by Terry Powell
I am not a Christian because my faith “works” for me. Talk to a devout Mormon, Muslim, or Buddhist and he’ll extol the here-and-now benefits of his faith. He’ll cite a serenity of spirit, or a sense of order that believing brings to his life. Yet his belief system contradicts mine, so logically these various faiths cannot all be true!
If I were a Christian just because faith has utility for me, because my days are more likely to unfold in a smooth, trouble-free manner, I’d be a pragmatist, pure and simple. And I’d be prone to shuck my commitment to Christ the moment a different philosophy or religion appeared to offer me more.
Don’t get me wrong. Following Christ is not without rewards in the present. My faith often sustains me, provides perspective for decision-making, and injects happiness rooted in a biblical worldview.
But not all the time.
There’s the inevitable warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil to contend with. And in my case, either chronic depression or other weaknesses of temperament sometime get the best of me. I’ll keep praying for relief and I’ll strive for sound mental health, yet I don’t want to be among the growing number of Christians who expect God to give them on earth what He only promised for heaven.
From a theological perspective, I’m a Christian because God chose me and initiated a relationship with me (Eph. 2:1-10). From a human perspective, my faith is in Christ not because it works, but because I believe Christianity is true. And truth is objective reality, not a subjective experience. No matter how I feel, or how my day goes, truth doesn’t change. Truth just is. I wrote this poem to convey this point.
Nature of Truth
When all hope yields to despair
and I doubt that God is there;
when my heart is cold, unfeeling,
and my prayers bounce off the ceiling;
when depression takes its toll
and winter winds assault my soul;
when the race seems all uphill
and dying grows in its appeal;
when things don’t go as expected—
still, God’s Truth is unaffected.
In the long run, faith works in the sense that I’ll enjoy eternity with my Savior (thanks to His works, not mine). But being a Christian doesn’t shield me from affliction in the here and now. It does assure me of God’s compassion and healing presence: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).
Terry teaches in the areas of Church Ministry and Ministry Leadership at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He has served as a Christian Education staff member for three churches, and he’s a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church of America. His current books in print are Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, and Now That’s Good A Question! How To Lead Quality Bible Discussions. Terry has been married for 46 years, and has two sons, a daughter-in-law, one grandson, and a dachshund. His constant prayer is, “Lord, make me half the man my dog thinks I am!”
Check out his blog at https://penetratingthedarkness.com/. His ministry is focused on Christians experiencing clinical depression and other mental issues.
One thought on “When Faith Doesn’t Seem to Work”
Hi Bryan when I click on the email link from you to view the remainder of the article,, I keep getting a page that says OOPSâthis page cannot be found. Thatâs the first time it has happened. Wondering if others are experiencing the same thing. Terry Nov 29 8:34 AM
Professor of Church Ministry
Seminary & School of Ministry
Columbia International University
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