Adjusting the Focus

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I am currently and fervently praying for someone who is going through a faith crisis. In case you’ve never heard that term before, faith crises are the times when an event rocks your faith and threatens to shatter it. They are the seasons when the fire forces questions to the surface of your heart that you would be ashamed to let pass through your lips. They are the moments when life hits you in the gut, and everything you thought you believed suddenly becomes blurry, and you just don’t know what is true anymore. They are painful, and often unfair circumstances that redefine you and your purpose.

Maybe you’ve been through a faith crisis…or a few. Maybe they’ve marked you. Hopefully it has been in such a way that you’ve found yourself stronger, and closer to God than you were before. In my times of crisis, the seasons when I was shaken, I have seen God’s faithfulness. And I can honestly confess that, though it didn’t look pretty and it certainly wasn’t a seamless process, I came through the fire not even smelling like smoke.

What I am challenged with today is leading others through their fires so that they, too, come out stronger. As I pray for the young woman who is walking through her faith crisis, I must consider how to encourage her to both ask her questions, and lean into the God her heart is not so sure that she can trust. I suppose I am well positioned for the task, having walked through this terrain in my own life. So, as I ponder the broken path before her – and invite you into the view from where I sit – here is what my journey would speak (and what I hope you, too, will collect and keep for the times when you will face your own faith crises):

We must learn to adjust our lens.

In Matthew 11, John faced a faith crisis. The Jesus He had known since birth – the Jesus who was his own family (his cousin) and the One he had spent his life preparing the way for – wasn’t showing up to save him.

John sat in prison, for something he had done right. He spoke truth that was not well received, and his faith cost him his freedom. Meanwhile, Jesus had shown up on the scene and was going about the business of Heaven on earth….except in John’s corner of the world.

Needless to say, John was probably feeling a little abandoned and betrayed. His expectations were disappointed, and he was facing great trouble and anxiety. In fact, John would lose his life in that prison. He would become the first martyr – the first recorded person to die for his faith. His was a crisis indeed. And in his hour of crisis, Jesus didn’t rush in to rescue him. Imagine the questions he must have sat with! Imagine the fire his faith must have gone through! But, although he lost his life, he did not lose his faith. In fact, his faith – intact – is what led him to be willing to die for what he decided he would still believe.

How did he survive such a crisis? How did his faith make it through that kind of fire? For all of the complications to his story, the answer is really rather simple: he adjusted his lens.

When John heard that Jesus was out there somewhere, doing what He was sent to do, he sent someone to go and verify that it was really Jesus. I’m sure his heart was hoping that, if it really was Jesus, he could shift his expectation from being a martyr to being delivered. But that wasn’t what happened.

The messenger(s) did verify that it was really Jesus performing miracles within the city, but they also verified that those miracles were not appointed for John in his hour of fire. Actually, rather than send a promise of deliverance for John, Jesus sent the messenger(s) back with a challenge for John in his faith crisis: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Mt. 11:6)

Imagine receiving that word in the middle of your crisis! “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to rescue you from this situation. I hope your heart doesn’t get offended by that.” I don’t know about you, but I would struggle with that. Actually, I have struggled with that. I have been faced with crises which God did not deliver me from, and which – from the beginning – He asked me instead to endure and commit my heart to trusting Him through the process. It is hard to trust God when you don’t see Him doing what your heart most longs for Him to do.

Fortunately, the challenge Jesus gave John was preceded with a report that gave John the option of refocusing his lens. Before Jesus challenged John to keep his heart unoffended, He told the messenger(s) to tell John what they had seen and heard: miracles were being done and the Good News was being preached by Jesus. In other words, although John wasn’t a recipient of the miracles, the purpose for which he had lived his life was unfolding all around him. The very object of his faith was coming into realization, if not for his own circumstances, for the world to which he had witnessed of God’s faithfulness. Jesus was giving John a new focal point.

The reason John’s faith survived his hour of crisis was that he adjusted his lens from focusing on what God was not doing, to focusing on what He was doing. Even if wasn’t a seemingly favorable outcome for Him, yet the promises of God were being fulfilled. The purpose of his faith was coming to pass.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, it is all too easy to look at our circumstances – especially in times of crisis – and see what God is not doing. I want to lovingly challenge you today to adjust your lens and to focus on what He is doing, and align your heart with that purpose. It may not make sense, and it might not seem fair or favorable, but God has promised nothing but good for those who love Him and are called by Him (Romans 8:28).

What if we dared to believe that promise, and set our hearts to go through whatever fire(s) we face with the determination to trust, obey, and see His goodness toward us come to pass? My educated guess is that we would see a company of women with a much stronger faith.

Was it God’s goodness that led John to be martyred for his faith? An un-anchored heart will struggle with that question. But an anchored heart, a heart rooted in the faith that was born of love which laid its own life down for us, will have an irrevocable “yes” to utter…no matter how hot the fire might get. Though John’s “yes” meant suffering in his hour of crisis, that suffering was but for a moment. On the other side of that moment, the reward of John’s faith was eternal goodness. No more pain. No more suffering. No more fears. No more crises. His was a faith that overcame.

And isn’t that the whole point?

“They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed (their testimony); and they were willing to give up their lives and die.” Revelation 12:11 {Good News Translation}

In any faith crisis, some part of us must die, in order for a new and stronger life to arise. Who knows the end of your story but the One Who wrote it, and Who has promised His good and perfect purpose throughout it? In every crisis your faith faces, God has planned for you to overcome. He has purposed for you to come through it, whatever “through it” looks like. If we will become willing to adjust our focus and turn our attention toward the good purpose, and away from the not-so-good details, we will be much more likely to come through as He has designed for us to.

May you have the courage to face your crises with a settled determination that you will trust and believe in the One Who has created you and invested Himself in your life and journey. And may you come through all your fires shining like refined gold. May you find, on the other side of your crises, that every wound has become a treasure, for His glory and your good. This is, afterall, His perfect plan for us all.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

One thought on “Adjusting the Focus

  1. Such a great reminder of focusing on God and what He is doing! When I refocus my vision, I find so many blessings that I could not see when focused on the one thing God wasn’t doing. You really helped me put myself in John the Baptist’s place.
    Jesus, let me not be offended when you don’t come in the way that I expect.

    Like

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