What do you do when you are a believer who is struggling to believe?
I have people I love very dearly right now that are going through things that would cause most any of us to at least question things that we know are true.
And this morning, in the beautiful, sunny stillness of my perch on the porch, I find myself called upon to believe on their behalf.
I know they have moments, even in the midst of the turmoil they’re experiencing, when they are confident in the powerful hand of the great God they serve to uphold them and carry them through the storm—whether a storm like the sudden, intense, terrible fury of an Oklahoma F-5 tornado or the hours-long surge of an enormous hurricane like the one bearing down on the east coast even now. I know there are moments that they, in pain and heartache, know God is hearing their cries.
But I also know there are moments when the fear is screaming so very loudly inside of them that it drowns out the weak, weather-weary voice of their faith. This moments come and often without warning. We may find that we have stepped out on faith like Peter who, despite the fearful circumstances and a face he could not see, trusted in a voice he knew and stepped out of the boat onto the rowdy sea. But, even as he experienced the wonder of walking on water by a power that was most certainly not his own, he was distracted from his faith-driven stroll and began to sink.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe. It was that his faith was drowned out by the circumstances. Yet, in that moment, his faith-anchored response was to cry out, “Lord, save me.” (You can read all about it in Matthew 14.)
But what about those moments when we’re stuck in the boat that seems to be taking on water so much faster than we can bail it out—maybe it feels like the bottom fell out of our bucket and we have no more capacity to bail. It sometimes is like we’re locked in the cargo hold and the water is up past our chin to where it seems we cannot even cry out for help without choking on it.
I have some friends feeling that right now. And I feel so helpless to do anything to help.
I read a book recently that brought a concept I had not really considered before. In her book, “Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness,” Kathryn Greene-McReight gives rich description to the agony of this conflict when what we know and what we feel are so vehemently opposed to one another. She makes this powerful statement:
Sometimes you literally cannot pray on your own, and you need to borrow from the faith of those around you.
I’d never heard this idea but it immediately resonated with me because I had been there. And right now I have friends that are there now. And at least one of them trusted me enough to ask me to pray even though they are not sure God is listening. I get that. If you don’t, you’ve never been that overwhelmed. I would argue that John the Baptist would get it, even if you don’t. After all, he did send someone to ask Jesus if He really was the One or if they were to be looking for another.
But this notion of borrowing from the faith of those around us is powerful. I think we can see it in the account of a paralyzed man being healed by Jesus in Mark chapter 2. The narrative describes the time as one when a great crowd was gathered in the house where Jesus was teaching—so much so that there was no room to even get to the door. These four men had carried their friend on his bed in confidence that Jesus could heal him.
But, when they could not even get in the house, they did not give up. They climbed up on the roof and tore a hole in the ceiling and lowered their friend through the roof to where Jesus was. That’s a great determination to help their friend. But notice what is recorded here in Mark 2.5:
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
He soon went on to explain that it was, in essence, the same as saying, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”
The man was healed. It seems that he was forgiven, healed, transformed, by the aid of the faith of his friends.
I sit here this morning with a burden to carry my friends to Jesus no matter the obstacle. I hope and pray and beg and long for God’s miraculous intervention in these matters. I trust that, even if I don’t see His intervention, He is going to be faithful to carry them through.
And I am confident that they will be held up—even on borrowed faith.