“Finding Faith in the Dark” – When the story of your life takes a turn you didn’t plan

I just finished reading Laurie Polich Short’s new book “Finding Faith in the Dark.” It was a quick, enjoyable, encouraging read. The premise of the book is this… many Christians live life quoting Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And from that we somehow draw the conclusion that “our plans” and “God’s plans” are one in the same, or at the very least, that everything is going to work out in amazing ways, “beyond what we can hope or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)

And it doesn’t. Eventually life collides with our faith, as our hopes and dreams are confronted by harsh reality. At least for most people. And as a career youth worker, this single point of pop-theology is the knock-out blow to the faith of many young adults who grow up in the church. We preach that God is good, we teach that we are his children, we more than infer that God the Father only wants to give good gifts to his children. But life rarely works that way. And when something bad eventually happens, it creates a crisis of faith that many young adults simply don’t survive and they walk away from the church, many times on God himself.

Laurie does a great job of chronicling story after story of people who’s lives didn’t go according to plan, and pain was introduced to their lives through no fault of their own. She also includes her own very personal journey through pain and disappointment to eventual resolution.

Her conclusion is this. Your plans are not his plans, your ways are not His ways and although life may not turn out the way your originally thought, God is faithful to journey with us through our pain. And the place He leads us is good, albeit not the way we would draw it up.

I would especially recommend this book to anyone you know who finds themselves somewhere in the journey of pain and disillusionment… which is all of us at some point, right?

Sorry it took so long for me to read this Laurie. Great job. It’s been a privilege to journey with you as a friend for the past 10 years of your story.

And there’s a lot more story still to be written…
“Stay in the Journey my friend.”




Pregnant for 2 yrs? You gotta be kidding me.

A few years ago I had a kid from one of my old youth groups track me down through social media. “Hey Mark, this is James, can I buy you a cup of coffee?” I remembered James well. His single mom had drug him to youth group and church every week when he was a teenager. He had a tear drop tattoo near his eye, and fashioned himself as a tough kid. He went with me to Mexico on a missions trip once. He played bass in our little band. I remember the day he brought a huge bag of weed down to the church during lunch because the school was doing locker searches next door. I helped him get rid of it. And no, we didn’t smoke it. 🙂 I hadn’t seen or heard from James for a dozen years. “Sure I’ll let you buy me a cup,” I told him. So, the very next morning he drove 5 hours so that he could talk with me. As we sat down, He began to share his story, “I was a punk a** kid in High School. I only came to youth group because I had to. I’ve been in and out of jail for the last 12 years. I have 3 kids from 2 ladies. I was addicted to drugs. But I want you to know that I’m clean now. I’m in AA. I’m playing on the worship team for 2 churches. And I love Jesus. I felt like I needed to track you down and tell you thanks. Thanks for loving on me when I was a punk, and didn’t want to hear it. Thanks for not giving up on me.”

We talked for a while more, and when we were finished, I gave him a big hug and he drove the 5 hrs home. I haven’t seen him since.

One of the blessings of being in Youth Ministry for over 25 yrs is that stuff like this happens to me every now and again. The problem is it doesn’t happen until years after the fact. Its easy as a youth worker to get frustrated because you don’t see the results you were hoping to see. You wanted to change the world, but nothing seems to change except you. You’re tired and disillusioned, and for good reason, it’s a tough job. The average youth worker only stays 3.9 yrs in this carreer field. And it’s too bad, because the chances are you’re doing a fantastic job, but you won’t know it for years. Galatians 6:9 comes to mind, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

The gestation period for a rabbit is 31 days, for a cat it’s 63 days. Horses are 330 days, and elephants are an unbelievable 616 days. Can you imagine being pregnant for almost 2 years before finally giving birth?

The gestation period of faith in teenagers is unpredictable and varies from kid to kid. Don’t give up. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean God isn’t doing something in their life.
Their faith may be germinating somewhere there under the surface.

Texas can’t secede and neither can you.

After the election, you and 125,000 disappointed others signed a petition to secede from the rest of the country. I get it. You are frustrated with the election. You want to live where people reflect your values. You are tired of the constant assault on your belief system. I live in Washington State, where gay marriage and pot smoking were just legalized by the populous. You’re a conservative Christian. I get it. I’m just sick of the conversation.

I wonder how Dietrich Bonhoeffer would respond to our society today. I wonder how Christ followers in Egypt or India would respond to our woeful missives. I’m tired of hearing from Christians that are myopic and egocentric. I just don’t think the conversation plays well with Christ followers in other parts of the world or in other epochs of Christian history. Suffering is part of being a Christ follower. Not that I love suffering, or look for it, but it’s usually part of the deal.

So why choose suffering when we don’t have to?
Suffering produces a strong faith.

Why aren’t we more missional as Christ followers today? It’s as if we’ve forgotten what we’re here for. We are to be light in the darkness. Have you ever been in a cave? A place where it was so dark that when you held your hand in front of your face you could not see it? Even the smallest light shines brightly in the darkest places. In fact, one could argue that a light in a well lit area remains unseen.

Have we bought into the lie that we are here to create Heaven here on earth? Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Said another way, disappointment comes from unrealistic expectations. Did Jesus come so that we could be comfortable? Did Jesus die so that we could create our own little slice of heaven here on earth? Were we promised a life from pain and conflict where we live in idyllic subdivisions that reek of Stepford?

Has our #1 value become the “pursuit of happiness?”
Have we become mere acquaintances of Christ instead of disciples?

You can move to the woods in Idaho or the suburbs of Dallas but sin and pain will still find you there. It is a misnomer to think that you can create a little utopia for you and your family anywhere on earth. And if you could, what kind of faith would develop in your life and that of your children? What is life without challenge? What is faith without challenge? It’s the wind that creates strong roots. Faith that is not challenged remains inert. Inactive. Look at the stories of faith that we admire and teach to our children… Joseph, Daniel, Peter; people who’s faith rose above their circumstances. And our heroes of faith from recent days: Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliot. Would we have seen their unquenchable faith in happier settings?

Your faith does not need to be coddled. On the contrary, faith thrives in hard places. In fact, one could argue that faith’s light needs the dark to be seen.

Embrace the challenge. You are stronger than you think.
Your faith will thank you.

There may be good reasons to move to Texas or the mountains of Idaho: your health, the weather, a weapons friendly environment… But finding a safe place for your families’ faith isn’t one of them.


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