Holding Fast to a Slippery Faith

We should ask our questions.

Don’t even bother pretending that you don’t have them. We all carry questions, some more on the surfaces of our lives and some we’ve probably never told to another soul. People don’t always like questions. They challenge our comfort or security. They might make us doubt our faith. We might worry about life running off the rails.

We don’t even like our own questions. To find answers that matter, we have to sit in pain. To sort through some issues, we’re going to have to walk through those issues again. To ask our questions means admitting that there might not be answers.

But regardless of how people feel about questions, God is not put off by questions. Life is full of challenging situations. Job asks questions, and then more questions. He complains about even being alive. Abraham seems silent, choosing belief in God’s victory over death, as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac, but I’d really like to read his mind as he traveled to that mountain. Elijah asked for God to kill him following a tremendous victory. Jesus spent time in the wilderness being tested by Satan and He was led there of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked God why He had forsaken Him (that will tie your brain in knots if you think about it too long). The Bible is full of questions and doubts.

Read through Psalms. It’s full of admittances that life does not add up like we think it should. Things look bad even though we are promised redemption. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, it seems like we would be better off if we jumped off this Jesus train that we are convincing ourselves to stay on.

That’s why we are told to hold fast. Hebrews talks about holding fast to our confidence and boasting in our hope (3:6), holding fast our confession (4:14), holding fast to the hope set before us (6:18), holding fast the confession of our hope without wavering (10:23).

That holding fast means to keep it from getting away, to detain, to hold back. My confession of hope slips away from me some days. Even worse, some days I just throw it down instead of trying to hold on to it.  It’s not easy to believe that God is in the business of redemption, that He hasn’t forgotten us, that we truly are destined for eternal life.

We sell a story in our culture that says the Christian life is easy. We say that being a believer makes your life easier and we’ll find everything we want and we’ll be happy for all our lives. Our sisters and brothers in Christ in many other countries do not have the luxury of indulging in that nonsense. To be honest, I’m not sure where it even came from because it’s not taught in the Bible. Instead we are taught to expect persecution as we pursue godliness (2 Timothy 3:12), to expect tribulation in the world (John 16:33), and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).

We need to hold fast. We need to wrestle down hope every day and refuse to loosen our grip. We need to grab with both hands and dig in our heels and let it hold us upright. We need to throw our arms around hope, lock our fingers together, and feel the storm shake.

It’s safe, even though it doesn’t feel like it, because we’re promised this is an unshakable kingdom, (Hebrews 12:28), an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:11).

We need to hold fast and we need to encourage others to hold fast. We need to tell our stories of God’s deliverance and of Him fulfilling His promises so in the times of waiting, we can also remember. Our stories should stick some glue on the lives of our friends as they detain hope from fleeing. We need to share the stories of the Bible and keep lighting the flame of our faith when life threatens to extinguish us.

It’s one reason I love Advent so much (yes, I know it’s August, so what). I wasn’t raised in church circles that had much use for liturgy (I find much of it beautiful now, personally). Advent, to me, is a solemn, hushed, slowed-down time anticipating the first coming of the Messiah. One year, I was pregnant during Advent. I sat in the dark on our living room couch, under the glow of the Christmas tree lights, thinking of Mary. All of Israel had been waiting, longing, for this King who would come and right all of their wrongs. Read the prophets, no matter how bad the situation, most often of their own doing, they kept saying, “One day…” But no one could have anticipated the coming King as Mary did. As she felt Him grow within her. As she contemplated what it meant that Emmanuel was already with her. As she considered that all of creation was waiting to be redeemed and she was carrying that Redeemer.

The most hopeful thing about Advent is that we know that Jesus came. Mary gave birth to the Son who came to offer salvation to all. He came to put things right; the kingdom has arrived. We have a double hope in Advent and it’s a glue that we can fling on ourselves as we grab onto hope. If God came the first time, if He fulfilled all that He said He was going to do, if He kept every single promise He had made, can we not hold even tighter in belief than our brothers and sisters did before He even arrived?

If He came once, keeping His promises, we can hold fast to faith, believing that He will come again and keep His promises. It doesn’t mean that life will suddenly tie up all its loose ends and present itself as a neatly wrapped package on our laps. We’re going to need to put on our armor and step out to battle.

We fight, yes, but we fight in hope. We rise up as warriors, holding fast to the promise that the King is coming again. We live, wrestling with fears and doubts and questions and assaults from the enemy, knowing that the kingdom is already here. We confess, we repent, we praise, because the God that made the world came to die for His creation, and that solidifies our hope that He will come at last and fully defeat every enemy.