When Faith Sucks: the Greater Reality


Sometimes, faith isn’t an uplifting feeling you hold on to that gets you through a bad day. Sometimes it’s not inspirational and infused with positivity. Sometimes real faith sucks.

There’s a side of believing God that really gets tough, and even annoying sometimes. You know God is real. You’ve met him, communed with him, been in his presence. You couldn’t deny him if you tried, anymore than you could deny the existence of your best friend. But then life starts to get difficult, and it would be so much easier for you not to believe. It would be better for you, it seams, if you could just forget that you knew that God was real. In fact, there is no real evidence in your life that God is real, or good, or present. Life sucks, and it has sucked for a while, but God is still real, and you know it. It’s eating away at you because you know, in a way that seems so concrete but invisible, that he’s still real and that he’s still good. It makes you so angry you want to hate him, but even that’s not really possible, so you’re just…stuck.

Anybody else been there, or is it just me?

How did the three Hebrew boys do it? How did they look death in the face and say “We know God can save us, but regardless whether or not he chooses to do so, we still will not bow” (Daniel 3:16-18, paraphrase). That is more than obstinacy or tenacity. It’s more than loyalty or blind faith or dedication to ancestral customs. It’s awareness of the stronger truth, the greater reality. It is excruciating conviction that haunts your every conscious and subconscious thought. This magnetic north dictates the direction of every other experience that makes a claim upon your reality, and once you have encountered it, you can never again shake it off. It’s like how you can’t ever unsee something. It’s like how you can’t not read words once you have learned how to read. The knowledge is in you, for good or ill.

The regenerate life is the life awake to the deeper reality that dictates this tangible weaker one. It’s an awareness of God, sometimes vague, sometimes intense, that can’t be un-acquired. On several levels, this is comforting, but on may others, sometimes you heart screams “I wish I could doubt! I wish I could no longer know the truth because it makes this moment so much worse for me! It’s inconvenient! It’s painful!”

The comfort for me is that even when I feel no soft presence of God, even when I don’t see his goodness active in my life, even when I see no evidence of him, this very struggle is proof that he is real and I am saved. I am not doing the right thing because I am loyal to the idea of God, or to the comfortable dogmas of the church. I am doing them because I know beyond a doubt that there is no other course. I grudgingly walk forward, not out of some trumped-up affection I feel for God, but because the “new creation” that he made me is incapable of ignoring the truth. And in spite of all of the discomfort of my life, of my disappointments and confusion, that greater reality still exists. Knowing that, even in my disquietude, I can be still.


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