I strongly believe, in my heart, that God has plans for everyone. I am not one who takes Jeremiah 29:11 out of context or as some blind reassurance. I would have given up hope by now. I am equally not in agreement with those who program God, those who would assign a time frame for God to act. “Give God a year”, they urge. “Surrender to God just for one year and see if God does not change your situation. Pray, ‘Lord you promised in your word…’ God is faithful to do what God promised”.
There is a plan for everyone but not the same path. So, I am not convinced by unqualified claims made in testimonies, “If God did this to me, God will do it for you” There are, certainly, many blessings for surrender and obedience, but such blessings are not all wrapped in getting what one wants. When I can confidently be patient, I count it as a blessing.
I also believe that setbacks on one’s journey may be inconvenient but are not necessarily negative. We cannot expect not to face challenges and disappointments on the way.
Actually what I am talking about here is FAITH as opposed to belief even though often we use the two terms interchangeably. This is a journey of faith.
I began my story with the prayer written by Eric Milner-White in which we pray: “Lord God; You have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending; by paths as yet untrodden; through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; Through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
Every day I must keep reminding myself, what this faith means. What is faith? There are many Christians who like to answer the question reciting Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Other translations say, “faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen”, and still others have, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and so on.
None of this helps me much on my daily journey, especially because of the chosen words: conviction, assurance, proof.
This terminology implies the absence of doubt. Thus, Hilda Marie Barton writes in her book, There is No Room for Doubt: The Just Shall Live by Faith, that “the enemy of faith is doubt. You need to replace doubt for faith. For doubt and faith does not go together. You will have one or the other. There is no room for doubt in faith. To doubt the things of God is sin”.
Thank God there are so many churches with the name St. Thomas.
Frederick Buechner points out, “were there no room for doubt there would be no room for faith either”.
It is tempting to want to sound like those Phillip Yancey refers to (as he quotes Buechner’s observation) as Christians who speak “confidently about matters veiled in mystery whose certitude both frighten and fascinate”.
We have spent quite some time in our bible study group wrestling with the concept, especially bearing in mind the Hebrew term for faith, emu-nah, which is active like a verb. We would say, not having faith, but faithing, doing or practicing faith. It is a journey, certainly like my journey. It is not static, not a state of being but doing.
I would like to use Frederick Buechner’s wisdom in this reflection. “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting. Faith is journeying through space and through time”. As Phillip Yancey remarks in his book, Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church, if someone would ask about my faith, “I’d have to talk about the ups and downs of the years, the dreams”.
This is what I am doing in these pages, and the dream for this book.