A few years ago, I experienced a Job July. First, our house was robbed while we were on vacation. Then I had a medical issue that could have been caused by cancer; thankfully, it wasn’t, but stressful nonetheless. Finally, the mortgage on our new home was delayed, forcing us to stay with friends for several days and almost causing us to lose the contract. In a few short weeks, my valuables, my health, and my shelter were all hit. I’d like to say that I sailed through those weeks with the peace that passes all understanding and sharing the love of Christ with all of those around me. In reality, I was stressed out. I ended that trial by shouting through the phone at a poor customer service representative who was only doing her job.
The Bible has many stories of people who endured trials and tribulations with faith and aplomb. Imprisoned Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns (Acts 6). Stephen yelled for his accusers to be forgiven while they stoned him (Acts 7). For more examples, you only have to stroll through the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. It’s easy to get the idea that God expects us to handle all difficult circumstances in the same manner as these men. It’s even easier to assume that God is angry with us if we don’t react to each situation with absolute faith that leaves no room for doubts.
But is that how He really responds to our spiritual struggles? With judgement and disappointment? To answer those questions, I’m going to turn away from the all-stars and examine the equally numerous stories of the Not-So-Greats. Gideon obeyed the Lord’s command to tear down Baal’s altar. But out of fear, Gideon did the damage at night when no one would see him. Then Gideon asked for a sign, which God granted him. But then Gideon asked for another one, just to be sure (Judges 6).
Thomas, a disciple who had walked with Jesus on this earth and witnessed Christ’s many miracles, refused to believe in the Resurrection until Thomas had felt Jesus’s wounds with his own hands (John 20). What about the father in Mark 9? His child was ravaged by a demon. The man asked Jesus to help his son, if Jesus could. If. After Jesus corrected the man, his response was, “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
Mark 8 recounts the story of Jesus healing a blind man. Although Christ was capable of healing without even being in the same room with the patient (Luke 7), Jesus first spit into the man’s eyes and laid hands on him. The man could see, but not clearly. Jesus touched him a second time, and the man could then fully see. Jesus could have healed him with a word, but He didn’t. Why?
There’s a great deal of deep and esoteric interpretations of this passage, but I think it’s very simple. The blind man wasn’t ready for the miracle. The first hint of this is in verse 22, “some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him.” People brought the man to Jesus; People asked for him to be healed. The man wasn’t full of belief and seeking Christ. Others had put him up to it. He wasn’t there spiritually. In my mind, complete healing initially would have been the faith equivalent of Jesus tossing this guy into deep, cold water. For whatever reason, I believe he needed to be warmed up to it like when you enter a pool a little at a time, allowing yourself to adjust to the temperature. Here’s the beautiful part–Christ met him where he was and provided for the man’s spiritual needs.
In fact, when you read through all the stories of the Not-So-Greats you find that God always met them where they were. He lovingly provided Gideon sign after sign, He allowed Thomas to examine his hands and side, and he delivered the possessed boy. When our faith falters, He’s not standing there arms crossed, glaring at us while we fumble for sure footing. No, he reaches out tenderly and steadies us. The next time tragedy hits your life, and you find yourself wavering, let your prayer be, “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” Now it’s true that Jesus did say to Thomas it is better to believe without seeing, but God is not waiting to beat you up for struggling. So you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it either.
Hopefully after our trials are said and done, we’ll realize that His steadying hand has increased our belief. Knowing that He met us where we were, should empower us to walk further in faith the next time. Ironically a few months ago, our mortgage was again delayed. Hubby, Peck, and I were in limbo between homes for almost a month. However, this time I didn’t berate any innocent customer service reps out of stress. Because the last time he’d met me in my fear, this time I knew He would provide.