This has weighed heavy on me for a number of years as I look at the church: Our faith is too fragile and based too much on feelings. Feelings are sand. Faith in God’s promises is built on the rock.
There are two versions of Christianity in the world today. There is the Christianity of the New Testament — heroic, bold, brave hearted, conquering and sacrificial faith. It is the faith of disciples and martyrs.
Then there is the fragile faith, which I believe represents much of today’s Christianity with its accommodation to modernism, egalitarianism, niceness, naturalism, pop-psychology, secular humanism, relativism, subjectivism, individualism, “Enlightenment” rationalism and postmodern irrationalism.
Converts to the first Christianity are constantly amazed and scandalized in finding out that many Christians live the faith of the second, and even fear the faith of the first.
What did the first Christians expect? It is revealed in the first years of the church in The Acts of the Apostles. There it is written, “they were strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”
We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Life is difficult. Now what? Life has a lot of suffering in it. So now what? In the 21st century we tend to blame God rather than claim God. If God is good he would not let this happen to me or them or us. When we experience real pain and suffering we say God does not exist or he is not good and does not care.
We need to blame someone for our pain so we blame our parents, or God. Why doesn’t he keep me from suffering?
We must not think of God like a helicopter parent whose main objective is to keep us from experiencing pain.
The real call of God (and parents for that matter) is to raise courageous kids. Courage is a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without letting it destroy you. Courage is rooted in the heart. It is to have a brave heart. It is to help your kids walk through this dangerous and painful world while not being broken by it. Courage gives rise to a deep faith, not a fragile one.
The reality is that life is sometimes really tough. It may not become easier, but we can grow ever stronger. A mature Catholic is one who can embrace the harsh realities of life and believe that there is meaning in the moment, even though I don’t understand the meaning at this moment.
A Zimbabwe pastor, before he was martyred, wrote these words:
“My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus.”
Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans that “we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Our culture has filled our heads but emptied our hearts — stuffed our wallets but starved our wonder. It has fed our thirst for facts but not for meaning or mystery. It produces “nice” people, not heroes. We need saints in you and your sons and daughters. Let’s move from a “nice” Christianity to brave hearts that call out, “Freedom!” while on the rack. Freedom in Christ — who embraced his cross.
The writer has served as pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Magadan, Russia. He is currently stationed in Alaska.