If you are having a crisis of faith right now, take heart you are far from the first and there is a way through it. Of course, what you mean by a crisis of faith may be different from what I mean. They often arise from a question we are internally struggling with. If you think you have a unique question, you are probably wrong and there will be fellow believers who have struggled with the same issues. Particularly these questions, in our modern western highly individualized society, often bear upon our sense of fairness and an experience that we consider to be unjust. “Where is God in that?” we ask.
The Psalmist confesses his sense of injustice nearly caused his faith to fail. ‘But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.’ c2 What is the point in trusting in God and being obedient to his commands when arrogant, sinful, God deniers prosper? They appear to be living untouched, rich, comfortable lives and the faithful do not share in the same prosperity?
His concerns are readily apparent in modern life. Verses 3b to 12 paint a vivid picture. Many of the rich and powerful are wicked and seem to go through life protected by their wealth and influence. They buy the best health care v4 and their wealth overcomes problems others would collapse under. v5 Their character is full of pride and if necessary they force their will on the less fortunate. v6 They indulge in hedonistic behaviour. v7 They bully others remorselessly, ‘They scoff and speak malice; loftily they threaten oppression’ v8 They boast of their evil ways and claim them to be good. ‘They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore, his people turn back to them and find no fault in them.’ vv9-10 They believe there are no negative consequences to their behaviour because they deny the efficacy of God. v11
We can all readily recognize all these attributes amongst many in political power, professional bodies, business and financial leadership. Wealth however is relative, it is easy to consider the rich are those richer than ourselves without being aware that others may consider us rich. Wealth and power are seductive, the impact of peers is significant and those in the church itself are not beyond such temptation.
It is not surprising then that someone should question the point of their faith. Added to the psalmist’s troubles is the sense that he cannot make known his true feelings for the sake of others. He feels he has been wasting his life by being obedient to God. ‘All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.’ v14 However his conscience says if he voices his true feeling he will damage, even destroy the faith of others. ‘If I had said, I will speak thus, I would have betrayed the generation of your children.’ v15 This is a common feeling when someone is going through a spiritual crisis and so they bottle up their internal conflict. They are made tired, even exhausted by the process. v16 At, this point, in the psalm when all seems lost comes the pivotal second half of a sentence: ‘until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.’ v17
The sanctuary was where people met with God. In those times it was the temple and prior to that the tent of meeting. Now it is not a specific building although many treat a church as such, it is wherever we meet God in prayer and bible study. Spending time in honest reflection with a trusted spiritual partner is very beneficial but what is essential is time in honest confession and listening with God. That is achieved through prayer and bible reflections confessing one’s sin and need. Asking him for the gift of understanding and faith. Both knowledge and faith are spiritual gifts and can only be received through the Holy Spirit.
It was after that experience that the psalmist understood the vanity of the arrogant rich vv 18-20 and also the state of his own heart. ‘When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.’ vv 21-22 He then received the underserved grace of God that turned his anguish to love for God. ‘You hold out your right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.’ V24
The psalmist has gained God’s perspective and his own eternal security. Having gone through the experience and then had his soul restored he bookends the account with the assertion that God is good to those pure in heart and that for him it is good to be near to God. He is now ready to tell of the works of God because God had done a work in his life.
Whatever the form of a crisis of faith the appropriate reaction is to spend time in God’s presence, confessing the truth of our heart and learning from him.
Are we honest with God as to the state of our faith?
Do we treasure our time with him?
Faithful one – Robin Mark