Lack of Alternatives

Today, I was reading from my daily devotional book by Philip Yancey, Grace Notes.  You know, sometimes I think the only reason I keep posting devotions is that otherwise I might not read them myself or not take the time to reflect on them.  It’s a nice excuse.  Anyway, today’s passage, taken from Yancey’s book, Reaching for the Invisible God, was particularly interesting.  I’ve quoted it below:

I must exercise faith simply to believe that God exists, a basic requirement for any relationship [“but Philip,” I say, “I can see my wife everyday, talk to her, touch her.” “Yes,” he says, “but how do you know, really know, that she loves you?” I guess I don’t – I believe based on her actions.  It isn’t quite the same, but he’s right that every “I love you” is a tiny leap of faith that that love runs both ways.  Anyway, sorry to interrupt –Ben.].  And yet when I wish to explore how faith works, I usually sneak in by the back door of doubt, for I best learn about my own need for faith during its absence.  God’s invisibility guarantees I will experience times of doubt.

Everyone dangles on a pendulum that swings from belief to unbelief, back to belief, and ends–where? Some never find faith.

I feel kinship with those who find it impossible to believe or find it impossible to keep on believing in the face of apparent betrayal.  I have been in a similar place at times, and I marvel that God bestowed on me an unexpected gift of faith. Examining my own periods of faithlessness, I see in them all manner of unbelief.  Sometimes I shy away for lack of evidence, sometimes I slink away in hurt or disillusionment, and sometimes I turn aside in willful disobedience.  Something, though, keeps drawing me back to God.  What? I ask myself.

“This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?” said Jesus’ disciples in words that resonate in every doubter.  Jesus’ listeners found themselves simultaneously attracted and repelled, like a compass needle brought close to a magnet. As his words sank in, one by one the crowd of onlookers and followers slouched away, leaving only the twelve. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked them in a tone somewhere between plaintiveness and resignation.  As usual, Simon Peter spoke up: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

That, for me, is the bottom-line answer to why I stick around.  To my shame, I admit that one of the strongest reasons I stay in the fold is the lack of good alternatives, many of which I have tried.  Lord, to whom shall I go? The only thing more difficult than having a relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship.

I try to imagine what I would be like without my faith.  It isn’t really that hard, actually. I wouldn’t be a terrible person.  I had good parents that left me reasonably well-adjusted. But without that belief in a God of Love that both frees me and chains me, I’d be selfish, even more than I am now.  I’d be less self-reflective, even more inclined to rationalize my faults. I’d give in to the temptations of ambition (and the self-loathing that that brings).  I’d be smaller.  Instead of being a part, however small, in the Great Universal Story, I’d be the star of the Ben Show.  But the Ben Show has an audience of 1.  With any kind of perspective – it’s a sad show to watch.  I think that what Yancey says here is right – To whom shall I go?  I am a happier and a better person when I place my faith in God and not in myself.  And that (mostly, not always) is all the evidence I need.


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