Faith is a source of comfort. There are some great passages of scripture that speak to this directly, like Isaiah 40:1-2 and II Corinthians 1:3-7. More directly, though, I think of my own experiences where faith has brought comfort. When we experience the loss of a loved one, a major life transition, a health crisis, and any other scary situation our faith is something that can bring comfort in distress.
By contrast, uncertainty is a source of discomfort. Not quite a year ago Hillary and I experienced the uncertainty of a missing pet. We were in anguish. Thankfully he’s back home now, and we later found out he was locked in the basement of a vacant house. But we were quite distressed for the two weeks he was gone.
Now we’re dealing with all the uncertainties that come with a move: selling our house, considering new places to live, exploring work options for Hillary, moving the pets cross-country, etc. There are plenty of uncertainties here; my personal instinct is to want everything to be settled quickly.
But this tension is rooted in the whole of life: uncertainty is real. Sometimes people of good-faith respond by wanting to erase sources of uncertainty. Religion can be misused to contrive all kinds of answers to big life-questions that really are larger mysteries. All of us know what it’s like to run into a religious know-it-all. These people mean well, but their attempt to have an answer for everything is usually not very helpful. In my mind it’s better to use your faith not as a denial of uncertainty, but as a means to live confidently in the face of it.
I thought of this in relation to something I was studying Luke 2:25-32. It’s the question of fulfillment: How do I know my life is making the difference God wants it to make? Here it helps to trust in God’s methodology, which we see in Simeon’s case. He was a man of godly character, hope, spirituality, and purpose (vv. 25-26). From this two poles intersect…
Both of these are old covenant customs that have been abrogated with Jesus in the new covenant, but it’s interesting to note that it’s at this intersection where God accomplishes His will with Simeon (in Luke 2:28). Things happen when customs collide with the work of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes there’s the temptation to dismiss one or the other. I’ve known of Christians who were so bent on the experiences of knowing God, being saved by grace, and being in a personal relationship with Jesus that they derided the customs of more traditional churches. And likewise, I’ve known of Christian rationalists who were so left-brained that they were suspicious of testimonies from genuine Christian experiences. But neither should be derided. The enthusiastic and the formal sides of the faith are both necessary. God uses both of them.
So here are some questions that can help you understand divine method:
God bless you,
Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.