Faith is not easy.
Some Christians may give the impression that it is. We think of faith as certainty, or assurance, or unwavering hope. But how often are we absolutely certain about things of faith? How often do we fluctuate between a buoyant trust and a dark despair? How often do our circumstances dictate our view of God?
For those of us with scrupulosity, our faith feels weak, but the Lord understands our weakness. Moreover, he comforts us with such words: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3; see also Matthew 12:20). Though our faith may be dimly burning, it will never be extinguished. Though we may be bruised, he will not break us.
But it feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it? It feels like God adds insult to injury, like he kicks us when we’re down. We don’t just feel bruised, but broken beyond repair.
I’ll be honest: some days it feels like I’m hanging on by a thread. It feels like at any moment it could snap, and I could turn and walk away. I’ve accused God of unkindness and cruelty. I’ve declared I don’t understand him. I’ve questioned his sovereignty and challenged his goodness. I’ve fled to other things for comfort because I doubt he really cares.
And I’ve sunk into deep despair at this lack of faith, this failure on my part to steadily trust the Lord, ashamed of how quick I am to question him.
Yet the only thing the Lord requires is faith. He doesn’t quantify this faith; he doesn’t say “this much” or “this strong.” He just says faith. And faith is expressed even in the questions, in the struggle, in the wrestling. God does not treat us differently depending on our degree of faith. His eyes are not only on the raging fires, but on the faintly burning wicks. And he promises he will never quench them.
This last year has been a hard one for me and my wider community. It seems we’ve been hit with one thing after another. I’ve said to God so many times, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep trusting you.” Each circumstance that touches my life or the life of a loved ones tries to convince me that God is not good, that I’d be better off without him, that he is not worth the hard fight of faith. And it scares me when I start to think, “What if this is true?”
Another loss, another conflict, another heartache, and I say again, “God, how can I trust you now?” And yet I’ve never walked away. I look back over the many years of my struggle with scrupulosity, and somehow I am still holding on. My faith feels like a weak grip, insecure and unstable, but holding on nonetheless.
How do I explain this? Certainly not by my own efforts. To me, it feels like any new suffering or struggle could snap the thread of my faith, the only thing that binds me to the Lord.
But then I remember that something even stronger than my strongest faith binds me to him. And that is Christ himself.
If Jesus is ultimately the one who holds us, then our security is not dependent on our faith. It’s not dependent on the strength or amount of our faith. And that’s a relief—because our faith is constantly fluctuating, ebbing and flowing, rising and falling. But our security in Jesus is not. It is as secure today as it was the moment we were saved and the moment we die.
Often, our subjective experience of faith feels very insecure. But the objective reality of our security in Jesus can never change. This is true even if it feels like our faith is being stretched to the edge of its limits. I’ve been battered, bruised, and bent, but God promises not to break me, even if the pain is excruciating and persistent.
Why is it that God will never quench the faintly burning wick or break the bruised reed? He is merciful and gracious. It’s so hard to believe this when our circumstances might beg the opposite, but it is a truth he states and displays over and over, seen most clearly in his Son.
If there’s a flame burning at the wick at all, it’s because God lit it and keeps it alive. If the reed is standing at all, it’s because God gave it life and protects it from destruction. So if you feel your grip is weak, remember the grip that Christ has on you is unfaltering. And how could he let go of something he has sworn to keep?
I can so relate to and appreciate your words. I often ask God to hold me tightly as I age and approach my death, because far too often my own strength is VERY weak. I need his strong grip to keep me secure.
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Thank you! I made my way through all your posts finally (skimming…hopefully will read them all thoroughly soon). I’m thankful you’ve carved out a space on the internet to share your thoughts and learnings–I don’t know of many people who write on this (other than professional authors and counselors). I look forward to watching how God continues to work in your life as I work through my own OCD struggle. Also, very creative blog title! 🙂 I remember when I read about Martin Luther and John Bunyan, and how they struggled in similar ways. The personal OCD blog I’ve considered writing is tentatively called “Magnificent Obsession” (at this point, it won’t be published but maybe at some point in the future).
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Thank you for this encouragement, Mari! I’m thankful it is an encouragement to you.
If you decide to publish that blog someday, I would love to check it out 🙂
It was so good to read your latest entry. I have a very good friend who struggles with OCD thoughts like you describe. And she often quotes the same verse you did…’a bruised reed he does not break’. I am going to share your blog with her.
I hope you are doing well.
Mary Ruth Ziegler
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Aw thank you, and I hope it is an encouragement to her.