Problems of a Cookie Cutter Faith

Most of you who read my blog know of my mom's very unstable status in the hospital as she fights ovarian cancer. The below post is not to criticize those who offer encouragement in times like this, but to examine and perhaps even start a discussion over what we say and believe in times of crisis.

I've been having a lot of problems with my faith lately, and I realize that it is a faith immature, not a faith in crisis. Ultimately I still believe in God, I find it hard not to given the overwhelming evidence of creation, the spread of His kingdom, and the truth of the precepts that God and Jesus taught us in the Bible.

However, I feel like I have been living on cookie cutter theology now that I am starting to run into bigger questions. First the question of God's will. I have been struggling for a month over prayer and the results of prayer. James 5:15: "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well..." What if it doesn't? What if a prayer, offered in full faith by thousands of people in dozens of churches across the world doesn't heal? Do we simply write it off as God's will? Many times I hear the results of a seemingly unanswered prayer to be rationalized by, "Well it simply wasn't God's will..." So why then pray? Why if you offered a prayer with full faith was it not answered the way you want it?

I understand that God knows better than us. I've had prayers answered in a different way then I would have liked, and have later understood the blessing of God answering in that way. But what about when it comes down to life and death issues?

Which raises the second issue that I'm struggling with and that is the afterlife. Most people attempt to comfort with, "Well she [my mom] will be in a better place if she passes away." I'm not sure I have assurance that she is immediately going to be rushed off to heaven. Do I believe she will go to heaven some day? Yes! Of course! But I'm not sure she is going to exit this world of suffering instantly to go to a better place. The scripture seems confusing on this subject at best. I Corinthians 15:51-52: "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." The entirety of I Corinthians 15 leads me to believe that after we die on this earth, nothing happens till the resurrection, till the trumpet sounds. Yet Jesus tells one of the men hanging on the cross, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Matt 23:43).

Quite honestly I don't have the answer to these questions. Nor do I feel like I've ever been given solid answer or direction to these questions. I am hoping to evolve from a cookie cutter theology that makes quick and easy answers like, "It's God's will" or "It's ok, their in heaven now." God cannot be summed up in sound bites and I'm afraid that's what my theology feels like it has become.

Once again, I do not judge or criticize those who say such things. I am guilty of saying and believing the same myself. It's hard to know what to say in such a situation. I do feel though that in times of great need of God's help and comfort we would be far better served if we had really worked these issues out. Maybe we have and I just missed it somewhere along the lines...or perhaps I should have worked them out myself by now. At any rate, that is what I'm attempting to do now.


Josh Yaeger said...

"Praise be to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us." 2 Cor. 1:3,4

Blake, I have confidence that God will comfort you and provide the strength that you need. There are many people praying for you and your family.
I too struggled with this verse for many years (James 5:15). My grandmother passed away when I was 15. She was only 64 (5 years older than my dad is right now) I read this verse over and over again. If you will notice James addresses several situations starting in verse 13. He speaks of troubles, happiness, and then sickness. Then he expounds on sickness. But this sickness is not just any sickness, it is sickness caused by sin. He then gives those instructions that we know so well. I believe that James is addressing a particular situation about people being sick because of sin in their lives. Therefore, my final conclusion is that this prayer that is powerful and effective is the prayer for forgiveness of sin. I did not hear this from a professor or read it in a book. It may be wrong but it is how I have reconciled this verse and the realities of our world.

Your friend,


Jeff Eager said...

All the theology books I've read, classes I've attended, bible studies in which I've taken part, are little comfort in times of confusion, dispair, pain, loss, etc.

I learned the greatest lessons about God from my relationship with my children. I have seven Blake so I hope I've learned alot. My children trust that I will take care of them, provide for there needs, comfort there wounds. They don't ask, how Dad? It's just a simple trust of a loving father. As they've grown to adults the intellectual understanding of the "how" has been revealed but the simple trust, that is what carried them through.

I lost my father on Easter Sunday this year. My intellect, my attempts at logic, my understanding, where of no comfort. My comfort has been that my heavenly Father loves me and my earthly father.

Know this Blake, God the Father loves you and your mother. Trust your Father, understanding will come in time.



blakewell said...

Jeff and Josh - thanks for your posts and for sharing your experiences with me. I really appreciate it and I empathize with the hard times that you've been through and continue to go through.

God bless you.


Mgam said...

Blake, my man, you are the stud of all studs. My respect grows for you all the time. I obviously don't have any answers to offer. I've never been through anything like you are now going through. I know my faith is more "cookie cutter" than anyone's and I'm humbled to read your words. Thanks for sharing your struggles with us all and keep trusting in Him who saves us.

Anonymous said...

Blake, I found your blog kind of randomly today and I am so thankful for it. I, too, have been contemplating the depth of my own faith the face of adversity. I know ultimately that God is in control and has a plan that will surpass any plan I could craft on my own. Yet I constantly find myself asking, "why?" I don't know all the answers, but I am finding time in meditation and prayer bring about peace and relief.

Court said...

Blake, I appreciate the questions you've raised here. I think most of us don't stop to consider these things often enough, which means we really don't have the tools God wants us to use during times of crisis.

Almost five years ago, a very good friend of mine was in an accident. After six weeks in a coma, she died. I can't begin to describe what a horrible time that was for her family and for us who were her friends. (Though I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.)

I believe with all my heart and mind that God can make good come out of bad situations. But for a long time, I struggled to see what good could possibly come out of the death of a 24-year-old woman who had a husband, was strong in her faith, and lived a life dedicated to others.

God is good. He had brought about so much good from that tragedy....and God did it through the person closest to her, her husband. Though he wanted to turn away from God, God eventually brought him back. He has been one of the strongest financial supporters Ed and I have had in our work in Chemnitz. More importantly, he has supported us through his faith and his love and his rediscovered dedication to God. He's now one of our co-workers in Chemnitz, and he has married a wonderful Christian who is equally dedicated to working for the Lord.

Why am I telling you all of this? Simply to show that God really does work in mysterious and wonderful ways. No,I don't think he *wanted* my friend to die. But because she did, four Christians are actively working to teach the Word of God in a predominantly atheist country. As a result of her death, more souls are coming to Christ.

I don't have all the answers either, Blake. I think that sometimes, we can't know the answers. But God knows them. I find comfort in that.


"I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
"Then I called on the name of the LORD: 'O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!' Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
"Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
"I believed, even when I spoke, 'I am greatly afflicted'; I said in my alarm, 'All mankind are liars.'
"What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
"O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!"
--Psalm 116