Scripture: Psalm 13 and Acts 6: 8-15; 7:1-2 and 48-60
The devil doesn’t come into our lives with a tail, pointy horns and a pitchfork.
I believe he comes into our lives as other people’s voices – in the form of gossip that’s shared with someone through a text or at school, or in a hurtful comment made to a friend or romantic partner, in accusation and comparison. The devil comes into our lives to plant doubt in our faith and question the surety of God we have within our hearts.
As a teenager, I constantly have people questioning my belief in God. But, it’s not just from other young people – these challenges are everywhere – in institutions, in social media, books and movies. They are all telling me that being Christian is not just not-great, it’s wrong and even bad. It can become so easy for us to let that wound our once strong faith in God. This is different from older generations, who did not experience the level of antagonism against Christianity that my generation has to endure.
Voice: Oh, so you’re a Christian? One of those people who judges and condemns everyone, but is really just a hypocrite.
These voices damage the confidence we place in our faith, leaving us defensive, doubting, and questioning. I can go to a party with people I know from school,
we get to talking and it comes up that I’m a Christian. All of a sudden, this antagonism raises its head to challenge me. Sometimes we’re challenged mildly but also sometimes aggressively.
I have been on a date and the boy sitting across from me notices my cross necklace and I usually get something along the line of “Wait… so are you like… really religious?”, as if it’s a deal breaker. At parties and at universities, religion is like politics; it is something that you have to be careful about when bringing it up in mixed company. The topic is all together generally avoided. People come at me with question after question, and the problem is, I don’t have easy answers.
Voice: Oh, so you’re a Christian? You believe God magically created the world in 6 days, when evolution has been scientifically proven?
We often ask the question, “How can I believe in a God who…”.
Some questions are more general, “How can I believe in a God who allows human suffering?” or “How can I believe in a God who would create divides between people?”. But more often we ask a specific question, “How can I believe in a God who would let this bad thing happen to me?”
Doubts like these tend to silence the dialogue between us and God.
But these doubts shouldn’t silence our dialogue, they should help to strengthen it. It is human nature when we face enough hardships, we begin to think that for some reason we did something to deserve this.
We can study the Bible, practice what we preach, have a strong faith our entire life, but what does that guarantee us? Where in the Bible does it say that if we do this or that, everything in our life will be good?
Of course, we understand that not everything can be good, but we want life to be fair. Is that too much to ask for? Was it fair when Isaac went blind and then his child betrayed him? Was it fair that Sarah waited years and years to have a child and when she finally had one, God instructed him to be sacrificed? Was it fair that Moses led his people to the promised land but he could not enter? Jesus didn’t even get a good deal, and he’s the Son of God.
If these people lived a life with suffering, why should we be any different?
Faith wouldn’t be real faith if you only believed in God when things were good. Both terrible and wonderful things happen in our lives, but who are we to know why? So, we must choose to believe in God and goodness, because the other option is to believe that the world is cruel and random. Wherever you are in your faith journey, it won’t be easy, you will face challenge after challenge.
Voice: Oh, so you’re a Christian? One of those people who caused violence all throughout history in the name of your religion, like the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts and religious wars?
I wonder how I can have faith like Stephen. One that is unshakable amidst a hostile environment. Stephen’s faith held strong until his very last breath. He constantly was filled with God’s grace and presence. When I am faced with people challenging my faith, I want so badly to be like Stephen, but it is hard for me to not let hurtful words get to me. I can relate to the anger that Stephen encountered because I have personally experienced that. Many times, I feel more like the Psalmist – weak and helpless. I often question God’s absence in my life. I ask how long will I have to put up with this suffering?
Voice: Oh, so you’re a Christian? Does that mean you hate anyone who is gay or transgender, and you believe women should be repressed?
There will be times when we can’t feel God’s presence, we feel alone. Isn’t it frustrating to follow a God who is constantly asking us to wait on Him? Or even feels absent. Why is waiting such an important part of spirituality?
Waiting is where faith becomes necessary. A God of immediate gratification requires no faith, it is in the waiting and the silence that faith develops.
We live in doubt when there is silence but at no point are we living without the presence of Jesus, just as Thomas did.
So, what do the three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection teach us? The presence of silence never equals the absence of God.
The challenge of waiting is to allow faith to do its work, trusting that on the other side of this silence, I will have a richer, deeper faith than I did before.
While young people today don’t face the persecution that the early Christians faced, we do have to often endure aggressive hostility towards our faith by society at large. We ask that you pray for us young people as we struggle to make sense, and make our way in this complicated and sometimes cruel world. Pray that we can hold on to this faith that is constantly being challenged, but that we know in our hearts to be true.