The truth about faith

Published 6:00 am Sunday, October 2, 2022

By Charles Qualls

With Hope

We live in a world that insists things should always be kept positive. Light. Funny. For heaven’s sake, it’s been over 90 years now that we’ve had the notion about every speech needing to begin with a joke. I think the expectations were set when a certain organization became popular for training those who would speak in public. 

I don’t mean humor. Or finding a funny way to say something. I’m talking about a joke completely unrelated to the topic, just to “lighten up the audience and get everyone to laugh.” That’s how a lot of people think any public speech, including sermons, should be laid out.

I’m not sure how to begin a sermon from Psalm 77 with a joke. When we talk about our faith, if we’ve got to keep everything happy, positive and light then we have an obvious problem. When life does get serious, we have purposely skipped all the parts that could help us to cope.

If we got rid of all the parts of our own sacred, holy scriptures that don’t keep things light, positive, funny and happy then we’d ignore about three quarters of what Jesus said and did in the Gospels. I’m pretty sure we would just reach in and completely rip out a lot of the Psalms.

Speaking of, we would tear out the book of Lamentations completely. Leviticus and Numbers would probably go, too, since we rarely ever feel happy after reading them. We won’t do that at my church, and hopefully not at yours. We instinctively know that a well-developed, full faith or spirituality is the only one that will see us through all the seasons of life.

So, let me ask you a question. What does the word “faith” mean to you? What is the truth about faith? We use that word a lot, yet we’ve never voted on a shared definition.

The truth is that I am still in the middle of a lifelong journey of getting to know my own faith. I am still getting to know the God of my faith. Just like so many of you are. 

We could wish we knew what was eating at the writer of Psalm 77. It’s simply not there. He does give us one clue. This is not just a bad night of the soul. He is not having a fitful night’s sleep because of a nagging thing that can be taken care of with a phone call or a note tomorrow.

He has petitioned God and petitioned God. He has cried out repeatedly. He tells us that, right within the first verse or so. This has become a test of his faith, whatever it is. Questions and doubts come with life. A life of faith doesn’t eliminate all our doubts and questions. If a life of faith will inevitably include doubts and questions, how should I manage them?

At times, we’ll probably do one of the things that some of us were tacitly encouraged not to do. We’ll have to be vulnerable with our Maker. Sometimes we will need to cry out to God. When we feel that need, we should cry out knowing that God hears us. 

I highly doubt that we would study and quote from Psalm 77 if that’s all the writer did. I think a little of his honesty and angst would go a long way. Thankfully, he models something else that is amazing in the depths of his struggle. He moves forward. 

He has been honest with where he is in life and in his faith journey. But he’s not going to stay there, stuck in his grief and pain. The writer isn’t a mere consumer. He isn’t locked down and waiting for God to act or for someone else to solve his problems. He hasn’t allowed himself the option or luxury of becoming completely helpless. 

He will keep perspective even in his pain and sorrow. He will remember all that God has done, for others and for himself. He will draw upon that memory to strengthen his faith as he waits for another day. 

The truth about faith is that faith is best nurtured and strengthened at church. Faith is larger than church, but a gathered fellowship of believers beats isolation any day. Here’s another truth about faith. Faith won’t fix everything challenging in your life, nor will being faithful to God ward off pain and suffering. But, God accompanies you through life’s harder moments. Until a better day can come.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.