This post is a continuation of my series on feedback to my post, Ideas in Christianity Putting Some People’s Minds in a Tailspin!. Essentially, my post was about how certain ideas in evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity put some Christians’ minds in a tailspin, whereas other Christians are able to view the texts positively, to interpret them in a common-sense manner (which may or may not be faithful to the text’s meaning) that is conducive to a healthy attitude, or to ignore them altogether. Something that I should make clear is that the ideas I discussed are “in” evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. That does not mean that all evangelicals or fundamentalists hold them, but rather that there are elements of evangelicalism and fundamentalism that do.
An evangelical friend of mine commented: “I agree with you…that it is interesting how some people hear words of condemnation in the very same Scriptures in which some others hear words of hope. For example, the idea that faith is needed for healing drives some people bonkers because they hear it as a condemnation that they don’t have enough faith. I hear it as an encouragement, though, because it tells me that healing is possible and that faith is worth seeking. I never worry about not having enough of it, I just ask for more.”
This is a good point, and it leads me to ask certain questions. Should I have faith that God will heal, or merely that God can heal? And if I have faith that God will heal, what if he doesn’t? Am I at fault for not having faith?
I used to listen to Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now a lot, and I still do, on occasion. I remember him saying that we should expect the favor of God each day—that God will do us favors, that God will give us a good parking space, etc. But Joel knew that people would ask: What if I expect God to do favors, and he doesn’t? Joel reversed the question: What if I expect God to do favors, and he does? Joel said that, even if we don’t get the nearby parking place that we want, we should still be thanking and praising God as we walk—since we are healthy. Plus, Joel noted that it’s better to live in hope than in despair, even if we don’t get what we want.
I have talked about this topic before on this blog. I’ve said that I want to live in hope, but I also don’t want my expectations to be let down, for I see merit in the platitude that resentments are frustrated expectations. Even yesterday, in my post on Psalm 43, I talked about drawing closer to God in the midst of calamity, but also hoping that God will remove the calamity. I try to find a middle ground between optimism and despair. I don’t want my optimism to be cocky, for having humility makes me realize that I am not “more special” than anyone else and thus I need to do the work that is necessary for me to succeed; plus, humility can make me a team-player who is open to other people’s ideas, and that is important. But I also don’t want a despair that cripples me from even trying. I try to remind myself that, even if I have made mistakes, there is still hope that I will have a future. Perhaps I’d have the same sort of attitude if I were sick and desired healing. I don’t know.
So I think my evangelical friend is on to something: be encouraged to have faith, but don’t put yourself down if things don’t turn out as you expected.