Before Faith Came

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” Galatians 3:23

I grew up in a home that was very religious. We not only went to church as many times as the church required in the year, but we also observed the days that the church considered optional, said long memorized prayers at various times through the day, and did many things to “show” our devotion to God. And although I was a rather compliant child when I was younger through all of these religious observations, there was always a nagging feeling inside of me that made me question what I was going along with – it just did not seem right. So, as the years progressed and I started to understand who I was apart from my parents, I started to rebel against those things that did not make sense to me which I had been doing for so long and that had never allowed me peace as I went through the motions of the religious practices.

So, off to college I went and a whole world of opportunities to seek out what was “right” sat before me. And although I could have gone completely off the deep end from the start, I still kept my ties with the denomination of my parents and actually started to work with the church this particular denomination had on campus. The only problem with my devotion being played out in this manner was that it had no foundation. And within a very short period of time I started to see with opened eyes and a distressed heart, that the church I had thought at least held some bit of hope for me was nothing but a front for many more people than even I who was struggling to find connections between the ways of the world and the works within the church. I had never felt so empty in all of my life or had I ever seen how empty the things I had been trusting in for a sliver of faith really were.

From that downward spiral in the church I turned to God and told Him in an audible voice, “I am done with Your ways because they don't work! I am going to find this peace I am searching for on my own!” That is when I left the church and a very dark and difficult existence started for me. I lived in fear and in the shadow of the Lord knowing He was real and yet refusing to come back to Him in the way I had done in the past. I lived my life as I felt was right and in ways that I thought would bring me peace, but in the end I only sank deeper and deeper into a pit of despair.

It wasn't I met my husband and he wanted me to try going to a church like he did growing up that I was willing, and in my willingness God spoke so clearly to me about the difference between the law that shows death and the grace of God that gives life – a message I had never heard about growing up. For some reason the same “law” that had been preached in one church did not reveal grace as a necessary component. I was always told I needed to make up for what I did, that my works would bring me back to God, and that if I just tried harder, prayed more, and lived a more simple life, then everything would be right.  But no matter how hard I tried it was not right. In that instant then of hearing about grace and coming to a place where I knew I needed it and finally had the truth of it opened up to me – it was a teaching I was willing to grasp with all my being and cling onto.

As I read Psalm 40 and Galatians 3:23 this morning, that whole experience I described above was brought to the forefront of my mind in a way I had never thought of it before. What happened in my life was not a mistake to show just how pig-headed I can be (which I can be very much so as those around me would attest to), but rather my experience was a very thoughtfully calculated time which God used to prepare me to have a vibrant faith life with Him. If I had not gone through the separation I had brought about between myself and God, I would have never realized the depth of the grace I needed nor the love by which God was willing to pursue me with to make me His own.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the
Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3

Faith is not just something we learn about by copying others and it is not something we grow in by reading about it in books (or blogs). Rather, faith is something that takes hold of us and presses us when we have gone beyond everything that we can see which has the ability to give us hope for the future. Yes, we may know the “law” very well, but we must be willing to allow the Lord to show us how to really trust in faith those words which He has spoken to us, even if we must go to the “horrible pit” to then see His loving hand reach down and pull us out and place us onto an even greater solid rock foundation of faith.  

Many times I have wondered what it is that makes my faith life so vibrant and long-suffering.  I guess today the Lord showed me a bit of how He has orchestrated the circumstances around my seeking Him to mold my faith life into what it is today.  For all He has done, I am thankful that I did not find peace in something that kept me apart from a passionate pursuit of Him.

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