but yet believed

She prayed over me the words, ‘Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.’ She prayed them over me as we sat on an old church pew, me completely in tears and face-in-hands, her arm around my shoulders. She prayed them as people worshipped and lifted songs to the Lord – as I felt too perplexed even to lift my face.

Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

These words and stories that I’m typing out now are words and stories wrought of the struggle of the past few weeks, couple of months. It’s the struggle of feeling blind, perplexed and not sure why, like its hard to hold onto the truth of our great God. It’s hard to articulate:

words strain
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will
not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

T.S. Eliot

Under the pressure of longing but failing to know God and see his grace, words slip, perish and fall.

But – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Jesus spoke these words to Thomas, Thomas who doubted and would not believe until he saw the scars in Jesus’ hands and side. Against this example, Jesus calls us to believe in his truth even when we cannot see. Even when it might feel like God’s truth and anything concrete in this world are like gold-fine sand slipping through our weak fingertips, he invites us to press in and press forwards, learning to believe and stand firm on the Rock.

God is teaching me these things in this time of struggle. He’s teaching my heart how to beat more to his rhythm even when it feels dark and difficult and a little bit like I just want to cry. He’s teaching me of his love and his persistence and faithfulness – my roots are growing in his grace even when I can’t see them and don’t know how.

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growing roots in God’s grace

It’s like the canvases I saw when I sat on King’s wall a couple weeks ago, trying to write and process and pray. Across the road, in an art shop, a woman was preparing canvases to be painted or wrapped up or displayed or something. Even in times of struggle, God similarly prepares us for his purposes – we may not know why or what for, but even when we cannot see we can trust that God’s ways are good, that he’s still there and bringing us life.

Thus – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Sitting in supervisions, God still whispers this truth to me. I’ve been writing essays on Paul and his letters, one about justification by faith. Paul cites Abraham as his example: the one chosen and called by God, completely by grace, before even the covenant was established. The promise and the faith came first, and Abraham responds, walking

towards a future, the only guarantee of which is the Lord’s call.

(Words from Enzo Bianchi’s ‘God, where are you?’ – would recommend even just the first chapter of this book!)

Abraham struggled to have faith, experiencing the darkness of the night and the long journey of pursuing God’s impossible purposes. Yet through the struggle, he still believed – and this granted him righteousness.

May I walk towards the future, even if it’s guaranteed only by the promise and faithfulness of God. I may not see or understand, I may still be perplexed – but may I be one who, although unseeing, is still believing.

image
towards a future

My prayer – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Blessed is the one who believes, and blessed are those who are confused and perplexed and feeling-low. Blessed are the tired and lonely and not-quite-understanding-why, blessed are the frail and weak.

Blessed are these who feel down-and-out, but yet believe.

Blessed are those who hold your hand, God, as they walk through desert places of tears and hard emotions and difficult conversations and pain. They are held in your arms and your heart beats love for them in their tears.

Blessed are those whose words break down as they try to articulate their struggle, and blessed are those who find it hard to look for hope as they gaze out across a world broken by injustice. You are still with them.

Blessed are those who feel hard things, but are still identified and guided by you.

Your truth still holds, Father – may we have faith and believe.

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turn towards the Father
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5 thoughts on “but yet believed

  1. The Abrahamic God’s intentions may be inscrutable but in having blind fidelity towards his unknown, unquestioned, intentions moral agents can and have justified acts most perceive as consequentially or absolutely evil. If you believe in God, you have to simultaneously scrutinise him in terms of what you subjectively perceive as morally good else you are left with the cruel God of the Old Testament who, whilst only testing Abraham, subjected him to great angst and encouraged him to have the intentions of murder. Maybe Abraham always hoped that God wouldn’t allow him to murder Isaac but then he wasn’t being truly faithful to God but was rather being faithful to an absolute moral good he believed God possessed. Kierkegaard writes about this in detail. So whilst you may be perplexed, in aporia, you have to try and answer these confusions for yourself like Abraham did in struggling with his faith. It is good to question the whispers: feeling blind makes you want to see. You have to ask what is moral else have a faith in a God who (at least in Biblical representation) is so perplexing in his intentions as to appear malevolent, or so perplexing to at least appear malevolent insofar as he used the bad to create Irenaean goods. If God did this, then he isn’t utterly repelled by evil; he uses it instrumentally like a tool and afflicts pain like he did to Job and like he did to Jesus. Could this God be truly good in the ideal sense? (considering the Inconsistent Triad) I think it is better to have predilection towards subjective good rather than to favour guiding commands in hope that God will ensure what I think are his commands, are always right: I think it is better to try and know what is moral and what to do for yourself even if God is the autochthonous source of this universal morality and purpose.

