Honoring the Journey of Faith
I recently opened one of my old Bibles. It was one that I used almost two decades ago. I was in college at the time, and in a very different “place” spiritually speaking. I started reading the notes I wrote in the margins… and I was horrified! Did I really thank that, back then? I quickly found myself judging…myself!
But then I began reflecting a bit more seriously on the last twenty years of my life and recognized all of the ways God has been working in my life since. I recognized not only the formal education I’d had, and the many in-depth Bible studies I’d engaged in during that period, but the struggles I’d faced, the losses I experienced, and the temptations I had by God’s grace overcome.
Through the years, God has taken me on a journey! There’s an old Stephen Curtis song called “The Great Adventure,” and if you know it, the words are apropos. At the time, as I went through various ordeals in my life, I never recognized how my faith was maturing, how God was drawing me closer to Himself, and forming me into a disciple. I only saw, in the moment, the struggle or the challenge I was facing. Now, I see it has all been a journey, a great adventure!
Reflecting on my own journey, and my initial knee-jerk reaction to judge my less-mature reflections upon Scripture, it also made me think about how I view other people whom I encounter in their various stages in the journey God has set forth for them.
Consider what God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV), “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In context, Jeremiah was speaking to God’s people in exile. They were going through a major trial! They were exiled from their homeland, they didn’t have a temple to worship in, and worst of all, it was their own fault! But God still had a plan for them, and the struggles they were going through were all a part of how God was bringing his plan to fruition.
When you are sharing your faith with someone, keep in mind that they are on a journey. God may be using you as a guide, to help them along their journey. You cannot, however, simply lift them off their path and set them further down the trail. Sometimes we are tempted to use our knowledge of the Bible and our experience with God to try and “resolve” someone’s struggle. In truth, the struggle that one goes through is a part of the journey. Paul says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). When someone is going through a struggle, your job as a Christian witness is not to resolve the struggle with a doctrinal answer, or biblical exposition. Your job is to help them see where they can rejoice in the midst of their struggle, to help them see God’s face in the midst of tragedy, turmoil, or temptation.
We live in a very “therapeutic” culture. By that I mean that we always want to try and solve people’s problems, and we treat struggles like problems to solve. In our spiritual journeys, however, struggle isn’t something to solve. It is a part of the journey through which God draws us closer to Him. When you see a fellow Christian struggle, or even an unbeliever who is beginning to wrestle with the truth of God’s Word, remember it is not your job to rescue them. It is your job to simply show them their Savior, and give them cause to rejoice and persevere in and through every trial, tribulation, blessing or chapter of life.