From My Perspective: What Real Faith Looks Like!

Faith.

We sing about it.
We talk about it.
We pray about it.
We throw it around as if it was somehow easy to have or easy to grasp.

We tell people they need to have faith.
We tell others they need to keep the faith.
Or maybe we ask them, Where’s your faith?

We describe faith as pure. Or simple. Maybe basic. Or even elementary.

And sometimes we describe those who might be struggling as losing or having already lost their faith.

I know
Believe me, I know.

I have been accused of not having enough faith.
I have been pigeonholed as one who has lost his faith.
I have heard how he’s (that’s me) lost his way, bless, his heart.

Or better yet, what kind of a preacher gets mad at God?

As it turns out, this kind.

And the truth is? My faith has suffered some hard, hard days.
Try having your family ripped asunder.
Try seeing your whole world unglued.
Try losing a whole circle of friends.
I bet you’d also find it hard to sing about having an awesome God…

Not that He isn’t. Not at all.

But when people are hurting and wanting answers, it’s not a simple matter of just having faith.

I never once stopped believing in God.
Not once.
Never.

But if you reframe the question, then I had trouble seeing his goodness. I had a difficult time finding His mercy. I struggle even now with seeing His purpose for my life. Lots of things are still topsy turvy upside down. With no end in sight.

Still want me to have faith that everything is going to work out alright?

Let’s be real. Somethings will never be made right. Not on this side of eternity.

But in a funny way, I have found strong hope in the strangest place.

My hope is wrapped up in faith.
A faith I wrestle with.
A faith that has left me without near enough answers to satisfy my anger, fear, and frustration.

You see, I think we have the concept of faith all messed up. We see faith as something concrete, fixed, unmovable. But that’s not necessarily true.

The very idea of having faith means also having doubts, fears, worries, and questions to go along with it. Without those things, faith wouldn’t really be faith, would it?

Honest and pure faith is full of unanswered questions. It is a wrestling with God and the answers we crave.

I confess: I don’t always understand. But my hope is in a God of faith who recognizes the validity of struggle, who acknowledges the doubt, who understands the heart behind the questions, and who helps me take a step forward, even when it seems so counterintuitive to do so…

Faith.
It’s hard.
It’s difficult.
And sometimes it seems like the last thing we ought to hold on to.
But it gives me hope.
And I am glad.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

25 thoughts on “From My Perspective: What Real Faith Looks Like!

  1. St. Augustine said that “doubt is the flip side of the coin of faith. He who has never doubted has never really believed”. ~As for losing a circle of friends……I would suggest that you found an even stronger circle of new ones……friends that won’t bug out when the way gets dark. I am proud to have you in my circle……

    • Bob, I don’t think I know many if any people at all who could say they see God’s goodness in the aftermath of a double murder. Its counterintuitive. Have I come to see it now. Yes. I get glimpses and flashes. But even now as I deal with children–particularly the youngest, I have trouble both seeing it and communicating it to him.

      • Did not mean to offend Les. My point was simply to say that calling God bad (i.e. thinking that He is not good) is not the only reaction that we can have when bad things happen to us or our loved ones.

        Not wanting to compare my pain to yours but I have to say that I simply did not question the goodness of God when my first wife had heart and kidney failure at 39. Or when she suffered for the following 4 years before she died at 43. Or when my son reacted to her death with a 4 year drug addiction. Or when my daughter got pregnant when she was 17. Or even when I watched my disabled wife Ann almost die as she struggled to live for a week on a ventilator in 2011.

        My point is that in all of these things I did not question God’s goodness. In fact, I believe that the love and goodness of God is the very thing that got me, and gets me, through horrible times. You may think it to be counterintuitive but, as we have discussed before, it is all about how we see the Lord. One must have a certain theological view of God and His sovereignty to see Him causing or allowing horrible things to happen. In my thinking it is that view that causes us to question God’s goodness when bad things happen.

        All that said, I hope that my comments do not add to your pain Les. Simply wanted to share my experiences and present another way to see God in the midst of our pain.

        Your friend Bob

        • Goodness, no! No offense and no added pain from your comment. I see your points. And their validity. But in the midst of a tragedy that is ongoing, I struggle with it. Trying hard to have a better less bitter perspective, but some days? Some are harder than others.

          • Thanks Les. Not sure why but I guess it just never occurs to me to see God in a negative light during my dark valleys. Love how David speaks in Psalm 23 of God walking with him through the valley of the shadow of death. Reminds me of those last minutes when my kids and I stood at the bedside of my wife Ellen as she passed away. Here is the ending of the eulogy that I gave at my first wife’s funeral:

            “Last year Ellen became ill. I was convinced that she was going to die. That thought dominated my life. It filled my thoughts constantly. I was beside myself with grief. Then one morning as I was driving to work (I was praying in the Spirit) a picture filled my mind … as I looked I saw a picture of myself … I was standing atop a mountain looking down into a valley … somehow I realized that it was the Valley of the Shadow of Ellen’s Death. As I looked into the picture I saw Jesus walk up beside me, take me by the hand, and walk me through the valley. I have not worried about her dying since then. I was reminded of that valley as Ellen breathed her last breaths. Please know that God is with me and my children. I sense His presence. He holds our hands. Please don’t worry about us. We love you.”

