Have you ever had one of those terrifying moments when you’re struck with the “knowledge” that everything you’ve ever believed in is a lie, that everything you thought was important doesn’t matter, and that the very earth beneath your feet might crumble away at any moment? For a minute or two you’re left stunned, shaking, nearly unable to breathe while you’re hyper-aware of the weight of the world all around you – a world that doesn’t care whether you live or die.
Gradually things shift back into focus. You remember that while the world at large doesn’t care whether you live or die, there are people around you who care very much. You remember, if you knew it in the first place, that God is in His heaven and that He cares passionately about His children on earth.
In other words, your faith deserts you for a moment, and you have to make the choice – again – to believe.
Usually when these kinds of thoughts come to me it’s early in the morning, before I even get out of bed. I wake from some half-remembered dream into fear that fades back into faith as I re-orient myself to my waking life. Two days ago, though, I had one of these faith crises in a new and rather terrifying place – as I was driving down the interstate at 70 miles per hour. One moment I was fine, thinking about what I needed to do that afternoon. The next moment my faith had deserted me – not just my faith in God, but my faith in everything. I didn’t know that up was up, or that two plus two equalled four, or that my heart would keep beating.
It only lasted a minute, and thankfully I managed not to hit anything while I was wrestling with the mysteries of the universe and driving at the same time. Ever since then, though, I’ve been thinking about the nature of faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) So does that minute of fear and doubt mean I’m not certain of what I do not see?
I don’t think so. I think, in fact, that those moments of doubt are instrumental to faith, because they force me to make the choice again. I’m admitting that I cannot see, but I have faith anyway. If I never had a moment of doubt, I’d be certain of what I did see.
I’ve been thinking, too, about how necessary faith is to stay sane in this world. We all have faith. We have faith that it matters whether or not we finish a project, whether or not we get up in the morning, whether or not we take our next breath. In the total absence of faith, there is nothing to do but curl up in a corner with our hands over our heads. God created us in such a way that we cannot live without faith.
The issue, of course, is choosing what to have faith in. That’s why the moments of faithlessness (which feel like the edge of insanity) are so helpful. They give you, for a moment, a blank slate without pre-formed notions. You can write any faith statement you choose.
You can write, “I choose to believe that hard work and getting ahead is the most important thing in life.” You can write, “I choose to believe that my thoughts and ideas are always right.” You can write, “I choose to believe that my children’s happiness and comfort is my highest priority.” You can write, “I choose to believe that Jesus died for me, and that He loves me passionately and has a purpose for my life.”