This post was originally written for The Big Bible’s Digi-disciple series.
Last time I blogged about the importance of thankfulness and got quite a few comments! So I thought I’d do a kind of follow up. This is also a bit of a follow up on a post I wrote in April this year about the Kingdom of Heaven. You can read that here.
As I’ve talked to friends, friends of friends and others this year I realise that a lot of Christians are going through really difficult times. Either they themselves are ill or someone they love is ill, or they’re battling with the forces not of this world, or they’re watching their world fall apart around them. Others have been through difficult times in the previous few years, myself included. As I talk to those who are near to me I am beginning to see something that others have seen before me: we are being tested. Many people who are followers of Jesus are having our lives pared right down to uncover what we really are dependent on. Is it God? Or is it something else?
I personally know people right now whose marriages have broken up; who have been dependent on alcohol for years and battled with potential mental health issues; whose spouse is seriously ill; whose Mother-In-Law has had a stroke and is dependent on them; who have been in the heart of huge spiritual battles; whose parents are ill and dying or have died; who had a massive brain tumour discovered after complaining of bad headaches; these are people who have, in a very real sense, been to the edge of hell and are only just beginning to come back. And what I’ve noticed is this: those whose faith is grounded deep in the heart of the Father God are doing OK! Those who live in an intentionally thankful way are doing OK, and in fact some of these friends, who you could forgive for shouting and crying ‘God why me??!!’ are doing better than OK, they are thriving. Not on disaster, but on God.
I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he talked about ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’: you don’t have to be a theology scholar, you don’t need to know whether you are Armenian or Calvinist, you don’t have to have ‘big’ faith (whatever that means anyway); all you need is the kernel of knowledge that Jesus is Lord. Perhaps that is what Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’
It is the faith of those with little or nothing to show for it that is precious to God. Or to put it another way: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Ps 84 v 5. This Bible verse struck me recently because it doesn’t talk in bombastic ‘prize’ language but in a more gentle, yet powerful picture. We are all on a journey, the further I get along this journey the more I realise that just as I think I’ve got myself and others around me sussed out and pinned down, things/people/events move on and the picture changes. As Christians we are called to be on this journey, to count only God as unchanging and to weather the storms of life, being intentionally thankful for the blessings God has given us, even (or especially) when life has handed us trails and tragedies.
I’ve called this post ‘The Thin Red Line’ because of a picture I had for a friend who was just separated from her husband and going through the most unimaginable pain. It was of a thin piece of red cotton: if all we have connecting us to God is a thin thread, that’s enough. If we feel like we’re hanging on by our fingernails, that’s enough. If we feel battered and bruised by the storms of life but are clinging for dear life to the Rock, that’s enough. If we determine that in the midst of these storms we will be thankful because to be anything else will bring the whole lot crashing down on our heads, that’s enough.
If you are going through traumatic times right now may the God of all Grace and Peace be with you,
May you know that the thinnest thread connecting you to God is all that’s needed.