Some days, on special days, I stop by Eatzi’s, a terrific local take-out market, and grab a sandwich and a large ice-tea to go. Eatzi’s always has taste-stations for patrons to test their goods scattered around the store. These chips were available last week.
I got my sandwich and circled back by the chip bowl, pretending to be intrigued and “tasted”
one five again. Then I bought a bag.
Oh my word … they are so delicious. Seriously. Those chips are a party in your mouth. They’re so wonderful and horrible at the same time. They trick you into thinking they’re some regular chip. But about halfway through chewing, the fire starts. It’s so hot. It burns but doesn’t consume. It leaves you mouth smoking for several minutes – a reminder of their presence, or maybe a little take-home gift. They balance the heat with perfect saltiness and yummy chip goodness.
As I munched through the bag, literally sweating from the heat, trading agony with pleasure – I considered how those chips, though far from a perfect illustration, are like faith.
I’m convinced that faith, next to grace, is one of the most special gifts that God has given us. It is a vehicle to special intimacy. Faith – being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you don’t see (Hebrews 11:1) – puts into practice our trust in God. Through faith we action-believe what we know to be true, even when circumstances tempt us to think otherwise. The fire in those chips remind me what God said through the Prophet Isaiah,
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43: 1-3
What a beautiful promise, so sweet and wonderful. I want to lean into every aspect of it. Do I believe it? I mean really believe.
It sounds good – until I’m living a circumstance that leads me to chew on those words and feel the fire. But, like those chips, whose heat burns my mouth, the goodness that comes with such trust is wonderful, even in the midst of hardship as we lean into God’s promise that we will “walk through the fire and shall not be burned.” Because He says so. Because His Word is true. He even went beyond figurative speech to literally show us its truth. (See Also: Daniel 3 and some boys that lived through a fiery furnace moment, emerging unscathed, no hair singed, not even a hint of smokey smell.) Because God is Lord over all. No circumstance is above Him.
And circumstances exist. Hard, undo-able, take-your-breath-away, I’m-not-sure-I-can-make-it stuff that really forces us lean into the sure of what you hope for and the certain of what you can’t see just might be the best (and worst) part of our relationship with God. It takes us to the place where we must trust … and believe. And, in doing so, a special intimacy occurs.
Interestingly, the angels have never had faith. They’ve always been able to see his goodness. And when we stand before the Lord, faith will no longer play a role in our relationship. But today, faith is part of it. Have we been given this wonderful (yet horrible) gift of faith so we can tap into unseen goodness, goodness that is within God that can only be known by trusting Him?
I don’t know. But I do know that there are some circumstances that we just can’t make it through on our own. And I guess that’s where trust and faith again play their role.
One such circumstance entered (re-entered) the life of my dear friend Jennifer Clouse yesterday. (My eyes sting with tears at even the thought.) Sweet Jen is a breast-cancer survivor. She’s a dynamo, loves people and loves the Lord. She lives life authentically and without abandon, leaving a wake of encouragement behind her – pretty much everywhere she goes. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after giving birth to her son Lincoln – a sweet surprise to her and her newlywed husband Scott. That was three years ago. A little over 12-hours ago Jen was admitted to Baylor hospital where she was told that the cancer is back. And it’s not good. The pain of a broken rib due to the ugly disease is being managed while they figure out what’s next. They’re hurting – physically & emotionally.
What do you do?
Jen, with her heart breaking, stands firm. Not on her own foundation, but on the One who never wavers, whose provision is always sufficient – even when circumstances beg us to fear otherwise. As she struggles to put one foot in front of the other – because she will press on like she always does – she stands strong on her faith. Joyful, truly joyful, while crying at the same time.
And therein lies the mystery: how can something as wonderful as faith (sinking into all the goodness of God’s sufficiency, provision and love) be so horrible at the same time? Trusting that God has it covered is hard. (What an understatement.) But almost inexplicable good abounds in the midst of such trust.
I’m thankful that He never said we we must go it alone. I guess that’s another interesting aspect of faith – relationship.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
To experience his sustenance and promise – amazing. To live through the challenging day-to-day, agonizing.
Wonderful, horrible faith.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
Please pray for Jennifer, Scott and little Lincoln … and my other friends Karen and Lezley and Susan and Greg and… (fill in the blank) as we all are or know someone leaning into faith’s wonderful-horrible.
These guys below literally banked their lives on faith. How wonderful – yet how horrible it must have been. But oh, so wonderful. They were never alone.
And (King Nebuchadnezzar) ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.