Building resilient faith (that won’t snap when the real knocks come)

In the early months of the COVID pandemic – back in March, April 2020 – a lot of people said that the world would never be the same again.

I disagreed. The world is a fickle place. I remember so many other times when world-shattering events filled the newspapers one day but were yesterday’s news the next. People have an amazing ability to forget, to carry on as though nothing has happened and to resist real change at all costs.

Now, over a year into the pandemic and still in lockdown, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think the world will ever be the same again.

The lives and societies we have built up for ourselves are simply not sustainable. Our infrastructure. Our economies. Our health systems. Our use of natural resources. We have been living for the moment, spending more than we have and not thinking about tomorrow for too long. And now tomorrow is catching up with us.

What’s more, we have been doing the same thing in our churches. We have spent billions of dollars and invested great energy building up a brittle statue of Christianity that isn’t sustainable. It shatters into a million pieces when the rocks hit.

What I am saying now, I say with sadness and a heavy heart. I am not mocking all the sincere Christian ministries that have laboured hard over many years to bring the hope of God’s kingdom into a desperate world. But I do think that some of the things we have been saying and doing, with the best intentions, fall apart when the ground trembles. They are not resilient.

Why have none of the great healing ministries been able to stem the flow of this terrible plague? Where is the supernatural deliverance from this great evil? Why have so many of our most fervent prayers fallen on deaf ears (or so it seems)?

I’m not trying to be cynical when I ask these questions. Nor do I doubt for a minute that God is powerful to heal or that He still performs signs and wonders today.

But I do think that the true power of the Gospel runs deeper than miracles.

The Bible teaches us to pray for healing, and we must do so in full faith that God works in mighty and supernatural ways. But the reality is that God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way we expect. Healings are the exception rather than the norm. This statement is not a lack of faith. It is a simple fact that passionate, devout believers through the ages have understood.

The modern-day faith healing movement has created an expectation that God should always heal. And worse, that a lack of healing is the result of a failure to believe and a failure to pray. The number of people who have had their faith shattered when God hasn’t healed, and have been left feeling guilty and condemned is heartbreaking.

The form of Christianity that teaches that Christians should not have to endure hard knocks is not sustainable. It is not resilient.

I believe that God is stripping away some of the brittle Christian ornaments we have decorated our lives with. It is an intensely painful process.

But if we can look deeper, and listen out for God’s voice amidst the fog, I believe He is shaking away the things that are not resilient in order to build a real, broken, humble faith community that will be able to stand through any storm.

This is the power of the Cross.

It is not about pristine lives, perfect smiles, wealth, health and happiness. It is about real, broken people who maybe have a few scars, maybe have some painful events in their past or mistakes they’ve had to work through. But they’re people who are not afraid of the dark because they’ve been in a dark pit and know from personal experience that there’s a way out.

This is the faith that changes the world.

There is a depth of joy that can only be found on the other side of sorrow. A rich, whole joy that comes from learning how to live a real, honest life. Learning how to bring our fears before the Lord daily and practice forgiveness. This joy is deeper than the fragile happiness of those who labour anxiously to keep the surface of their lives spotless.

Although I don’t want to prophesy doom and gloom, I do believe that the world has dark days ahead.

But the Lord warned us about days like these and He said we should not be troubled (Matthew 24:6).

We have a God who is victorious over death. There is hope beyond the grave. We have an eternity ahead of us in the throne room of our King. There is nothing in the world we need to fear. This is resilient faith, anchored in the rock that will never move, though the waters rage. This is the true hope we can bring to a terrified world.

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