When the World Does a Number on Your Faith

When the World Does a Number on Your Faith

What does getting bad news at the dentist office have in common with bad news on the national and world stage? More than you might think! After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10–11

At her last visit to the dentist my 87-year-old mother learned that the aging process is doing a number on her teeth. After her hygienist suggested a deep cleaning was in order, Mom’s response was less than enthusiastic. “It was a terrible appointment,” Mom said when we met in the waiting room. “I could have gone my whole life without news like that.”

I made suitable, empathetic noises while we scheduled the extra cleaning. I practiced active listening techniques during lunch and tried to cheer her up. “Look at the bright side, Mom. You’re almost 88. You have all your teeth. You have dental insurance that makes the procedure affordable.”

She was inconsolable. “I just wasn’t expecting this kind of news,” she said. “It’s awful.”
“Mom,” I said as my supportive, loving daughter veneer peeled away, “you’re acting as if you’ve got cancer instead of early stage periodontal disease. Try to put this in perspective.” But she couldn’t. At least not until her son visited her and managed to coax her out of her funk by mentioning that he’d had the same procedure done a few years back.

Reflecting on Mom’s situation, I see some similarities between how she responded and how many followers of Christ respond when national and international current events do a number on our faith. First, our reaction focuses on what’s wrong and views past and present blessings as our right. We rarely express gratitude for God’s blessings while we have them, but complain loudly when they cease. Can you think of an election year when Christians expressed gratitude for two qualified presidential candidates with the fervor that this year’s lack of the same is continually bemoaned?

Second, Christians often respond to current events from a purely temporal and earthly perspective. Instead of standing firm on the rock of God’s sovereignty over human history, we grow despondent and fearful when events unfold differently than expected. When the candidate we support isn’t elected, when our cultural shifts away from a Christian worldview, or when terrorism and gun violence rear their ugly heads, we act as though the world is ending–we who claim to stand on the promise of eternal life with Christ when this world ends.

Christians have little to offer the lost when we respond to earthly events with ingratitude, hopelessness, and fear. But how can we avoid those faithless responses in an increasingly dark and painful world? A clue to that question’s answer can be found in Mom’s recovery from her funk. It ended when a visit with her son changed her perspective.

Similarly our perspective and our future responses change when we spend time with God’s Son in His Word. When we consider how Christ’s absolute confidence in God’s sovereignty and an eternal perspective influenced His responses to ungodly rulers in a non-Christian culture where He suffered violence beyond imagining. When we cling to the promise of Jesus to never leave or forsake us. When we gaze upon the risen Christ and anticipate His future resurrection. When our feet are firmly planted on those realities, we can trust Jesus and respond with hope and confidence. Because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what He promises is absolutely certain. God’s eternal and unchanging best is yet to come.

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