To Believe or Not to Believe? That is the (Real) Question
November 13, 2014
By Laura DiFatta
Expectations. That word has been one of the biggest forces at play in my life. For many of my 44 years, I unconsciously had expectations that others would fill the deep longings in my heart. I kept going to that “well” when I was thirsty for hope and thirsty for encouragement and thirsty for unconditional love and thirsty for approval. The problem was, my needs were just too deep and just too numerous and so I kept being thirsty. My expectations placed on others left me unsatisfied and many times, hurt. I kept being needy.
Needy can feel helpless and broken. Neediness can lead to desperation-in-action which can point the trajectory of one’s life down one of two paths:
A continual search for fulfillment through innumerable relationships and pleasures and distractions and unhealthy actions that become habits, all of which are simply temporary fills or temporary numbing and do not really address and fill the soul-need or a humble recognition of the need for rescue and acceptance of the One who says: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. And you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
God has mercifully gotten my attention! He is the love of my life! So, why had I misplaced my expectations for so long? I think a better question is this:
Why didn’t I really believe He is Who He says He is for so long?
The problem is as old as mankind. There was a place of perfection where there was only love and unity of relationship between God and His created man and woman. Out of love, God gave His beloved choice…or it wouldn’t have been authentic love. Then those He loved and created…chose. Instead of choosing to believe God, His beloved chose a lie. They chose to believe that He didn’t have their best in mind and that they were on their own to get what they deserved and needed. They began to experience the pain of misplaced expectations. There began the human trek through the internal and external minefields of brokenness that resulted from sin—a deliberate turning away from and disobedience to God.
We choose that lie now. It is the lie that feeds our pride and says, “I can do this, I have to do this…I’m on my own.”
But we weren’t made to flourish and prosper apart from God. And we don’t have to.
What makes you crazy? What makes you fall apart? What makes you feel anxious or depressed or in despair? What or who do you feel you cannot live without? What makes you feel desperate? In those circumstances, situations or relationships do you believe, really believe that you have a God who cares? If the answer is yes, do you act in faith on that belief? Do you actively live out belief that you have a God who is working in you continuously for your good? Do you believe he has a good plan—be honest here—a really good plan for your today and for your life (and for the lives of those you love) and for your eternity like His Word says He does? The circumstances that evoke those feelings are opportunities to choose…Him.
Some of us have been functioning like we don’t have a God who is personal for so long that we don’t even think to consider Him when we are facing fears or difficulties or looking for fulfillment. That is really compartmentalized, functional atheism or a belief that there is no God for me in this.
And then there’s this: some of us just really want to be the boss. Oh, we may not put it quite that way, but we want to be in charge because we think we have to be. I mean in order for anything to actually get done the way it needs to be done, we have to make it happen, right? We really don’t want anyone else in control or having a say in our decisions. Here’s a hard question:
How has that belief system been working for you? Or maybe the better questions is: How is that working in your relationships?
You see, the One who wants control over our lives and wants to teach and empower us in the best way to live is called a Servant King. He humbled himself and calls us to do the same. Throughout Jesus’ earthly life, He was continually listening to and learning from God. He prayed. He trusted. He submitted. He obeyed. He loved. And He tells us to learn from Him. (Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” Matthew 11:29) Does the thought keeping your spiritual eyes seeking God or of being humble or being a servant or relinquishing your plans or your perceived rights or your picture of how things should be, make you wince? Then, we may be getting somewhere. (John 13:3-17)
Let me share an example of functional unbelief: I once had a man stand in my home and tell me if his daughter ever got herself in a certain “difficult” situation, he would handle it quickly and firmly. The “quickly and firmly” were spin-off decisions based on fear and shame. The results of this hypothetical plan of action included death. Literal death for one life and a life of deep and hidden pain for at least one other. Never once did He mention God. At all. This professing believer was talking about an action plan based on unbelief. In effect, he had sectioned off separate parts of his life into God’s area, my areas. He was speaking very plainly and resolutely what was in his heart. He believed that if his daughter got in trouble, he would have to handle it. And he had thought it through. But he had forgotten (or had he ever really known?) that God is Redeemer! He redeems not only souls, but the brokenness of sin! Each of us is flawed and in need of redemption and a Savior and a Rescuer! He had forgotten that God runs to the broken. Yes, God has a better plan than the brokenness of sinful choices for our lives, but He also knows us too well. He knows that we will stray. Jesus himself rescued a woman caught in the act of adultery. In that time and culture, it was an act that was punishable by death. Jesus dealt with her with such tender grace and mercy, but also Truth. He made it very clear that He had a redemptive plan for her life and that she was to walk in it and experience true life. That is a story for us to help us understand the character of our Savior! To live out belief in the One Who can bring life from hopelessness.
We forget that God is infinitely better at cleaning up sin-soaked messes than we are, because He loves perfectly, powerfully and redemptively. God have mercy. I have prayed and prayed for the dad above and for his family. I pray that they will come into functional belief in God that looks like: “I have a Savior! I am loved no matter what! I have an advocate and an empathetic intercessor Who cares and Who says, ‘I am for you and I alone work all things for the good for those who love Me!’”
I am slowly, but surely, learning to recognize my own habits of unbelief that cause me to think like a *spiritual orphan. I’m learning to repent and to actively participate in the transformation of my habits of thinking. And to take everything—everything—to God, every concern, every fear, every unknown, every threat or perceived threat, every hope, every desire, every praise, even daily frustrations. I am practicing belief in all the moments. I will be on this continuum for the rest of my life. No one or nothing else on this earth is deserving of my trust and worship like God. This is living out communion. God is not remote or dispassionate. Jesus—who in living out God’s plan—gave himself for us. He called Himself the Good Shepherd and that is what He is. He shepherds our hearts and lives, leading us to places of life-giving sustenance, restoring our souls in the process. (Psalm 23)
Will you join me on this journey of functioning in belief?
I’m cheering you on!!
“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent’.” John 6:29
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’.” John 6:35
John’s eyewitness account of the religious leaders, the adulterous woman and Jesus: John 8:1-12