Sunday, August 7, 2011

Of Double-Digit Inflation and Academic Faith Challenges

“Yes, it’s a big deal—we probably lost a good part of our retirement again.” Those were my final words to Joe when the phone died abruptly yesterday. Calling from Ethiopia where my husband has traveled to further our work in community development and reformation (Africa Water and Life), Joe was noting that Al Jazeera Television had been talking almost non-stop about the U.S. economy and wondered how it was playing out back home. I felt bad the rest of the day for leaving him hanging like that. But as I thought about it, I realized that this is how so many of us feel right now –every day brings more dire news, leaving us hanging with no idea how things are going to play out. More than ever, it seems we have come to the end of options for getting our economy, and indeed that of the entire world’s, back on solid ground.

I have been on a break from my doctoral program this summer, and so many times have wanted to write and update you on my journey and share the amazing things God is teaching me. But I resisted each time, always feeling that to try to articulate the struggles in the faith-life of an academic thrown back into the arena after 30 years would be overwhelming. Where would I begin? With one of the first lectures that I attended regarding theories of knowledge, in which the professor dismissed divine revelation as something people believed in the middle ages? Or with the theory of adult development that I recently studied, which contends that people who believe in myths like the resurrection of Christ will never fulfill their spiritual potential?

This entire first year back in school has challenged me as I've realized that not only do I need to be fully cognizant of what I believe, but also conversant in why I believe it—why my Christian faith is the most sane way to make meaning of the world that I live in. To that end, I am extremely grateful to veterans like Ravi Zecharias or Doug Groothius, and organizations like Veritas Forum, who offer intelligent yet gracious responses to the pervasive scorn for the Christian worldview in academia.

But what does this have to do with the market crash? For the past month I’ve been pondering Jesus’ promise to never leave or forsake us. As I studied the reference in Hebrews 13:5, I discovered that though the writer seems to be quoting Jesus in encouraging the suffering church, the Gospels do not contain that exact quote. Apparently this message was so central to the heartbeat of Christ, that everyone knew He’d said it. It was in fact a promise God had made in several instances in the Old Testament, so when Jesus did say it, the disciples readily understood it to be not only a meaningful assurance, but another claim to Deity. In the context in Hebrews, the writer tied the promise to an admonishment to be content with what we have and where we are at—this to people who had given up their very homes in order to raise money to help imprisoned believers. Strong’s concordance brings a depth of meaning to this verse, defining “leave” as deserting, failing to uphold or allowing to sink, and "forsake" as to leave in straits, abandon or leave helpless.

As I have prepared for school to begin again, these thoughts have captivated me. No matter how strenuous the workload or how blatant the disregard for truths I hold dear, I have the very presence of the Living God—not only with me, but in me—always working, moving, leading, speaking, reassuring and loving. This is a reality so awesome that I can miss the wonder of it if I am not careful. He is with me! He is in me! He will never fail to uphold me nor allow me to sink. He will never abandon me or leave me helpless or in dire straits. The mystery of Christ's presence moves me like nothing else.

Whatever your future or mine holds—whether double digit inflation or academic faith challenges—our hope is just this; that our Lord is not going to leave or forsake us, for His covenant is sure. More than ever I believe each us will need to understand this in the coming days, to go deeper not only in what we believe, or why we believe it, but to get to know more profoundly WHO this God is that we believe in. This will be my prayer for each of you as I start back to school on Monday. I hope when you think of it, you’ll pray for me too.

In Him,

P.S. Though I may not be writing again for awhile—school seems to be all consuming--know that you are in my thoughts and prayers continually. I'd love to hear how things are going for you.