    Basically: Reason before faith even if by reasoning ‘What does the God I believe in really want?’ creates doubt and therefore not unadulterated faith.

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    1. Thanks for the interesting comment! At the heart of your discussion (I think?) is the question of whether God is unquestionably good, and thus whether we can trust him completely. The Abraham/Isaac story is a spark for this question (and Kierkegaard does indeed deeply discuss this – somewhat confusingly at times!). I’d signpost you to the second chapter of Bianchi’s ‘God, where are you?’for another discussion of the Genesis 22 text which holds in tension the goodness of God and the (seemingly) questionable act which he encourages.

      God’s ways are higher – and I’m not saying that this condones immorality. We should indeed use our reason in establishing or understanding what God’s saying…but also our faith. If we believe that God is unquestionably good, then can what he commands be evil? Or do we need to read more deeply into the text (particularly OT – in which we find the same God as we do in the NT) to find God’s goodness, and potentially come to understand that we will not understand everything? Perhaps this is the message of Job too: there’s pain, and there’s a good God, the connection between which we can’t quite see. But we can yet believe that God is good.

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      1. Besides ‘Fear and Trembling’, I know that Dan Simmons also concentrates on the ‘Abraham Problem’ in his novel ‘Hyperion’ offering some interesting interpretations. I read as much of the second chapter of Bianchi as Google Books previewed; it was really elucidative though most of the interpretations were cut off (which are always the best part). I would buy and read all of it if it weren’t for the sinister pile of onerous texts stacked up on my student desk (typically) …
        And, essentially I agree with you. If God is infallible in his unquestionable goodness, this goodness is indivisible when he commands us to act (as is necessary in all absolute infinities). But, the real intricacy of this issue for me is whether I can understand anything about God at all including his commands and if not, where does the substance for my faith derive from? The very Socratic question of ‘what is the good?’ What is God’s infallible will and how can I discover it? Is reason and volitional knowing by faith sufficient? Bianchi offers the solution that ‘Abraham had misunderstood God’s word’, for whatever reason. Yet, applying this to the eristic paradox, what’s worrying is that Abraham (an ardent, lifelong Jew) couldn’t differentiate between God’s will and what he thought it was. Is God’s nominal will ineffable and unknowable for all of us? How do I know that what I put my reason and faith in is ultimately moral and not an incorrect anthropological conclusion? Do I retain the intention of killing Isaac anyway in fidelity to (my) God’s absolute authoritarianism? Maybe the solution is that we can never know God’s commands but merely try to live under the assumption that they are there even if my will is always discordant with them…. Because, isn’t even reason with faith merely fidelity to the laws of what we perceive are God’s goods? (assuming God is that pure Aristotelian/Aquinian ‘nous’). The Bible is such a multifaceted text; we have to discern its contents with reason so that we might attempt to understand God’s commands through it. Yet, this is our judgement guiding us—not God’s. So, how do we know that it is right? And, if we cannot know if any of it is true, if it isn’t just a man-spun fiction, then how can we believe in it as anything other than fiction? This is what I really struggle with. Is believing just experiencing these fictions and choosing to believe them as true anyway because I circularly believe that there is an absolute good because I believe there is an absolute God? Do I believe in a good before I believe in a God and make God mould around my idea of morality? (should we all be monks?) I mean all the disciplines died (aside John) excruciatingly painful deaths in genuine belief in God. Joan of Arc was put to the stake… Abraham puts his legacy into the brink of destruction for no real reason other than faith like Kafka had faith in his friend to burn all of his work after his death… I’m sorry for being prolix…these are hard questions… but the stakes seem very high for me to place faith in what I perceive as right and not what is God’s will (with my perceptions inexorably being tinted by many phenomenal factors like my family and culture etc.)

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      2. All super good points – making me think much! How’s about we continue this conversation on a message chat? Just aware that this is getting into a lot of detail & it might be better to discuss/tangent further on a message rather than a blog post comment🙂 Find me & message me at: https://m.facebook.com/createdenough/ …then I’ll shoot back some of my thoughts on this.🙂

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