I was nine years old when I drove the snowmobile into a tree. The accident was a tragic combination of childish exuberance, inexperience, and youthful invincibility. The worst part – I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
When the machine stopped so quickly, my unprotected face slammed into steering column. I won’t get into the details of my injuries, but it took almost two hundred stitches to repair the impact lacerations on my left cheek. It still amazes me that I didn’t lose my eye, sever a nerve, or break any bones.
But the real trauma occurred when I returned to school.
I was accused of lying.
With a thick Y-shaped scar taking up most of my left cheek, it wasn’t surprising. Children can be incredibly cruel.
Often when bad things happen, it shakes our faith. We question how a good God could let bad things happen to innocent people.
An Example From Fiction
[Cathy] turned back to him, met his eyes. “Everything that happened in that case was a travesty. Joe getting killed, Miller walking free, and you and your career . . .” Her voice trailed off and she turned back to the window, looked out through the blinds. “I don’t understand how these things happen,” she muttered in a barely audible voice. “Especially to you. You’re a believer. You serve God. Why would he let this –?”
“Don’t go there,” Michael cut in. “I trust God.”
“Really?” She turned back to him. “Even after all this? Because I don’t know. I’ve believed in God since I was a little girl, but sometimes things happen no one can explain. Horrible things. And they happen to people who love and serve God as much as they do to others. What’s the point?”
Cathy’s struggle is real. It echoes the questions we all have to face at some point in our lives. Questions with no easy answers.
What is Faith?
It might be helpful to take a moment and explore what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” But what does that mean? Faith is a conviction supported by evidence concerning things we do not know by experience. As I teach my young students in children’s church, Faith is just believing what God says he will do. Faith is a daily part of our lives. In fact, the Bible tells us we are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:17).
What Does it Mean to Lose Faith?
When we lose faith, or our faith is shaken, it boils down to a question of God’s trustworthiness. Why should we trust a power who lets us down and hurts us? Everyone grapples with this question at some point in their lives. Trite answers won’t cut it because if God is not trustworthy, we have no foundation to build anything else on. There is no hope, no joy, no peace without faith. It is no wonder that people of broken faith spiral into dark thoughts or lose themselves in the business of life and the pursuit of happiness. What is the purpose of living in a world without faith? All is empty if we believe we can’t trust God.
How Can We Keep Faith When Bad Things Happen?
- Recognize Who God Is Not
God is not a genie in a bottle, ready to grant our every wish and whim, only to be ignored at all other times. We know what we want and what we think will make us happy, but we don’t really understand what is best for us. As much as we would like to, we don’t control our destiny. When we put God under our control, like a genie in a lamp, it’s no wonder we get frustrated and disenchanted when events spiral out of our control. We have no higher power to trust in.
God is not a malevolent being waiting to punish us at every turn. I can’t help think of the story of the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin caused the blindness, the man’s sin or his parents’ sin. The assumption was that all bad things in life are a punishment. Jesus answer tells a different story. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3).
- Recognize Who God Is
He’s the creator. As such, He has the authority and power to control the world. He set the laws of physics in motion. And while He has the right to step in at any time and preform miracles, He makes those the exception not the rule. When bad things happen, it is common to hear people blame God for it, as if God went out of His way to cause the disaster. They question if God could have stopped it, and if He could why He didn’t. These are legitimate questions. But let’s take a moment to reflect. If God always jumped in to stop catastrophe, our lives would be very different. We wouldn’t be able to express our free will. We would be like robots following the commands of a programer. But that’s not how God made us. He created us in His image with creativity and a free will. It is often that free will of man that sets a catastrophe in motion. Can God stop it, yes, but wouldn’t that take away our right to chose?
He’s a father. I understand this side of God better now that I have a child of my own. I can give my son direction, but it is up to him to listen and obey. Yesterday, my son got hurt because he chose to ignore my warning. I was right beside him when it happened. He could have blamed me, but instead he sought comfort in my arms. God wants to do the same thing. He wants to hold us when we are hurting. He opens His arms, and by faith we can step into his embrace.
The snowmobile accident was a terrible, scary time. However, through ti I learned many valuable lessons and I look back now and see how this tragedy shaped me into the woman I am today. Did I wonder why God didn’t keep me safe? Yes, at the time. But then I took a step and found comfort and peace in my Father’s arms.
Question for You: What do you do when you struggle with the faith question?