I used to think the Christian life was about doing. Now I see it’s about failing. I used to think my daily Christian task was to do what the Bible says, always asking God for help along the way. Now I see the Christian life is really a daily acknowledgment that I can’t do what the Bible says, and crying out for God to do it for me. The first is a life of doing that leads to disappointment. The second is a life of failure that leads to faith.
I’m clinging to that second promise—especially in this past month. Because life has been full of things I can’t do, problems I can’t fix. My 4-year-old son was diagnosed with epilepsy. Our heating system is wearing out. And now our shower has cracked and leaks water into our dining room.
All of us have times like this—where the problems come faster than we can fix. Or the problems come in forms bigger than we can fix. Or the sin we struggle with always overpowers us.
Why does God do this? Why does He let all these problems into our lives?
God’s people have been asking such questions for at least 3,000 years—since the writers of the Psalms posed them.
“Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!” the sons of Korah asked in Psalm 44. “Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
God has many reasons for putting us in desperate situations. Sometimes, I know, it’s because I’ve made bad decisions, and he wants me to be wiser, more obedient. But I’ve concluded that most of the time, God puts me through hard times to show me that His grace will carry me through. Not take away the problem or take me out of the hardship, usually, but carry me through it. Even when I’m convinced that’s impossible.
Each time God does this, He grows a little more faith in my heart.
Faith is a gift, Paul tells us in Eph. 2:8. That’s true in justification—we cannot do anything to save ourselves from our sins. We were dead in our sins, Paul adds—and dead people can’t do anything. But even after we’re justified, we still can’t create the faith needed for sanctification. God does that too—every day of our lives. One of His most effective methods is allowing us to confront unfixable problems, unbearable pain, unconquerable sin—then carrying us through.
This approach goes against the rest of our culture—where everyone around us, especially our employers, expect us to fix problems ourselves or, better yet, avoid them in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get paid for failing on a regular basis. But God’s economy is different. It runs not on performance, but on grace. And its goal isn’t to bless us materially, but to grow us closer and closer to Him.
That takes faith. And faith flows most in the midst of failure.
J K Wall,
This article was originally posted on the Gentle Reformation Blog. Check out their website for more great articles from a Reformed Perspective.