Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith. Paul Tillich
I actually wrote this weeks ago, when a friend was going through a particularly difficult struggle. It felt too personal then, but some events this week have made me very introspective about life and it felt right to post it now.
When I pray for those I love, I have a tendency to ask God to ease their path, to make their troubles go away, to give them happiness, to make their lives easy. As God has increased my faith, though, I have realized that is the wrong way to pray.
I want God not to calm their storms, but to give them the knowledge that they will weather them, and the peace that comes from that understanding. Not to make their troubles disappear, but through those troubles, teach them the lessons they need to live their lives with passion and integrity. Not to give them happiness, but to give them joy. The joy that comes with the faith of knowing He still walks on water.
As a parent and a loving friend, those prayers don’t come easily to me. I have an innate desire to keep my kids (and friends) from falling, to prevent their failures, to mend their broken hearts as easily as I tended scraped knees and bruised feelings when they were young. I’m learning, though. As we release our children into the harsh, cold, often evil world, we have to let them go. Let them make their way, walk their own path, learn from their own failures and mistakes, and, yes, allow them to face the evil in the world.
It’s important to face evil and learn to summon our faith when evil presents itself. The ability to summon that faith is only learned in the school of hard knocks and at the foot of the cross. We walk (or stumble) through trials for a reason. Those troubles define us, and it’s up to us to decide if they are going to swallow us or if we are going to rise out of the ashes and put the lessons they teach us to good use. It’s up to us to use those lessons to discover our purpose in this world.
I often wonder if it’s as hard for God to watch us hurt or fail as it is for us to watch our loved ones. Parenting and loving people are not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
When our kids are very young, we can shield them from the world to some degree. But, when they’re grown, we have to completely relinquish control. For a control freak like me, that’s no easy task. I want to reach into the lives of my children and friends and mop up the mess they’ve made, or even better, prevent them from spilling it in the first place. Pretty arrogant of me, I know. I’m not sure if learning to let our loved ones fail is a lesson for them or for us. I suspect it’s an even split. The knowledge that we can’t fix all their problems is humbling. It’s also an opportunity to overcome doubt and realize Who is in control.
So, I pray for wisdom. I pray for the ability to listen without speaking, the knowledge to know when to speak and what to say. I pray for the peace of knowing my loved ones are truly seeking God.
When I was younger, I had all the answers. Now, I realize that I mostly have questions. I was afraid to admit to doubt, unaware that not only is God big enough to handle my doubt, no question is off limits with Him. I know that when I’m still enough, He guides me. When I’m troubled, He calms me. By the same token, when I’m prideful, He humbles me. I’m thankful for that much wisdom, at least.
I still wish that seeking God was easier. That finding the answers was as easy as “Googling” it. I wish our paths weren’t strewn and marred with the detritus of our struggles. In spite of the seeming unfairness of that, though, there it is. I always learn more when I stumble through the darkness than when I walk easily in the light. Accepting that is a life long challenge. So is learning the art of intercessory prayer.
I pray that I learn how to pray for those I love. That I learn not to try to make their paths easy, but to give them comfort and unconditional love as they struggle. That I learn to keep my mouth shut when I need to, and learn to wait for God’s wisdom to speak. That may mean not saying anything at all. A Herculian task for me, I’ll admit, but one that God can easily accommodate, if I let Him.
Deep thoughts and big prayers this rainy evening. I’m thankful my God is able.
You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20