And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it hints of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him – the salvation of your own souls.1 Peter 1:8-9, Phillips Translation
To be very real, this kind of hope felt easier when I was new to faith. But to truly “trust him without being able to see him” only comes with experience. To grow this kind of trust, like a loving father teaching his daughter to walk, God had to let go of my hand.
As C.S. Lewis explains in his book Screwtape Letters, “He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such a trough period, much more than during the peak period, that it is growing in the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayer offered in the state of dryness are those which please him best… He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.”
As I sat down to write this yesterday morning, my world was interrupted by my cat’s urinary tract blockage. This is always an emergency and always expensive. But the funny/not funny thing is that I’ve been through this before, although with a different cat. It brought back memories and the realization of how much has changed. Between urinary tract blockages, there’s been the heartbreak of divorce, the adventures of an empty nest, new jobs, new friends and new homes. But I know that through the dry times, the sorrow, grief and loneliness, my faith muscles have grown.
Peter explains in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
During one of the worst periods of my life God placed me in the home of a woman from church I had met only once. In my misery, I slowly woke to the realization that this person’s spiritual superpower was hospitality. I learned she was a trained mentor and had many years of experience with mentoring women. To top it off, she had been divorced and had a story that gave her a special tenderness for what I was going through. Through my friend, God was ministering to me and keeping me under his wing. I could—and can—trust him.
I remember another time, repeating Psalm 23:6 to myself over and over, through gritted teeth…
SURELY goodness and mercy will follow me all of the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Surely goodness and mercy WILL follow me all of the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me ALL of the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
You get the picture.
My joy, more hard-won, feels different. It feels more visceral, more grounded—like earth instead of air.
Different versions of 1 Peter 1:8-9 express the joy in the Lord as “inexpressible,” “glorious,” “beyond words,” “unspeakable.” One version says it is for “the health of our souls.” As we grow and trust more, God gifts us with a faith that is healthy and real. That hope in Christ becomes bright and strong because it is based on himself. It’s knowing through experience that while we don’t see him now, he’s good and he’s love and one day we will see him face to face.
I know the bookends of two cats’ urinary tract blockage isn’t what you think of when you think, “Hey, let’s write a devotional.” But that’s what I’ve got. The experience was a pain in the neck (for me, and a pain somewhere else for my cat), and I don’t know that I handled it any better than the last time. There were tears, and a large veterinarian bill. But I’m much more aware of God’s presence in my life, and I have a real trust in his goodness.
Dear heavenly Father, whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Thank you, Lord, for this strong, healthy hope which is based not on my ability to love but on yours. Amen.
Charla Wilkerson lives in Fairfax, VA
I have 2 cats, Dill (Siamese) and Whitecat (the one with the expensive bladder). I also have Covid and had to take a short nap while trying to think of a 2nd interesting fact about myself. Does that count? If not, I’m the Communications Director for a church in DC.