My journey from amputation through rehabilitation on to recovery has taught me many lessons. One of the most important is the difference between belief and trust.
For most of human history, just about everyone believed in some version of a god. In Europe, the existence of God was accepted as given. What divided people was the question of trust. Do you trust God and if so, to what extent and in what ways?
But times changed. The enlightenment birthed a new philosophy called Materialism which held that physical reality is all that ever was, is and will be. The inhabitants of Olympus, Valhalla and finally Heaven were banished to the realm of poetry and pious sentiment where for many they languish today.
This created a new situation. For the first time belief in God was called into question to such a degree that mere acceptance of the possibility that some kind of transcendence might exist became for many a substitute for faith. As a pastor, I can tell you that even some who attend church regularly think that their willingness to believe that there must be a God out there somewhere provides the total content of their faith.
But that was never what faith was about. Faith presumes the existence of God but goes beyond that to trust God and not just in regard to some vague afterlife because that doesn’t count. When it comes to dying there really isn’t a thing we can do about that so we might as well hope some sort of spiritual being will help us out there. The question is do we trust God in the here and now, day to day, hour to hour to empower and direct us? When we, for example, get in our cars do we trust God to bring us safely through traffic? More to the point, do we trust that God’s will and purpose is in play if he doesn’t?
Faith isn’t a matter of believing in God. It’s about living life out of the wisdom and power of God rather than our own skills and strength. We bring our abilities to the table every day but by faith, we do so with an awareness that God is the author of our life story and the goal of that story is to maximize our experience of living in all its breadth and depth. My journey forced me to learn that the content of faith is trusting that in life and death I am never operating on my own but God is constantly working in and through me his gracious will to accomplish. With that trust in place, I’ve learned to savor life, its challenges as much as its wonders, as an opportunity to participate in some small way in the exciting things God is doing in his world right now.