Question: I have been reading your information in Peter #22 on the subject of "spiritual fainting". I am going through some difficult times right now and feel myself in danger of this. I wonder if you could give me some additional help on this issue.
Response: First, I want to let you know that I am continuing to remember you in my prayers. Prayer is so very important, because God does listen to us - in His Son we have access to Him (Rom.5:2; Eph.2:18; 3:12), and that is a truly amazing thing, when you think about it. People wait a lifetime to gain access to prominent and powerful human beings in all spheres of this life (be they in the legal system, politics, business, entertainment, what have you), in hopes that these powerful people might somehow be swayed to intercede on their behalf. But we who have trusted in Jesus Christ have been granted - through no merit of our own - the ultimate access, to the very throne room of God Almighty Himself! And this, not to a human being of mixed motives, fallible judgment, and limited power, but to a kind and merciful, omnipotent Father, who knows our needs before we even give voice to them and who is quite literally "waiting on us to be gracious to us" (Is.30:18)! And merciful He most surely will be, helping us to endure until the answer comes, delivering us through the darkest nights, through "fire and water", through whatever tribulation may betide, bringing us safe through to the other side. He is our loving Father, and, in Jesus Christ, we are His own dear children (Jn.1:12; Rom.8:16). He has already given us the most expensive gift imaginable in the sacrifice of His own unique Son - how will He not then give us the things which are so easy for Him to accomplish in the ebb and flow of our lives (Lk.11:11-13). Now, between the day of our entrance into His family and the day when we see Him face to face, now is the time of testing. Know this one thing for certain: being under the fire and the strain of testing is not unusual nor a mark of disgrace - far from it! The devil actively resists any and all spiritual progress. It is not the unbeliever or the lukewarm apathetic so-called believer that he challenges, but, like Job, it is the person who shows by his actions that he truly does love God, that God's word, God's Son is his love in good times and in bad, that gets our adversary's goat. "Everyone who is trying to live [a] godly [life] in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2Tim.3:12). That persecution may take many forms, seen and unseen, from actual and demonstrable religious persecution to completely unseen harassment from diabolical forces, but you may be sure that no forward progress, no determined commitment to the Lord will go unchallenged. Now is the time of pressure and stress, here on earth, in this mortal body. Now is the time when we demonstrate for all to see, angels and mankind, what we are really made of in spiritual term, how much, how deeply we love our Lord. Testing, to be testing, always seems to rise (I say from personal experience, observation, and the testimony of scripture: 2Cor.12:7-10) past the point of what we think we can bear, but never past the point of what we actually can bear with the help of God. In His mercy, to demonstrate His power and authenticate the genuine nature of our love for Him, God often allows us to come to the point where things really are impossible - from the human point of view. It is exactly at this point when we must abandon the human point of view and trust in Him, looking to what we know by faith, even though our human eyes tell us that we can't take anymore (2Cor.4:18; 5:7). Suffering is not a sin (Jas.1:2), as Job's false friends ultimately found out (Job 42:7-9). Rather, if we are truly suffering because of our determination to draw closer to God, to follow in the footsteps of His Son, then this "picking up of our own cross", this "sharing in the sufferings of Christ", is a mark of glory and honor, provided we do not turn back, but continue to persevere through the pain and through the tears. Understand, that if a Christian should come in for opposition, suffering and testing is not "some strange thing" but the normal state of affairs for the advancing Christian life (1Pet.4:12). God will - have faith in what He has told us - make "a way of escape" so that whatever the trial, whatever the tribulation, we will be able to bear up under it, no matter how tempted we may become to get despondent over the length of the trial (1Cor.10:13). God will do everything we need Him to do for us to persevere through the fire storms that occasionally break over us. He will give us all the power (Phil.4:13), all the encouragement we need (2Cor.1:3-7). The only thing we are called on to supply is a patient, resilient faith (Rom.5:3). We trusted Him when we believed in His Son. And now, on this spiritual battlefield that is the victorious Christian life, we are continually fighting out our spiritual advance on exactly this same line: do we keep trusting Him, and, if so, how much? The more we push forward in determined faith, the more we can expect that faith to be tested; but the more we do put our faith, faith of heart and deed, into action, the more powerful and victorious it becomes:
Therefore I rejoice in my weaknesses, in the abuses against me, in these pressures, in persecutions and disasters on account of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:10
There is a dangerous misconception afoot in Christianity today that the normal Christian life is an easy and pleasant one. Yes, God does bless, but the greatest blessings are not material possessions and an easy untroubled life; rather, the greatest blessing is to draw closer to Him, to come to trust Him with a faith so deep it cannot be shaken "though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Ps.46:2-3), to love Him with a love so deep that it surpasses everything the eyes, and ego, and flesh desire (1Jn.2:16), to focus on Him with a hope so transcendent that the prospect of a ringing "Well done!" from our Lord is more precious than anything the worldly heart can conceive (2Cor.5:6-10). None of this can possibly come without testing, because only through testing, trial and trouble do we find out just how faithful a God we have as a Father. Only when we find ourselves at our personal "Red Sea" with a vicious army charging down on us, can we fully appreciate it when our Lord splits in two the very sea that hemmed us in – to the consternation of our enemies and in contravention of all human expectation. When we find ourselves on the other side of that sea, whatever it may be, we shall rejoice in full throat to the God of our salvation. How blessed are they who can see the reality of these things, things seen only with the eyes of faith, even ahead of time, and can rejoice in perfect faith even before the sea has shown any sign of yielding to us. The righteous stumble many times, but God picks them up again (Prov.24:16). Keep on advancing up that "steep and narrow road". God will answer you, in His own time. Keep reading the scriptures and studying them diligently, and keep applying what you learn to your life. Keep praying, for prayer builds faith. Know that the answer will come, in God's time. If the answer came instantly, where would the faith be in that? Have faith in God and His deliverance, just as you have had faith in His Son for your salvation. He will not disappoint. We will shout for joy when you are victorious, and will lift up our banners in the name of our God (Ps.20:5).
You may also find the following links helpful:
Faith in the midst of the fiery trial.
The Minimum Necessary to be Saved
In Need of Encouragement
Christian Suffering and Christian Encouragement
Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.
Despairing of Life
Yours in Jesus Christ,