The older I get, the less resilient I feel. I feel weaker physically and mentally. Grief and worry overwhelm me more quickly. It is not just my body that takes longer to recover from injury or exertion. It is my soul too. I have been thinking about the implications of that.
When I was younger, I had so much zeal, passion, and idealism. Opinions and convictions oozed from my pores. Thoughts and beliefs about God and mission energized me; but looking back, I cannot say that God himself was my source.
When we are young, healthy, & educated, it is possible to accomplish a great deal in the flesh. And if our in-group is a church, we can publicly attribute all those things to God and some will consider us spiritual giants.
But then the losses come: illness/injury/disability, trauma, broken relationships, death, injustice, unexpected outcomes. And the heart is never the same again. It heals a little but never fully recovers.
When we are younger, or young in the faith, we are really in touch with our dependency on God only during a fiery trial, or in moments of desperation. But when the trial has passed and the desperation is gone, the self-sufficiency returns.
As we endure season after season of trial, though, we begin to get to the end of ourselves faster. I run out of every kind of energy almost immediately. As a result, I turn to the Lord and say “Help” a lot sooner. It feels more like breathing than it ever has before.
It feels like a major transition point in my life as a Christian, now that I am closer to 50 than I am to 40. I still feel myself reaching for some inner reservoir on which I have long depended, but it is now consistently insufficient. Consistently.
But it’s in the despair of that chronic insufficiency that I’m learning how to reach out for and be sustained by the life of Christ in me, and how to live in the reality of being in Christ—not just in times of trial but for all of life.
The funny thing is, it is not like I haven’t forever known that the “right answer” is to fully lean on God’s strength. But knowing something isn’t the power that gets us there.
The will matters, but if we think we can will ourselves or anyone else into a robust life of faith, well, that is hubris. It’s also a deception spawned by conditioning to expect instant gratification, microwave spirituality, 5-step character infusion.
This misunderstanding is what causes so many to reduce the mystery of suffering to manageable problems w/simplistic solutions steeped in condemnation. “Are you anxious? It is because you are not trusting. Perfect love casts out fear.”
But anxiety, depression, and despair, even the crippling varieties, aren’t evidence of failed faith as much as they’re earthly realities where God meets us and gently, lovingly offers himself.
This is important to realize: we do not have the capacity to receive God or all that he offers us ALL AT ONCE. We may be seated in the heavenly realms with Christ, but the earthly process of receiving & walking in our spiritual inheritance is a hazardous, lifelong journey.
The main thing we do is *cultivate* a posture of surrender. That is the real WORK of faith, the thing to which we apply ourselves even when there is no relief in sight or the slightest evidence of inner or outer transformation.
At this stage of my life, I believe we only begin to do this work of faith in earnest when our personal resources have been drained and faith is all we have. It also begins much later for many of us in the US who live in relative comfort & privilege.