Living by faith when crisis comes

Sometimes you know what you don’t know. Come again?, you say. Let me repeat it: sometimes you know what you don’t know. I confronted that truth—or maybe it confronted me—when I was 14 years old. I stood in a receiving line at the back of my childhood church, awaiting the greetings and blessings of men and women who had just participated in my confirmation. There were about 10 of us “confirmees,” youth who had gone through the class to learn how to become adult members of the congregation.

It was all fine—handshakes, smiles, small talk, even a few hugs—until she came. A longtime church member paused in front of us one-by-one with a somber expression, a lingering handshake and two acutely intentional questions: Do you know Jesus? Do you love Jesus?

As I watched her move up the receiving line, my heart raced. I could hear her questions, and I panicked. What do I say? Do I give her the polite answers and assuage her concerns, or do I tell her the truth? I knew what I didn’t know, and I didn’t really know Jesus. Oh, I had gone through the motions. I had attended all of the classes and taken the final exam. I mean, that’s what I was supposed to do at this age, right? My pastor even called to let me know that I had passed the test, although his red Xs and capitalized NOs on my paper led me to wonder if even he was rubber-stamping my succession. But there I was on Confirmation Sunday. I’d gotten through the ceremony, had made it through the service, and I never had to address my fakery ever again. Or at least, I wouldn’t have, if not for those two questions.

They brought me to a fork in the road. Would my inquisitive elder motivate me to expose my heart, or would I hide behind a mask and keep going through the motions of church in order to keep others happy? I chose door number two. For the remainder of my high school years, through college, and into young adulthood, I went to church on Sunday, sat on committees, sang in the choir, and even taught some classes. But deep down inside, I knew what I didn’t know. I didn’t know Jesus. Not the way I was supposed to. Not the way I heard some of my friends and family describe knowing. I was convinced I just hadn’t figured out how to “do” faith yet.

Honestly, my approach worked just fine for a long while. I enjoyed high school, had a great college experience, met a good guy, started a fulfilling career, and got married. I was living the American dream! As far as I could see, the only thing missing from my wonderful life was children. But that would come soon. I had a plan. Except the plan didn’t work. I was left distraught, confused, and grasping at straws—straws that led me away from church and from doing faith the way I had been.  Yet that’s when my eyes were opened.

In the middle of my greatest crisis, where my identity, my relationships, and my life as I planned it were falling apart, Jesus made Himself known to me. I began opening the Bible that I’d left untouched for years. I read verses and passages that leapt off the page at me. I started seeing that true life was not about who I was or what I did, but about who Christ is and what He did. Over time, I made a trade. I exchanged the knowledge of what I didn’t know for the free gift of knowing Jesus by faith.

And I lived happily ever after. Or not.

Let’s face it. “Happy” is as shifty as springtime in Ohio, and receiving the gift of my Savior by faith didn’t end all crises in my life. At this very moment, we all find ourselves sharing a common crisis called COVID-19 that has altered each of our realities in very unique ways!

But my world isn’t shattered by this circumstance, not like the crises of my younger years, because I have learned an essential lesson described in Habakkuk 2:4: “…the righteous shall live by his faith.”

When I surrendered the practice of “doing” faith, Jesus taught me how to truly live by faith. I’ve learned that I don’t have to know what is around the corner, because my times are in His hand (Psalm 31:15). I don’t need to worry about shelter, because my God will supply every need (Philippians 4:19). I don’t need to panic about food or groceries, because the birds of the air neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet my heavenly Father feeds them. And He calls me even more valuable than them (Matthew 6:26)!

Am I saying there won’t be struggle? No. Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble,” and then He immediately continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

The truth is, friend, that even our current pandemic is a fleeting circumstance in the Kingdom of God. And our times are in His hand. Let’s all choose to look up to our Lord and trust in His all-knowing, ever-present help. As the psalmist declares: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

God is faithful. We all can trust Him. Believe it.