TV detective Remington Steele is about to attempt to disarm a bomb, and he is very obviously concerned that the outcome could be deadly. So, he asks Laura Holt, “Do you know any good prayers?” She answers, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
That scene from a favorite television series came to mind in Sunday School class on July 12 during our lesson from Job about “secondhand faith.”* Secondhand faith may be defined as knowing about faith (because of being around people who believe in God, and because of attending church), but not knowing the Lord very well through personal experience. If that’s the case, and we are in a crisis, and a friend who “knows a good prayer” isn’t handy, what confidence do we have?
In the 1949 film version of Little Women, Marmee tells her daughter Jo, “I pray to the Lord to send you as little sorrow as He sees fit.” I am tempted to add, “but enough to give you firsthand faith.” I.e., faith that is firmly established during sufficient experience of worry, fear, sorrow, or anger that proves to you beyond doubt how fully your Lord understands your heart, your hopes, and your hurts; and proves to you, through the comfort you receive, how greatly He loves you.
In Sunday School yesterday, our teacher Doug Arendall began by listing a number of thrill-seeking activities about which one might hear or read, but which the experience of would be much more powerful: bungee jumping, rock climbing, cliff diving, skydiving; and also some sights on solid ground that would cause us to marvel much more in person than in picture or video: the Taj Mahal; the Great Wall of China. I have experienced few, if any, of the things Doug listed on the board. However, today is the 43rd anniversary of my near-death experience at age 11; that event very surely helped to forge my “firsthand faith.” Read more about that here.
1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” NIV
*Difficult Times, Encouraging Words by James T. Draper (2009, CrossBooks)