What Are You Afraid Of?
I sat sobbing in my upstairs apartment, feeling ripped apart and alone. My faith, which hours before seemed so solid and stalwart, was tipped on its side, fractured and futile.
It was the day I first learned the phrases “higher criticism” and “redaction” — some of the catchwords my sister in law was learning in her Biblical studies class at university. Earlier that afternoon she had happily shared her professor’s views on the “real” origins of books like Isaiah, which I foolishly believed, was written by Isaiah. No, he didn’t write it, my SIL explained. Much of it was written years later, the prophesies and miracles redacted – added after the fact. It wasn’t God speaking, it was good editing.
I was no Biblical ignoramus. A few years prior I completed a certificate in Bible studies from a well respected Bible institute. I left there after a year and a half, a self assured student who had all her theological ducks in a row. Now, in the course of our conversation, each “explanation” she shared made my schooling seem ridiculous and uninformed. I had never heard this point of view before and was completely unprepared. I saw the Word of God ripped into a assemblage of man-made myths and fables.
When I got home, my dog Sassie greeted me with great enthusiasm, as always. I gave her time to inspect the dog walk, and returned to our home. As I climbed the stairs to my apartment, loneliness and despair that I kept at bay in public, overwhelmed me in private. What if what I had built my faith on was a delusion at best, a lie at worst? If I explored these new ideas, I would have more knowledge, but my faith, my God, would vanish, because they never existed.
It took many tissues, but I had my cry out. I sat, tear worn and tired, on my sofa. Sassie looked on as my breath slowed. I closed my eyes, but couldn’t shut out the nagging fear and the choice. It drove me mad — this thought that I had to choose self deception or enlightenment.
Then came the miracle. The fear vanished and the choice lost it’s power. I heard the gentle whisper of my God. The same God who gently whispered to a cowering prophet centuries ago.
“Go ahead. Take the journey. Explore these ideas. At the other side, I will still be there.”
Suddenly, anticipation and assurance appeared at my side as trail mates. Courage didn’t even seem needed, because I knew He was going to still exist when I got to the end of my answers.
Over months I scoured the scholarship underlying these new ideas, and instead of my faith dissolving, it gained strength and solidity. Not merely because I gained new knowledge and had an answer to the concepts of higher criticism. Yes, I read every book I could find and spent hours watching videos that discussed the basis for higher criticism.
I studied not just the theories, but the beliefs behind their assertions. I realized that what these learned men and women lacked was an encounter with the supernatural. All they had were theories based on a world view that excluded God’s intimate activity in the world and in their own lives.
This is what differentiated me from them. Not intelligence or sophistication, but revelation. What was the difference was the still small Voice, the God who lovingly took me by the hand, as He did years ago when I first turned to the Cross.
Thirty years later, I still have doubts and questions. I am one of the line of Thomas the apostle. I would share two things about that. One, is that Thomas was a great missionary. Second, that God has always been unfazed by my doubts and loves my questions.
What are you afraid of today? Experts will advise you to learn more about what you’re afraid of. While that’s wise counsel, remember to take a moment to allow for the gentle whisper of your God reminding you that He will be there at the end of the journey, and every step on the way.