The delusional nature of trials might call the things we thought we understood into question. This doesn’t mean these things are no longer true, or that our faith is fundamentally flawed. Sometimes, however, we are tested in news ways, or with greater force, and the collective impact of facing too many doubts in too brief a period of time can leave us spiritually breathless.
When the sliding pencil of our metaphor encroaches on our 80% field of certainty, we feel considerable resistance, as if we were pushing against a strong coil spring or compressing air into a bicycle tire with a small hand pump.
This resistance is two-fold. As believers we naturally resist anything that threatens the faith we stand in. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us with these words: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). In this single statement the Holy Spirit reveals the second point of resistance as well. While we hold unswervingly to our hope, God is faithful to hold us in the hollow of His hand. In this way we resist the schemes of Satan who looks for ways to exploit our circumstances.
How then, can we purposefully address the tension within our certainties without losing our foundation? We have three choices. We can toss out pieces of our faith, reducing the pressure, ignore our doubts and pray we survive with minimal damage, or practice something I call the “law of possibilities.” The law’s expression is as follows: stress on our faith is reduced when we allow room to mature in our understanding of God person, purpose and methodology.
I compare this to the difference between squeezing a sponge or an egg in our hand. The sponge has tolerances that allow it to undergo tremendous stress and still return to its original shape. The egg, unfortunately, has no such tolerances and will quickly disintegrate into a white and yellow glob.
The “law of possibilities” does not promote a faith of conformity that molds itself into various forms to avoid conflict. Such an approach would stand in stark contrast to the command of the apostle Paul who wrote: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2a). Instead we should fully engage our intellect, as we grow in our awareness of certainty’s possibilities, and fill in our sponge-like recesses with a deeper appreciation for God’s providential care, and its unlimited expressions. In fact, Paul makes this very point when he writes, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2)
Put another way, the “law of possibilities” gives our faith “wiggle room” to explore new, biblically sound scenarios that describe how God might be moving in our circumstances. We may never arrive at a place of perfect comprehension, but by increasing our options we expand the conduits through which peace might flow into our hearts.
Perhaps I should be specific. A few years ago my father was diagnosed with Parkinson disease, and after many years of steady decline he went to be with the Lord. Not long before he died my father asked me to sit down and talk about his circumstances. He said, “Larry, I want you to know I’m not bitter. This is not the way I thought things would work out, but I’m alright with it. There are things that happen in our lives we can’t explain, but we do the best we can and ask God to give us the strength to deal with our disappointments.”
My father’s statement showed me many things about his faith. First, it was an honest appraisal of the outcome of a life lived for God. He had spent his entire life in church ministry, and in the end been stricken with a hideous disease. Secondly, it demonstrated a level of trust I have always assumed existed in theory, but have never come close to experiencing in person. Finally, it was obvious my father was using his experience to mentor me in my walk with God. He was concerned for my soul and the bitterness I might face in the days to come. By creating tolerances in his view of the Lord’s working past, present and future, he freed me from the deadly prison of rigid expectations.
Do you have trouble creating flexibility in the things you understand about God on a good day? Can you live paradoxically in the certainty of what you know while allowing God to work in ways you may never have experiences?
Dear God, teach me to look for possibilities in the way You work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.