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Nothing but the truth… so help me God?

9January2012

The author of the Book of Hebrews opens the 11th Chapter with the sentence, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  A very simple statement for many folks – something much like breathing for most clergy.  We teach on faith, pray in faith, preach about faith.  So, what happens when a Pastor’s faith falters, when they aren’t sure what or if they believe in what they are preaching and teaching?  What happens when that happens during the holiest of  seasons, when the church is full, when family is gathered – what does it mean when faith falters at Christmas?

This blog is filled with brilliant leaders in the Church.  I may have had a brain storm to launch the door, but it’s the faithful Pastors and Associates in Ministry that write every day that drive the door.  Most of the folks that we serve look to us for the answers to questions of faith, as rocks of faith, as people deeply rooted in prayer – and for the most part that is true, but I would venture to guess that my fellow authors – and perhaps even your pastor has had a crisis of faith during their ministry.

Mine hit near the end of 2011.  There are many reasons for that crisis – personal issues, health issues, a high level of denominational anxiety that plays out in friendships and in the life of the parish (not to mention the anxiety it creates in myself), my personality type which becomes a sponge for others pain and anxiety. There are multiple reasons for the crisis and I was able to logically define them, but when the spiritual and emotional spiral began there was nothing logical to grab hold of – no anchor point I could secure myself to.  Friends would check no me, tell me they were praying for me and I grew to resent it.

I contemplated leaving ministry altogether, going through the motions of faith and belief was exhausting – it was straining relationships – I felt embarrassed by my lack of belief and faith.  The stress got to be so bad that I took a hiatus from blogging on the door and eventually found myself in the hospital thinking that I was having a myocardial infarction.  I survived Christmas, unsure as to what the new year would bring.  Some vacation helped me rest my body and spirit a bit – but faith wasn’t renewed.

So, what changed? My clergy friends may roll their eyes at this one.  Catechism – I was teaching the Book of Psalms to my Confirmation class and stumbled across Psalm 42, the Psalmist cries out in anguish.

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help

and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”

As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

It hit me square in the face – faith and doubt go together like day and night.  It has been an issue for faith leaders for centuries and I am no different – We read that Psalm in class and it became my prayer – Why have you forgotten me? Where are you? Something sparked, The Holy Spirit moved, and faith was sparked – its not a raging inferno – but it is rekindled.

So, allow me to encourage you – pray for your Pastor, your Associate in Ministry, your Parish Council – pray for their heart, their faith, their strength.  May the Church be the Church and sustain one another in our sorrows.

Blessings

dwb@ccd

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 9January2012 09:41

    You are not alone. Christmas, especially this year was not “a season to be joyous” (song from the Muppet’s ‘Christmas Carol’). I also struggle with the issue “Why?” and is it me? I have found that it is always “The Word” to the rescue. It takes me out of my world-view into the ultimate World-View, God’s view of everything. As St. Paul writes we are dealing with the “principalities and powers” and as disciples we have bullseyes embroidered on our stoles and chausibles. A wise member (103 years old) had a favorite expression for everything that was happening to her or in the world; “But that’s to be expected.”

    I’m glad the current battle is over for you. I’m over it too.

  2. 10January2012 07:50

    I have been labelled by some as a pessimist when I say how grateful I am for each and every day when sadness or trial or tragedy or evil doesn’t hit me directly on the bullseye that I wear. When I do get hit I try to avoid the temptation to ask “why me”… because with so much potential for things to go wrong, the logical question to ask on the great days is “why not me?”

    As long as I am alive things will keep changing — from good to bad to great to worse to health to illness from life to death and, praise God, to LIFE — for all things there is a season — and that has been the case for as long as humans have walked east of Eden.

    As for me, I too am glad that, for now, you are back! Peace be with you! Enjoy the fullness of these days, for they will nourish you and strengthen you for whatever is around the next corner.

    Pamela

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