A Simple Faith for a Challenging Life

By Mark Regis, Associate Priest

Posted on October 18, 2017

We live in disorienting times. Political tensions and rhetoric strain the limits of western democracy. Natural disasters as well as unprecedented and unpredictable human-made disasters create fear and uncertainty. In the mist of this, social media overhauls the way we communicate. The accelerating rate of change in culture continues and it seems anxiety is on the rise.

It can be very difficult to know how to process and address the swirling realities around us. Adaptive challenges are ones where the old methods of facing a new challenge have simply been outgrown; they can no longer engage present realities fully or effectively.

How do we follow Jesus in times like this? Can our faith truly grow and deepen, meeting the challenges we face and not simply devolve towards stress management? The answer is a resounding "Yes."

Although we can't always apply old ways of thinking to today's challenges, we can definitely learn from the past. We are not the first ones to live in challenging times. We have a rich and wide legacy of Christians whose personal discipleship deepened in adaptive challenge, who became more alive and effective in their faith not despite their trials but through their trials.

Brother Lawrence, who lived through the turbulent political upheavals of 17th Century Paris; Oswald Chambers who suffered a crippling depression and served soldiers in World War I; Julian of Norwich whose physical fragility and illness brought her to the door of death; Arseny who endured horrendous persecution in Soviet era Russia. In each case, the challenges that lay either outside or within them were far beyond the reach of religious formulas or personal spiritual strength. They were different people, in different circumstances, in different times in history, yet they experienced ongoing spiritual transformation and had incredible impacts on their communities, despite all odds.

What was their secret? No matter their personality type or gifts, cultural background or place in history, they all had a few simple traits in common:

  1. Community - Though sometimes they felt alone, they were never truly alone as they engaged real relationships that they nurtured and which in turn nurtured them.
  2. Service - The efforts would have seemed insignificant to many, but by participating in small acts of service, God was able to do big things in people's lives.
  3. Trust in God - Most importantly, they all learned to deliberately and prayerfully rely on the goodness and presence of God's Spirit as they engaged the real challenges before them.

What does this look like for us at St. Paul’s? Like Lawrence, Chambers, Julian, and Arseny, it’s important to keep things simple. Amid our busy schedules, it’s important to prioritize the practices that truly make a difference in living transforming lives.

  • Add an additional Sunday to your monthly pattern of Sunday worship and make the point of building a relationship and meeting new people. Consider joining a small group. Invite a friend or family member.
  • Find a way to serve. Perhaps greeting on a Sunday morning, or through our Outreach initiatives. There are many possibilities available.
  • Take small moments throughout the day to pause and thank God for His presence and ask for His help to follow Him. If (and when) you don't experience His presence, ask for even greater trust. Share your experiences with a fellow Jesus-follower and/or in a spiritual journal.