God to enter my heart. But this very rug that I called “faith” placed a veil between me and God. And this is where you and I can get stuck.
What lays beneath your rug and my rug may be a wound, sin, or shame you do not want to think about, let alone let God see and touch. We have our different reasons for sweeping things under the rug, and they are worth thinking about.
Will you hear God’s voice calling to you as a gentle Father? He knows our hearts and obviously sees through our “tidied up” rooms. But will you lift the rug off and let him see it all? Will you let him see and attend to you? Will you let him give you a message of hope? Will you let him shed light on what was once dark?
For me, I was ashamed of what lay underneath that rug. My pride hurt, as I considered the possibility that I could be doubting and questioning God. I wanted to come to God with strong faith, but he was telling me that he is my strong faith.
Friends, however you find yourselves and the condition of your hearts, please remember that it is okay to live with both belief and unbelief. We do not have to tidy ourselves up before we go to God. Not only go to God with your requests and cries but go to him and ask for help with your very own heart and disposition.
Are you afraid? Are you ashamed? Are you weary? Are you doubting? Whatever it may be, not only go to God with your issue at hand but tell him why it is difficult to bring up the issue. Wrestle through it with God.
In summary, consider your functional beliefs, uncover what is under the rug, and wrestle with God. (Wrestle until he blesses you! Do you hear echoes from Jacob’s story of wrestling with God?! ) As you allow God to enter your heart, you will find that your room gets cleaner indeed, and this time with the finishing touches of the One who is perfect and pure. As you sort through all that is under the rug, you will find your heart becoming of what is was meant to be. Like his. Before you know it, you will see marks of his faithfulness and character all over the room of your heart. Not because of what you did but because of what he did and is continually doing in your heart.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
“You don’t have to wait for all doubts and fears to go away to take hold of Christ. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to banish all misgivings in order to meet God. That would turn your faith into one more way to be your own Savior. Working on the quality and purity of your commitment would become a way to merit salvation and put God in your debt. It is not the depth and purity of your heart, but the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf that saves us.
Faith, then, begins as you recognize and reject your alternative trusts and gods and turn instead to the Father, asking for a relationship to him on the basis of what Jesus has done, not on the basis of your moral effort or achievements.
It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”
— Tim Keller