My mother-in-law gave me a silver necklace with the word “Faith” written on it in a pretty script. The word hangs vertically from the chain so that it looks like a cross. The other day, this necklace became entwined with two other necklaces on my jewelry tree. I managed to get one necklace separated quickly. Disconnecting the faith necklace and the other necklace proved to be a more difficult challenge. I began to work at it, but even using the sharp point of a pencil as a tool, those knots were harder to handle.
Sometimes, faith gets tangled up in real life too. Most of us have experienced times when we struggle in our relationship with God. We may find ourselves feeling distant from God for any number of earthly reasons. The struggle to maintain or find our way back to faith once it becomes ensnared is real and complicated.
Questions about faith can be deterrents to faith itself at times. Some of my questions over the years: why is the world so hard for the poor and the least of us; does God intervene in our lives directly or indirectly; does God have specific plans for our lives or an overarching will for all of humanity? I still don’t have the answers. The Bible shows us a lot about the depth and breadth of God’s loving nature, but it can be confusing when it comes to finding solutions. It contains some very strange stories about people and also a lot of contradictions. Trying to reconcile every facet of the Bible is impossible. Historical and political contexts play into the stories in the Bible and motivated the writers to present the material in specific ways. Instead of telling parables, why didn’t Jesus just give us a list of crystal-clear directions? Some of us have grappled with this lack of clarity. But instead of a reason to doubt, I’ve learned to view this uncertainty as reason to study and dig and learn. Even though the difficult times may bring darkness and frustration, the tough questions can help us grow stronger in our faith ultimately.
Churches and the people in them can cause a lot of faith issues too. Christians haven’t always presented God in a favorable way, and our doctrines can be exclusionary and static. We can be unkind, hypocritical, petty, and downright mean. We don’t forgive as easily as we should, and we have a bad habit of judging others. We don’t love nearly as much as God expects. We may even become disenchanted with faith because of the people in our lives and their roles in our faith journeys. But we must remember they are only human too. Perhaps they need to work on their own faith journeys. Whatever the case may be, we can’t let other people with their flaws and frailties stop us from working on our relationship with God, who puts up with all the incorrect things we say about him and loves us anyway.
When we find ourselves in wilderness times, our hearts hurt and our minds feel troubled. We may doubt the usefulness of wrestling with our spirituality, and worry that we will never again feel settled or sure. But relationship troubles with God are temporary, even though time is relative, and a drought can last much longer than we ever thought it would. We must keep working through the twists and turns of our faith. We must stick with it until we can feel the knots in our souls start to loosen a little at a time.
I’ve almost untangled the faith necklace from the other necklace, but not completely yet. And there’s no guarantee that the faith necklace won’t become tangled again with a different necklace at another time. But faith is worth the time and effort it takes to unwind our relationship with God from the issues that threaten to trap us. We can’t just throw away our faith when it becomes jumbled – it’s too valuable for us to give up.