I’ve been having a tough time writing lately. Every time I sit down to write, I have to force myself to the task. Why? I’m not exactly sure. There have been quite a few things going on in my life. Shawn’s passing has been on my mind. The LSAT is coming up quickly and I haven’t studied very much for them (and I’m kind of losing interest in the idea). I’ve been considering grad school for Journalism instead of law school. And overall, I’m just having difficulty seeing where God is taking me. One moment I want to be just a writer, the next a lawyer, or the next a film maker; I have no concrete idea or vision of what I want to do with my life. I know the Bible says not to worry about trivial things like these, but it’s hard to let go.
It’s hard because before I know it, I’ll have my degree and be looking into the job market. Even if I do continue on to either law school or grad school for a master’s in Journalism, I’ll eventually have to find somewhere to work. Most of my friends seem to know where they want to go in life and what they want to do, but I don’t, at least not clearly. Trying to figure it out has been frustrating and very distracting. It’s been making me wonder if I really do have faith in God and trust where He’s leading me.
This is where I come to the realization that faith, like love, is not merely a feeling, but an action. Whenever I get caught up in my worries, my anxieties, my uncertainties about my future, I wait for some kind of emotional feeling to emerge that influences me to trust God. When that emotion doesn’t come, I begin to wonder if God even cares about my worries. I begin to doubt that He’s even there in the first place. It’s the lie that I was told eight years ago when I had contemplated taking my own life. I believed that since no one seemed to truly care about how I felt that I must not really be loved, which meant that no one would really notice or care if I was suddenly gone. The truth is, however, that God does care and He shows it throughout Scripture and through the people He’s placed around us. Rumor has it, there were over 300 people who attended Shawn Phelps’ memorial service and many more who sent their condolences from far away. Thus proving that no matter how we feel, there are many who care.
And yet nothing changes when I realize how faith is an action. I still feel stressed, depressed and pessimistic about what my future might hold. Telling myself to simply make the action of faith doesn’t suddenly make me trust God. For the skeptic side of our minds, there has to be some kind reason to make such an act of faith. In order to let go of my worries, something hopeful has to replace them. What is that hopeful thing?
I’ve been studying the gospels in my spare time. Actually, I’ve probably spent more time studying a textbook for a class that I’m not taking than reading the novels for the classes I am taking. One thing that I’ve noticed throughout the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) is the events that take place at Jesus’ death. “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split,” – Matthew 27:50-51; “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” – Mark 15:37-38; “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last,” – Luke 23:44-46. What does this all mean and why was it important to the authors of the gospels? It has everything to do with faith.
The temple’s curtain was the last thing separating men and women from the Holy of Holies; the dwelling place of God. Only the high priest was allowed to enter beyond this curtain and only once a year. Seeing the curtain torn in two might have meant that anyone was now able to enter in, wouldn’t it? Or might it have meant that God was now let loose like a lion from its cage? Jesus’ death, His words in John’s gospel, “It is finished,” meant that people no longer had to come to the temple to be with God; God was free to come to them, to come to us. What’s encouraging about all this? The fact that not a single one of us will ever be truly alone; God is here with us.
It isn’t enough to remove the worries, honestly; they’re still there. But it is enough to see through the lie that we have no value. In fact, Jesus’ death on the cross, the earth shaking, the curtain tearing and the sun no longer shining meant that God cares very much for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” – John 15:13. Since God committed the greatest and most scandalous act of love, sacrificing His innocence for the sake of the guilty, we now have good reason to believe that God does have control, that He does care about how we feel, and that He does have a plan for us. No matter how much we may worry, no matter whatever doubts may infiltrate our minds and try to kill our hope, the curtain remains torn, the Lion’s cage unlocked, and the tomb empty.
We still have work to do; just because He’s here with us doesn’t mean He’ll do the work for us. But the work is so much easier to do, so much more enjoyable to do, when we know that He is here. Simply knowing that the untamable Lion resides within us is enough to move forward on, to press through the darkness, the uncertain, the doubtful, and commit to the work He has called us to. Acting upon faith, as I’ve always known but haven’t always been tested for, is a difficult task. In some ways, it is the most difficult task for us, to put all our eggs in one basket with a fool’s hope that at the very least we won’t sink. But if you look in the opposite direction, the direction that doubts lead you towards, nothing but despair awaits you. So the decision comes down to acting in faith to something hopeless or acting in faith to something unseen, yet something selflessly, dangerously loving. Either we trust in what the Lion fights against or we trust in the Lion Himself.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” – Psalm 23:4