See, there’s often this space between the inner life of the soul– what we as Christ-followers believe and accept as true– and the everyday experience of interacting with the life around us. The beliefs we confess with our mouths and hang around our necks as labels often are not the things we stand on when life gets difficult…and sometimes we hardly even seem to notice the gap between. But that is precisely what the spotlight of unexpected difficulties is for, to rivet our attention on the fact that we are not real good at putting into practice what we believe.
I hear Jesus say “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8) And I believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, will give me what I need. But when the unexpected collides with what I am pretty sure I need, my emotions and reactions point out just how far my life is from what my head believes. When you are looking right at concrete facts saying one thing, it is hard to fix your eyes on the unseen Truth that sounds so contradictory. But it’s there in the gap that you get the chance to grow, have the opportunity to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), because it is either change what you believe, or change what you will do about it.
Again, I know this is the Word of God: “Do not fear or be in dread… for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) This I believe, and I can even feel it on most days. But when giants loom large and all I have are a few small stones, reason speaks louder than faith and there is that gap again. It is surprisingly difficult to believe Someone you cannot see or touch over the ogre right in front of you– hard for us to set aside the sensory evidence we have accepted as reality since we were born here. But this is what faith is all about. Paul explains it this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) In the gap between what we believe and what we experience, this is where faith lives and grows.
And I can read Paul’s declaration and hang on tight to its usefulness: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) But watching someone you love struggle with an illness seems like it must be in a different category of Things than Paul is talking about; what I am feeling and dealing with seems much bigger and miles away from that one simple sentence. And in the gap I find myself wondering how much strength is actually available, and could it be that it means exactly what it says? I can do even this through Christ’s limitless power?
It appears that the gap is more a shortfall in my faith, in my perspectives…and while my spirit can make that leap into eternal matters, my senses still stick in the mud of this earth. And I hear Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) The question lingers…Do I believe this?…And how will I then live?
So we are back again to God’s plan: to grow us into the likeness of His Son and prepare us to live in His Kingdom forever, and in the gap is one very real way that we are called to be partners in the process. We can expect to be brought up short time and again, by that gap between the way this world works and the ways of His kingdom. ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When life reveals to us the gap between what is true and the way we live, it is a call to go deeper, step out of the familiar and sensible and come “higher up and further in” (as CS Lewis used to say), till there is no gap at all but only the presence of God. This is growing in maturity as a Christ-follower, and this is the faith-journey that is leading us Home.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.1 Corinthians 13:11-12
The way may at times seem dark, but light will arise, if thou trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. That light may sometimes show hard things to be required, but do not be distressed if thy heart should rebel; bring thy unwillingness and disobedience to Him, in the faith that He will give thee power to overcome, for He cannot fail. ‘Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,’ so keep close to Him, and the victory will be won. But do not, I beseech thee, neglect anything that is required, for disobedience brings darkness; and do not reason or delay, but simply follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and He will guide thee into all peace.Elizabeth T. King