The last two months I’ve been presented by questions of what makes one a Christian and what constitutes Christian faith in ways I’ve never before experienced.
To put it shortly: A person I respect, like, want to please, want to be like in some aspects–her faith is considerably–radically–different from mine, I recently found out. So I’ve struggled to come to terms with my faith as I see her faith and that she does, indeed, seem to love and serve Jesus.
In popular conception, John Calvin is not a sympathetic character.
Yet, reading his Institutes of the Christian Religion today I was greatly encouraged. That today, on the night when we remember the Lord speaking to his disciples of what was to come and they struggled desperately to understand and accept. Peter, who in other places wavers mightily between faith and doubt, cannot accept that he could possibly deny and reject Jesus. We too, often assert great faith, yet days, hours, later we run, deny, turn away, again and again.
Jesus is not surprised. Jesus does not turn away. Jesus does not reject us and our weak, wavering faith.
Here’s what Calvin says to encourage us in these dark days leading to the Light.
… unbelief is, in all [people], always mixed with faith. III.ii.4
For unbelief is so deeply rooted in our hearts, and we are so included to it, that not without hard struggle is each one able to persuade herself of what all confess with the mouth: namely, that GOd is faithful. III.ii.15
Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. On the other hand, we say that believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. III.ii.17
Even weak faith is real faith. III.ii.19
Yet, Calvin explains, that even in these violent and overwhelming periods of doubt that David is our best biblical example of, faith “ceases not its earnest quest for God.”
Seek the face of God. Wrestle with God, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did. Did he not shout out great doubt: Why have you [God] forsaken me?
This wasn’t a rhetorical device. Jesus’ doubt was real, because he was tempted in every way that we are–and certainly we doubt God’s presence, goodness, and mercy.
Do not fear the doubt. Accept it. Hold it in your hands up-stretched to God, who will gladly accept the meager faith that you have in offering your doubt back to God.
Psalm 142: 1-3ff: I cry to the LORD with my voice; to the LORD I make loud supplication. I pour out my complaint before him and tell him all my trouble. When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path …