I drew a piece of doggerel, a cartoon of a bird sitting in a tree. The bird waited, beak wide open to the heavens, as a great hand lowered a worm toward the skyward beak. Jesus had said I needn’t worry about what I need, as I am much more valuable than the birds for whom God feeds and cares. I was grappling with what it means to trust God. My scribbles both affirmed my reliance on God and mocked my passivity. Years on, I’m still learning how to work out an active faith.
Plenty in Scripture calls me to rely on God – for provision, for strength, for courage, for love, for healing, for forgiveness, for character, for wisdom and insight, for vision, for direction, for protection. I’ve believed God would come through with flying colours. And my family has seen some amazing hues woven through the tapestry of our lives; testimonies of how God has been faithful to hold and to help us. But the magic didn’t always seem to work, which has sometimes left me disillusioned.
What happens to faith when God doesn’t seem to come through, or worse? Plenty in Scripture calls me to act diligently. Again, glory to God for the coloured yarns, we get to tell of His gracious acts in and through us. I’ve done my share of energetic doing and then despairing when things haven’t gone to plan. What happens to faith when you’ve worked hard and God doesn’t seem to come through, or worse?
I’ve heard “let go and let God” which has a good pedigree among the saints, but seems like it would benefit from a good thick porterhouse steak. I’ve also heard that Bible verse quoted “God helps those who help themselves” though I’ve never come across it in my bible readings. So far, I’ve seen that to rely on God should never be passive (even waiting can be a deliberate act), and to energetically act doesn’t always imply faith. But to work, persevering in reliant faith, now that is a thing. And to eventually see God coming through, that is glory – and in truth, it might take until heaven to see it.
Here is Jesus who lived in God’s broken world as a man of faith. To survive a king threatened by a baby, his parents took him, trusting God, and fled to Egypt as refugees. In his teaching and lifestyle, Jesus championed both grace and truth. He taught about the kingdom of God as he trekked toward his death in Jerusalem. Against tradition, He honoured women, foreigners and the disempowered. In compassion, He healed the sick – Sabbath or not. And his countrymen shouted “crucify” because a poor teacher threatened a religion. For coin, his friend kissed his cheek to betray him. His best mates fled saying ‘I don’t know him.’ Then the Father, who had said from heaven “this is my Son whom I love with whom I am well pleased,” turned his face away while occupying forces executed the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Third Day came – truly! And then Jesus was exalted to Glory. And then the Spirit came. And then the gospel upended and began to transform the world with the life and kindness of God.
I stand in awe of the God of Jesus, whose great provident hand rests over all the furious doings of humanity. Our wars and excesses are not beyond his reach. Neither our panicked retreat from faith nor our wilful waywardness is beyond his redirection. He has purposefully enmeshed himself in it all, to redeem.
Though messy and faltering, on this God, I will rely, as I work.