Both are True

Faith- a Firm Foundation and a Work In Progress?

by Richele Groeneweg

Hearing of Pastor Joe and Stephanie’s decision to step away from the role of senior pastor has left me feeling a myriad of emotions.

It is as if I have cycled through the various stages of grief – I have felt shock and denial, thinking, “surely, this can’t be true,” while also feeling angry at the unfairness of their season of leadership.  They’ve endured hardship as members from our community chose to leave and worship elsewhere, navigated through the unsettling times of political and racial unrest, and led us faithfully in the midst of a global pandemic (that none of us had any previous experience living).  I have made bargains in my mind – “If only had supported them more, they could have experienced rest.” And, to be honest, I have also experienced hopelessness, wondering how our community will move from here.

As I have felt those emotions, I have wondered how I hold to healthy faith when my world has been shaken.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see”. The Message translation says the verse this way, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”

This verse brings complexity to the definition of faith.  We hear that faith is “a firm foundation.”

When I think of foundations, words that come to my mind include sturdy, solid, and concrete.  I don’t have to see the foundation of my home to know it’s there; I know because it is holding the rest of my home intact.  Our faith in God has an assurance to it; we walk trusting God to be steadfast.

Yet, this verse also states that faith is our “handle on what we can’t see.”  If I try to get a handle on something, I tend to need to grapple with the situation or relationship.  It is not clear to me; I do not have an immediate resolution.  It is like when I wake up in a hotel room and need to find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I reach out my hands to touch the wall, the bed- something concrete.  

The Hebrews writer is communicating to us that faith in God is a firm foundation.  He can be trusted.  He is with us.  This is a fact.  And, faith is also getting a handle on what we can’t see. God’s plan is mysterious.  We may have to feel our way to finding Him.
Both are true – faith is a fact, and faith is a process that I work through.  In one hand, I hold what is true.  In the other hand I hold my wrestling, my process to reaching God.
What’s next for us as we live out our faith in the One who is good and steadfast, yet holds mystery in His coming revelation?  I wonder if it could be that we look to earlier chapters of the Story that we ourselves are also part of and find parallels and themes for the story we are currently experiencing.  For me, I stumbled upon the short book of Habakkuk and there have found my processing of faith is intersecting with that of Habakkuk.  I invite you to explore this book with me.
In chapter one, Habakkuk looks around at the state of his world and questions God.  The prophet wonders why God would choose to use the Babylonians to judge Judah.  He is confused by the work of the Lord and asks, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (1:1,2a)

Although God’s ways do not seem to make sense to Habakkuk, the prophet turns to God, believing He will deliver an answer.  Habakkuk is willing to watch and wait for that revelation.

We see him taking a posture of looking up and listening to the Lord in chapter two.  He says, “I will look to see what he will say to me” (2:1a).

The Lord responds to Habakkuk’s earlier wrestling and his posture of waiting by replying, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (2:3).

Then, after giving his questions to the Lord, Habakkuk decides to look ahead, believing the Lord will keep His word, and we witness this prophet making a choice to praise the Lord.  This book ends with his words, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (3:19).

I learned the name Habakkuk comes from the Hebrew word “embrace,” an appropriate name for the one who comes to a steadfast faith in the Lord after wrestling with difficult questions.

After questioning and grappling with what he observed, Habakkuk clung to and embraced the Sovereign One.  

I invite you to give your questions, your emotions, your stirrings to the Lord and then to take that posture of looking up and listening for His response.  What are you questioning?  What is God saying to you about those wonderings?  What truth about God’s character or His faithfulness to you in the past can you anchor yourself into and, as a result, declare your praise to Him?  

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