          • Bob, maybe the difference was in the suddenness and the viciousness of the trauma. And maybe it was the ripple effects and the things we still struggle with. I had people wanting me to be normal in three weeks. I had folks asking me questions like how much pleasure did my son have in his contacts with the sex perp. I don’t know why we were different places. It is an interesting question. The answer may be your faith was stronger than mine. I don’t know. But I am glad we can talk about it! And learn…

          • Could be Les? Sudden trauma can do a number on a person. I remember the first time in 2002 that I walked in on Ann when she had her first relapse, could not walk and had difficulty speaking. It was scary and confusing all at once as she was the picture of health before that moment. I often think that Ann has way more faith and courage than I could ever have. I have seen her fight back from relapses and learn to walk again at least four times. It was a sad day when we realized that the wheelchair would be a permanent blessing in our place.

            I also think about the stories that my son has told me about his two tours of Iraq. Watching his friends and enemies die before his eyes. Cleaning their body parts from Humvees. Sleeping with his rifle and wondering if he would live to face another day. I am amazed that he kept his faith in such deep and traumatic valleys.

            So yes, I think that things can traumatize a person but I am not sure that one has to blame God and question His goodness when horrendous things happen. In truth, horrendous things are happening all of the time. And some think God to be evil because of the way that envision God and His sovereignty. Guess I simply reject that view and that theology.

  2. “The very idea of having faith means also having doubts, fears, worries, and questions to go along with it. Without those things, faith wouldn’t really be faith, would it?”

    Agreed. I think anyone that claims to have a completely “concrete, fixed, unmovable” faith either hasn’t been tested or else they are approaching 100+ years old or certain death (i.e. nothing left to look forward to, this side of heaven.)

    Additionally, just because one questions, struggles, wrestles, worries, and doubts, that doesn’t mean that they are devoid of faith during the process. The questions, struggles, and doubts will probably change over time, but with greater understanding and acceptance come new challenges.

    This thing we have with God is a relationship, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen or experienced a (meaningful) relationship that was static – it’s a living, breathing thing; it will have its ups and downs; it is complex in nature; it is not altogether predictable or without strife; it requires/needs time and energy.

    Love ya!

  3. Thank you for putting voice to my own thoughts. I type this while listening to ‘Never Once’ by Matt Redman.
    Wow! Thanks, also, to Bill Chenault for your wisdom.

  4. Most of the time I just sit and listen (or read). I have no desire to be like one of Job’s buddies. I just want to say thank you for your vulnerability and candor.

  5. I partially understand this. We are starting to pay back the student loans I borrowed while I was in court reporting school, and the payments are more than we can afford on just my husband’s salary. To be honest, I picture God standing up there with his arms folded, saying, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.

  6. When I was a preacher, I often preached on the lack of faith (as we attempt to define it) in those great Biblical characters of faith. Refrigerator theology (the pithy religious platitudes and out-of-context passages on magnets) just doesn’t cut it in the face of what life can and does throw our way.

    As always, thank you for your gut level honesty. It’s a voice of freshness that is seldom preached these days.

  7. I agree with Sam and Johnny and Greg.Your openness is a great example, and a light of hope for the rest of us who suffer our doubts without having experienced the horrors you have. I feel sick every time I read of the expectations and inane questions people have laid at your door.

  8. Les,

    Just an observation, and forgive me if I am blunt or way off base, but your struggle parallels Jacob. Am I wrong? I cannot fathom what you have and are going thru, but you are doing it. I wish I could have gotten to know you better while we were in Mississippi and wish nothing but goodness as you put it all back together. Frankly, I think you are doing a heck of a job. Are you in Real Estate still or preaching again?

  9. After all is said and done, you’ll be deeper, stronger, and happier. I know. I was in the pit for a long time. God kept reaching down to help me out step by step. I am so glad he allowed me to be down there, and I can’t believe I am saying that.

  10. Having family taken away from you is like a pain of none other. I will never understand why such a thing ever happens. Is it God building our faith? Is is God testing our faith and commitment? I know I still don’t have the answers. Les, I don’t think I have ever said thank you for all you have done for me. You kept my faith going. I was the master of putting on the smiling face, and telling everyone that I was ok. I know you saw right through that. You were the one that took me out to lunch and just sat there as we talked. It meant the world to me. You are such a blessing to my life.

    Faith is tested and tried in so many ways. I know this that with out our faith, whether it is in the prime of our life or the time that we can just let everything go to the waste side, faith is what keeps us going. I agree with you. I believe that faith should be questioned, pushed to the limits, tested, and tried. If you stay stagnant in your faith then how do you expect to grow in Christ Jesus. Different people are tested in different ways. There is no rhyme or reason.

    Once again, thank you for being there for me. I am honored to call you my friend.

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