Faith and Unbelief

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by Denise Marie Siino on July 17, 2014

In her book “The White Album,” local born journalist and essayist Joan Didion wrote:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….  We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five.  We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices.  We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

No truer were these words than yesterday, in the wake of a horrific Stockton bank robbery in which one innocent hostage was killed, while the lives of four fun-loving Palestinian boys, cousins playing on the beach, were snuffed out by a rogue (or maybe not so) Israeli missile…and then today, when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot out of the sky presumably by Russian-backed rebels in the Ukraine.

What’s it all for?  The question of the ages.  “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah said, “when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).  Looking back through history or yesterday’s news, the truth becomes apparent—we haven’t learned a darn thing and thus seem doomed to repeat our mistakes.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that this is not my story or yours (or the bank robbers’, the Israelis’, the Palestinians’ or the Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine), but God’s, and He isn’t done writing it yet.  In fact, all of the hundreds of stories found in the Bible (mixed with our present-day stories) point to the fact that each miniscule life is actually an integral part of one epic plotline designed by the Author of everything that exists.   Didion got it right by saying we are always looking for signposts to explain what’s going on.  Problem is, while knowing we can’t look to the “shifting phantasmagoria” for answers, she gives no other solution.

But there is a foundation on which we can stand when the world around us continues shifting like quicksand. It is faith.  Now I know having faith in the God of the Bible is losing popularity the world over, and in fact faith is a loaded word these days.  So let me bring it down to the bare bones.  To me, faith is merely trusting in someone who I have built a relationship with, and allowing that trust to inform my day-to-day decisions.  And, may I say, having a deep and abiding relationship with this particular Someone, who is the Creator and Lord of the universe, has made a very tangible and positive difference in my life.

But trust is hard to manage sometimes, I know.  Over and over again, as things spin seemingly out of control, my heart swings wildly at the air as I grasp for even a straw of understanding of things in the news, or a way to order my own troubles.  Later, exhausted from the futility of my efforts, I surrender myself (often prostrate on my bed) and look up.  What I see in my mind’s eye is God, arms folded in a patient and loving pose, waiting for this very moment when I am able to hear Him speak to me from the Psalms, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Immediately my heart responds, “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

There are inestimable consequences to unbelief.  Immeasurable.  Incalculable.  Impossible to describe.  But just imagine in the paragraph above, instead of swinging wildly hoping to strike upon some solution to all the troubles I see and experience, I bypass all of that drama (oh, bliss!) and choose instead to trust “the One and Only One who is able” from the very beginning.

Today I am struggling.  As certain situations continue spiraling out of control, I sense unbelief, like a hungry wolf, snapping at my heels.   Yet in my quiet time, I hear the sound of God’s voice, Deep calling unto deep, saying, “Believe.”  “Trust.”  My heart responds, and I choose.  Although so many situations – from the Gaza Strip to Ukraine to Stockton to my own backyard – appear to be beyond hope, I choose to trust that God delights in making all of the “wonderful impossibilities” in life come true.

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