Just when we thought that functioning as an adult was filled with enough challenges as it is, then somewhere along the way, we discover our need to manage these things called “tension points.”
There is no simple, black-and-white solution when it comes to tension points. Tension points are not problems to be solved, but tensions to be managed.
I’ll never forget the feeling that welled up inside of me in one of these moments when I realized that there was not going to be a clear-cut, simple solution to the situation I found myself in. No matter what I decided, someone was going to be frustrated and disappointed with the decision. I had to determine a way to find and bring balance to the situation, without landing on either of the polar extremes.
As I wrestled through the possible outcomes in the front seat of my car, I experienced a moment of cognitive illumination! The beauty and “solution” would be how I brought the two opposing sides into balance and tension with each other. And so, I made the only decision I felt I could … I chose Chik-fil-a for dinner to bring balance to the requests for In-N-Out on one extreme and Chipotle on the other! All things were once again right in the world.
I know we experience much more important, life-altering moments of tension in our lives than that. The important thing to see is that often the situations we face might not seem like they have a clear-cut, right or wrong solution, because of one simple fact … they don’t!
Life is filled with tension points. They find their way into every area of our lives, and that includes the most impactful area of all: our faith!
Now, before you cry heresy and stop reading, consider this for a moment.
If we are willing to look at Jesus, openly and honestly … then we will see that in Jesus, we find tension points!
But this isn’t something for us to run from; Jesus doesn’t. Jesus brings up and confronts areas of tension! Jesus seems to do this constantly. If you miss it, you miss who Jesus is and one of the big components in what makes Jesus so compelling.
These places of tension that Jesus draws us into are NOT necessarily comfortable or safe. But they are always for the best and the result is beautiful! Because the result of wrestling through and finding these places of tension brings glory to God!
There are all kinds of tension points with faith, like:
- God calls us to know Him and believe … yet … He is a God and Savior who is mysterious and whose ways are often beyond our understanding. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)
- God is all powerful and perfect … yet … He choose to reveal Himself through finite, fallible people like us and to use us to do His work.
- Our faith is grown through trust … yet … Our faith is grown through doubt.
I know this last one might not vibe with you and what you think of faith and church, and you may have experienced something very different when it comes to doubt from Christians, but it is true. Faith is grown through moments of question, wrestling and doubt. Look at Scripture sometime like the majority of psalms. Read Psalm 88
In Mark 9:14-29, we read the story of the man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit. He had hoped to get help, but Jesus’ disciples were unable to do anything. Simply put, the man was beginning to doubt.
I love how the Fuller Youth Institute addresses doubt. “Doubt is not toxic to your faith, but silence is.” That powerful truth is illustrated in the interaction between the father of this boy and Jesus. The father expresses his doubt, questioning concerns and his general lack of faith “If you can do anything, take pity on us … I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I love Jesus’ response to the father. It is a response of engagement, handled through patience, grace and love for the father and the boy.
Jesus is not thrown or upset about the doubts or questions of this father. He doesn’t turn the man away or yell at him. He enters into the doubt and reveals His all surpassing power and love.
Jesus is bigger than our doubts! It’s not an issue of if we will doubt, but if we will doubt well. It’s about whether we will be in a healthy, supportive environment, and help create one for others to doubt well also!
The growing of our faith and working through doubts and questions is a journey, a wrestling match, an ongoing process! I am so grateful for my high school youth pastor and the volunteers there. They created a safe space where questions were not just permissible but encouraged! They were willing to meet us wherever our faith was, and walk through it with us.
Even the way we define faith can help us understand this better. Faith itself could better be understood as a verb – “FAITHING.” It is the ongoing process, a stretching, wrestling with and growing of our faith. It’s not a one-time, fix-all thing.
In life and in our faith, there are tension points. The key here is that God uses these tension points and others to remind us that the Christian life is messy, faith is messy. If you were told that if you just gave your life to Jesus, everything would fall in to place and life would be easy, it’s not true. Let me say that if someone did indeed tell you that, I’m sorry you were told something so horrifically untrue, because that is not what Jesus says or promises. But let today be the time to recognize that the Christian life is in fact messy … with messy people, and difficult but beautiful tension points!
And that is great news … because it’s there that Jesus is waiting for us, and that we see the depth, richness and beauty of who He is and what He offers us!