As we continue to look at faith, two of the most fundamental elements of faith are understanding and trust. Yes, that is also the core of good relationships, and in that, there is a link. When we have a relationship with God, we have a strong faith. When we seek understanding and trust in God, we have faith. For most of us, faith is not static. There are times when we have a strong faith, and other times when it is weak.
As clergy, there are many times when we are lost in our faith. I often like to say it is the times when our faith is more of an intellectual thing than a heart thing. Early on in my ministry, this was very true. After the first year of my ministry, and all of the difficulties that came with working with a congregation that had suffered from having two consecutive pastors die while serving the church, I knew I had faith, but it was something that was more like going through the motions of faith, not the passionate faith I had earlier in my life.
It was a great frustration because I longed for that faith, but it seemed that no matter what problem arose, I was also always having to prove that I actually knew what I was doing. It made me question not only myself, but also my call. I mean, why would God call me to that position if it was beyond my skill? It was draining! By the end of my first year, I began to understand why so many people leave the ministry within the first year.
I was lucky, though. I had one of the best staffs in the world for a starting pastor. All were both seasoned in the church and gracious. Watching my struggles, my organist Alice asked me when was the last time I read Jeremiah. All young pastors are familiar with Jeremiah. It is something we looked to remind us that God calls all sorts of people, even the young!
At the time of the “call” story of Jeremiah, he is young¾probably in his teens, though we do not exactly know his age. Though young, he is very aware. He knows that the world would only see him as a boy, and as a boy, how was he going to command both respect and the words to lead the people? This is understandable! His hesitancy had nothing to do with his faith, but it had to do with his station and the understanding he had about how others were going to perceive him.
However, when Alice suggested I re-read it, I realized that not only had God called and blessed Jeremiah, but He turned back to Jeremiah, saying, “I know you have doubts about your abilities, but trust me, I know what I am doing, and you will do what you need to do!”
I thought it was interesting to be prompted that way by someone with twice as much church experience than I had years on this earth, but she trusted my call, and knew I just needed to do likewise. More importantly, I needed to trust that God was using me, and that God was doing something bigger than what I could see. God was, but that is another letter!
For all of us, we come to times when we question our faith or our life’s calling. For some, they are drastic, and for others, merely bumps in the road. The truth is that while the story of Jeremiah is about the doubts of a youth, almost all of the prophets ask that question, “Why me?” and God comes back to say in some form, “Trust me.” When you get to the point where you are questioning the call in your life or your faith, ask yourself the question: Do you trust that God has put you where you need to be? Do you trust that God will give you the tools you need? Do you trust God?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen