On Thanksgiving Americans thanked God, in whom we trust to provide all the things we enjoy — health, wealth, a table set with good things to eat and drink. But should we continue to trust in God when life’s circumstances try our souls? This week’s clergy discuss why we should put our faith in the almighty in both bad and good times.
The Rev. Natalie Maxwell Fenimore
Minister of Lifespan Religious Education, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock
Because life is always difficult for someone, somewhere — even when it is not difficult for us or for those we know and love at the moment, the fuller question might be, “Why did I trust in God in the first place?”
We struggle to live in a mature faith that can hold the tension of life’s unanswered questions. Our faith can hold up a light to guide us through mystery. We might find that we can trust in God, the creator, the divine presence, because of the strength that belief brought to our ancestors. We may believe because our personal and intimate relationship with the divine has given meaning to difficulties and suffering. The Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Kate Braestrup has written that “Faith is not the confidence that my religious views are true in every jot and tittle. It is not the assurance that because God loves me nothing bad is going to happen to me or those I love . . . Faith is the confidence that no matter what happens, love is always available — as action, as memory, as a gift to others, as a capacity in myself . . . If God is love, then what my faith requires is that I notice the love in which I move and breathe and have my being.” We can trust in God in times of trouble because we have been given the gift of life, and with life there is the possibility of love and justice. And we can trust in ourselves as an extension of God’s love.
Rabbi Mendel Teldon
Chabad of Mid-Suffolk, Commack
I have a friend who does the following exercise with his kids when they each are about 5 years old. He has them climb up the ladder of their wooden backyard swing set, and when they are a few feet off the ground, he has them fall backward into his arms. He then has them go back up, he steps away a few inches and the child falls backward again. Then they do it again with the father another few inches away. And then again and again and again. At one point in this activity — and with each child it happens at a different moment — the kid climbs up, closes his eyes, opens his arms wide and then giggles with joy as he falls into his father’s loving arms. That is trust. The confidence in God, knowing that he’s got your back in every situation. When you are standing on the ladder with your feet planted firmly on the rung and two hands securing your stability, trust is not needed. You don’t need your father’s support and your father doesn’t get to be involved in your experience. Trust is needed only when the strong wind comes and threatens to blow you over and you are not sure if your hands will keep their grip. Even in those moments, you can still show up to life and celebrate each and every day knowing that your loving father is standing right there with you. Go ahead, close your eyes and fall into his arms.
The Rev. Thomas Boyd
Pastor, Church of the Nazarene, Massapequa Park
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And in Philippians 4:4, Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” It’s clear that our giving thanks is to be in good times as well as in the difficult times. Our faith in God must not fade because things are difficult; to the contrary, our faith should increase. Times that are challenging, and yes, times of suffering, provide us the greatest opportunity to show the validity of our faith. Much of the Apostle Paul’s writings were done when he was in prison. Job praised God after losing everything he had in life, including his health. The Bible is full of stories of people having as much or even greater faith during the difficult times. For the Christian, Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us. The world has problems, and Christians are not immune to these problems. Faith was made to face all of life’s issues and emerge victorious. A ship is safe in harbor, it is not designed to stay in the harbor. The Christian is to be the light of the world, and we shine the brightest when our faith is strong during times of trouble. Why do we continue to have faith when bad things happen? Because he that is in you is greater than he that is in the world, and that is God’s promise to us.