Chapter 3 – When Our Certainties Become Uncertain
The spiritual delusions that form as a result of our trials cause us to question the things we thought we understood. This doesn’t mean these things are no longer true, or that our faith is fundamentally weak. However, it does recognize we can be tested in news ways, or with greater force, and the collective impact of facing too many uncertainties in a short window of time leaves us breathless.
When our fears and doubts press against our certainties, anxiety reigns. The position of faith we stand in feels compromised by circumstances over which we have no control. As the crisis escalates we cling to the strength we draw from the words of the Hebrews writer, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). We do what is humanly possible and ask God, who holds us in the hollow of His hand, to provide the strength we cannot find in ourselves. We collaborate as creature and Creator to defeat the schemes of the Evil One.
As we engage our minds in this battle we can choose from a variety of strategic options. We can abandon portions of our faith that no longer make sense in an effort to reduce the pressure. This tactic, while lowering our stress level momentarily, will surely weaken our position and give Satan an unwanted foothold in our lives. We can ignore our fears and doubts and pretend we are fine, but our human experience tells us denial only stunts our development and delays the inevitable. Or we can embrace the “Law of Possibilities.” This axiom functions by providing the mental space we need to mature in our understanding of God’s person, purpose and methodology. I compare this law to the difference between a sponge and an egg. If we squeeze both in our hand, the sponge has tolerances that allow it to undergo tremendous pressure before returning to its original shape. The egg has no such flexibility and will quickly disintegrate into a white and yellow glob.
The “Law of Possibilities is not a principle of faith that encourages us to conform our beliefs to avoid conflict. This would disregard the Apostle Paul’s warning, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2a). Instead, this law encourages us to expand our horizons by increasing our awareness of the options or possibilities at God’s disposal. We should stimulate our imaginations and fill the sponge-like recesses of our perspective with a deeper appreciation for the omnipotent and omniscient nature of God. Perhaps this was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “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 move in our circumstances. We will probably never arrive at a place of perfect comprehension, but the thought that an infinite number of solutions to our trials exists in the mind of God increases the possible pathways through which peace might eventually flow into our hearts.
Allow me to share a specific example of this principle from my own life. At the age of sixty-seven my father was diagnosed with Parkinson disease, and after many years of steady decline went to be with the Lord. Not long after his diagnosis he 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.”
This simple statement revealed many things about my father’s faith. First, it was an honest appraisal of the outcome of a life poured out for God. He had invested nearly fifty years in full-time church ministry, and in the end been stricken with a hideous disease. Secondly, it demonstrated a level of trust in the wisdom of God I have yet to experience. Finally, it was obvious my father was using his journey to mentor me in my personal walk with God. He was concerned for my soul and any bitterness I might face in the days to come. Although my father didn’t coin a phrase to describe his approach to suffering, by creating tolerances in his view of God’s will, past, present and future, he freed me from the dark prison of rigid interpretation.
Another way of expressing the “Law of Possibilities” is that true certainty presumes the element of surprise. Since resurrection Sunday, Jesus’ followers have known the God they serve moves in unexpected ways. We often speak of faith that is too small and exhort one another not to limit God. We must remember faith is rooted in objective truth as well as subjective trust. This means a growing faith is one that continues to grasp the nature of a God whose divine options are limitless. God oversees infinite combinations of circumstances and participants which can be aligned to accomplish His eternal purposes while still meeting our personal needs.
I realize our problem with the unsettling of our certainties is often not so much that we have to rethink how God works, but rather that we are waiting on a heavenly Father who seemingly is not working at all. Or at least He is not working as we assumed He would. This brings us to our second faith frustration.