Faith in Chaos

I have been really touched by recent messages here at St. James. A few weeks ago, James talked about faith. Last week, he talked about God’s presence in chaos. And it occurs to me that one of the most difficult things for any follower of Jesus is to maintain faith during chaos. When life is good and going the way we planned, it is easy to believe in a God who loves us. We only have to look around us to find “evidence” of that love. We point to nice homes and healthy family members and humbly tell others how blessed we are. But the same God reigns when hurricanes destroy our homes and family members die or leave. And that same God does not love us any less during those times. I would even argue that God’s blessings are the same in good times and in bad. God is not capricious. God is steadfast. It is our theology that needs work.

Too often we think of faith as a belief in God that is rewarded with the good things in life. For people of privilege, especially those of us in the West, this view of faith is confirmed by our life experiences. Many of us are raised by parents who identify as Christians. We believe in God because they did. We go to church on the occasional holiday and pray before our Thanksgiving meal. And we are surrounded by nice things which we regard as evidence of God’s love for us. A middle class existence in the United States means relative safety and food security and good health and plenty of opportunity. So it makes sense that we equate our belief in God with God’s favor. Just look at us!

But eventually, something happens that shakes this understanding of how God works. And our whole theology crumbles. Perhaps someone we love gets sick and dies. Or we lose our job after years of loyal service and can’t find something equivalent. Or our house burns down or is lost in a flood. And suddenly, we are unmoored and confused. We are good people after all. We wonder where is that God who has shown us such favor. We begin to pray as we have never prayed before and don’t understand why our prayers aren’t answered. We obviously have faith…look how hard we are praying!

When the chaos comes, and it will, we need a different understanding of faith or we will lose ours entirely. Faith means acting like God’s love is real especially when things go wrong. The test of our faith is not whether or not we believe in God and can point to the nice things in our life as evidence of God’s goodness. The test of our faith is whether or not we love God, and more importantly, show it by loving one another, when there is nothing nice to point to.

A few weeks ago, James preached on Hebrews 11:1: faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. Too often we interpret this passage, and others, to mean that if we believe in God enough we will get what we want. But a better interpretation might be that faith means living our lives as if we have already received everything we have hoped for—even if we have not. In other words, as chaos descends faith does not mean praying that everything will be ok. Faith means acting like everything is ok because God’s love reigns supreme. Faith is celebrating the beauty of life even as our loved one dies. Faith is sharing our meal even if we don’t know where the next one is coming from. Faith is praising God as the ship goes down. Faith is hanging on a cross and forgiving the ones who put us there. Faith is living in the midst of chaos and choosing love and kindness while the rest of the world chooses hate and cruelty. It is this faith that sustains and transforms us. It is this faith that leads to God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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