“Believe in the darkness what you have seen in the light.” Journal 16 August 1901
There are two kinds of doubt with which people commonly wrestle: 1) intellectual – “How can I believe Christianity to be true?” and 2) personal – “How can I believe that I really matter to God?” While the one can reinforce the other, it is often the cloying and relentless struggles of daily living that darkens our hearts and takes its toll on the practical out working of our faith.
My early intellectual doubts about Christianity were ultimately addressed and resolved in the reading of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, the great scholar and apologist for the faith. While Christianity did, indeed, require faith, I concluded it was a step of faith – not a giant leap – based on a thorough consideration of evidences. The greater challenge, since then, has been to appropriate that faith in my everyday life – especially during times of sustained trial and testing.
It is interesting to note that when Lilias recorded the above statement of faith in her diary, she was in the midst of an unprecedented and sustained period of challenge in ministry. After more than 3 years of political opposition and spiritual oppression, their work had come almost to a halt. Activities in Algiers and itineration in Algeria were severely curtailed as they were dogged by the shadow of suspicion. Even their most beloved Arab friends pulled away in fear of being identified with them.
Last month, at my mother’s memorial service, we sang the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as we had 8 years previously at my father’s service. This was her request as a testament to the loving reliability of God through her 98 years of life. Upon my return home I began to read through her journals. In the midst of her recordings of the joys and challenges of her life and their ministry – enumerating concerns and resolutions, lifting the promises of scriptures in prayer, even fasting – one paragraph stood out as shimmering as the moon in the darkened Algerian sky: “I want that we might have leave as our legacy to our children and others with whom we have contact the fact & truth of God’s faithfulness and somehow make it easier for them to trust God, to believe God and prove His promises. This is no small bequest. And what a challenge it should be to us.”
We have the legacy of pilgrims who have gone before us, who remembered in the darkness the light that previously illuminated their paths: Lilias, mother – and a host of others whose faith-walk inspires and encourages. We have our own growing “proofs of faith” – light! – in our daily walk albeit easily forgotten in the shadows.
But at the end of the day, we alone must ask – and answer – the question: “Have I a Master I can trust?” Scripture promises: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Let us join with other pilgrims in affirmation of The Light:
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
(painting from Journal, 1898)