“And without faith it is impossible to please God. Indeed, it is necessary for the one who approaches God to believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6
The recent passing of Rachel Held Evans, a controversial and influential writer, got a lot of people’s attention, including mine. The sad circumstances of her untimely death, leaving behind two small children and a husband, plus her intriguing backstory, prompted me to dig a little further into her story.
Somehow I was unaware of Evans’ impact upon evangelical Christianity. Her writing drew a large following as well as a few raised eyebrows. As I’ve read about her life, what strikes me is that her sprawling influence was largely due to her engaging way of expressing doubt about the beliefs she once held.
Like many, maybe even most of us, Rachel Held Evans went through a season in which she re-evaluated everything she believed. On some points, particularly those related to human sexuality and what the Bible says about it, Evans had a drastic change of mind, so much so that eventually she no longer identified as an evangelical and instead aligned with a denomination that shared her altered views.
For many, Rachel’s story was validation of their own doubts and loss of confidence in conservative, evangelical Christian perspectives. Like most prolific writers, she was able to effectively say what many were just thinking. With Christian influence in the U.S. trending downward in so many ways, the time was ripe for a voice like Rachel’s.
But without getting into the right or wrong of Held’s positions, with respect, I would offer one basic observation: To question one’s beliefs isn’t wrong, but neither is it wrong to continue believing, even when everything around you challenges those beliefs.
To continue believing even when life is ridiculously challenging is what faith is all about. Hebrews 11 gives multiple examples of individuals who were commended for trusting God even when it didn’t make sense. These were people like us, who couldn’t help but notice that God was saying one thing but their surrounding environment was saying something completely different. So what did they do? How did they handle the tension?
With resolute faith, they pressed on, believing God even when their cultural context made it really hard to do so. In some cases, they were even tortured for acting on their beliefs, but they continued on “by faith” and their example is preserved in Scripture to inspire the rest of us.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. -Hebrews 11:1-2
If your faith is on a flat spot right now, maybe it’s a good time to take a stroll through the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. By the time you get to the end of it, chances are, you’ll be up and running again.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.