I Still Believe

I Still Believe

 

"Been in a cave for forty days
Only a spark to light my way

I wanna give out, I wanna give in
This is our crime, this is our sin

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And through the grief

Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars

I still believe..."

The self-proclaimed Ragamuffin singer/songwriter/poet/philosopher Rich Mullins used to sing a song that began:  “There’s bound to come some trouble to your life...”  The opening sentence in M. Scott Peck’s classic The Road Less Travelled states with equally depressing matter-of-factness“Life is hard.”  It seems just about everyone who’s not trying to sell you something is in agreement on this one. Charles Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities by exclaiming “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” William Shakespeare, through the voice of his tragic hero Hamlet ponders the question “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or by opposing (i.e. suicide) end them.” The author of the old Jewish lament Ecclesiastes bemoans that bad things happen to good people, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and the suffering is utterly meaningless. And to top it all off, right there plastered to the rear-end of the car stuck in traffic in front of you is the deep wisdom of our generation, “Life sucks. And then you die.”

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Yes. Without fear of exaggeration, that is probably about as True a statement as could ever be made. The Road is long. The Journey frightfully uncertain – at times terrifyingly so. In between the (sometimes all to brief) moments of glorious sunlight out on an open Road blessed by soul-satisfying companionship with other pilgrims, and sweet communion with the King Himself, there are often so many fearsome trials to be faced - trials that in the moment seem to far outweigh the now-forgotten good times. Without warning we find ourselves wandering in places we never hoped to go. Water-less deserts where all the world is nothing but endless dune and sky and slake-less thirst. Death-filled dungeons where cutting chains bind and unseen terrors lurk in shadow. Trackless wastes and pathless forests through which our way becomes hopelessly lost. Shadowy vales lit only by the yellow gleam of stalking eyes shining forth from the pitch black of deepest night. Insurmountable peaks that somehow, against all odds, nevertheless must be assayed. Stinking, festering marshes that choke out the memory of all things good and beautiful. Day upon day and night upon night without light of sun or moon or stars to guide the way Home. Loneliness. Disappointment. Betrayal. The Silence of God.

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Why? Why is there bound to come so much trouble? Why is the Road so long, the Journey so difficult? Doesn’t God know that we are being pushed to our wit’s end here? Doesn’t He know how hard it is for us to hold onto our faith, our hope, our joy, under these impossible conditions? Life feels for all the world like what Frodo and his fellowship experienced in the woods of Lothlorien: 

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"The Quest 

 stands upon the edge of a knife: stray but a little, and it will FAIL, to the ruin of all..."

 

The Darkness seems more powerful than Light, our strength is utterly spent, and exchanging this childish trust in God for a bravely humanistic effort at keeping our own head above water seems to be our only option at survival.

Wouldn’t now be the perfect time for God to step in and save the day? What is He waiting for anyway?

“There’s bound to come some trouble to your life…”

Those aren’t Rich’s words, you know. Not ultimately. Ultimately those words come straight from the mouth of God. Which means they are more than an observation of how things seem to be turning out: they are part of how the whole thing was designed.

From the Garden of Eden straight down to this very afternoon, there has been a central theme running through the human experiment, a theme contained in this one question that God has been asking each and every one of us since the Dawn of Time…

“Will you Trust Me?”

Think about it. If we're right - if this is THE question that our entire earthbound Journey was designed to answer - well, it all begins to make an unexpected sort of sense doesn't it? We can almost understand why - when we take the story of our lives as a whole - it mostly seems like the deck is stacked against God, like the odds are totally against our retaining our childlike faith, like we've been set up to give up...like the most unlikely of all logical responses available to us is to really trust Him.

Consider the ramifications of the possibility that the material universe was spawned, our terrestrial home formed, an entire race of creatures brought into existence, so that they might be put to this test.

It is so incredibly helpful to understand that this is where we are at - that this is the Story that we were born into...that this test is what so much of what you are experiencing is all about. Your marriage just fell apart: Will you trust Me now? You just lost your job, your home, your future, your hopes and dreams: How about now? Can your trust withstand this storm? My promises to you seem like they'll never be fulfilled: Will you trust me even through this? You haven't felt or seen any experience of Me in forever: How about now? Will you trust Me when it doesn't seem that I'm there for you? When it looks like I've let you down again? When your prayers go unanswered? When the Enemy is sifting you like wheat? When Death comes to call at last, and the great mystery opens wide before you? Will you trust me?

This, by the way, is why the recent post-modern pre-occupation with doubt is the complete antithesis to Christianity. Yes, doubts come. But we are not to stay there. Doubt comes when we begin to waver in our trust, and since trust is pretty much the whole test...well, you can do the math. Doubt may feel "intellectually honest", but if we begin to fail the test for which we were brought into this life all for the sake of "intellectual honesty", it would seem that our priorities need an overhaul.

Remember, the stage has been set against trust.

You can expect that at times even our "intellect" will be recruited to conspire against it.

The Journey is going to be an edge-of-the-seat thrill ride through some pretty heavy stuff. Now, we aren't pretending that by changing your mindset about them that these dark trials are suddenly going to become fun. But we are saying that living from a Warrior's Heart, and remembering a few key points will make a world of difference: This is the test to end all tests.  The sheer weight of the pull towards losing faith is to be expected, but holding on against all odds is a trial by fire that all must pass sooner or later. And most of all, remember that of all the noble, heroic, and praise-worthy qualities a man or woman can possess, trusting God's goodness and God's heart is the greatest of them all.

Miss this, and we may well miss everything.

I'll march this road
I'll climb this hill
Upon my knees
If I have to

I'll take my place
Upon this stage
I'll wait till the end of time
For you like everybody else...


But I still believe
Yes, I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief

Through the heartache
Through the tears
Through the waiting
Through the years

For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get

Oh, I still believe

(Jim Capello, "I Still Believe")