Thursday, April 17, 2008

Faith in Free Fall

While on this journey that, by all expectations, should have landed me in hospice care by now, I have wrestled with the quality and nature of faith. For me it has been exhilarating and rejuvenating to discover once more the simplicity and power of child-like faith, the kind of faith that transformed my life in the first place.

As I have studied examples of faith in scripture, listened to many of you who have encouraged me to trust and persevere, and engaged my mind and spirit in the exercise of faith in the face of improbable odds, I have come to some conclusions I would like to share.

The first and foremost is that my faith needs to be directed toward a Person, not a phenomenon. In the famous “mountain-moving” passage, Jesus’ first instruction to His disciples is to “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22) My faith is to be directed not at moving the mountain, not at my healing, but at my Helper – the One who made me, loved me and sacrificed His own life to redeem me.

I have also noticed that there appears to be at least four sorts of faith:
· Filtered Faith – i.e., faith that must first pass through some grid that I create. If this can be said to be faith at all, it is the kind with strings attached. I will trust God only if He behaves in a certain way or meets certain expectations I have. Sometimes I am barely aware of creating a filter through which my faith must pass, as when I try to put God in a box, ensuring that He will not demand too much from me, make me uncomfortable, or disturb my sense of justice or rightness. The rich young ruler was interested in following Jesus until it meant giving up his riches. (Luke 18:18-23) I need to examine what filters I have interposed in the process of trusting God. I need to let God be God.

· Faltering Faith – i.e., that kind of faith that begins in earnest but is weakened by doubt, misgivings, or disbelief. The source of my doubt is usually circumstances that seem to contradict that for which I have trusted God, or it may originate from the tug of “reason”. The man whose son was exorcised and cured of seizures struggled in this way, saying “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:17-27) When my faith is thus weakened, I need to recognize the source of my doubts, refocus my confidence in the certainty of His words, and take courage in the manifest power of what He has already accomplished through His miraculous life, death, and resurrection.

· Forced Faith – i.e., the kind of faith that borders on presumption. Based on the premise that true faith must operate as if that for which I am trusting God has already (and actually) happened, I must never acknowledge any evidence to the contrary. This kind of faith assumes that God has accomplished that which He promised in the here and now and in a manner that I perceive most appropriate. Moses allowed himself this kind of faith when he struck the rock in the wilderness, with grave consequences to him personally. (Numbers 20:7-12) Rather I need to learn to rest in the quiet confidence that God will accomplish what He has promised in His time and in His way.

· Free-Falling Faith – this is the faith of a child falling confidently into the strong arms of her father. This is the kind of faith that, in spite of that which is uncertain, rests secure in the certainty of the loving intent of an all-powerful Heavenly Father. This is the quality of faith exemplified in Hebrews 11 in which many experienced great victory but others, “having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39) Ultimately, faith is not about getting something I need or desire, but rather about growing in a relationship with the One who knows my end from the beginning.

I’m still learning how to live this way and grateful for each day. I’m learning how marvelous His love is and how earnestly He desires to have an intimate relationship with each one of us.

Thanks for adding your faith to mine,
PS – We leave this weekend to return to Charlottesville for an all-day session of testing and scanning on Monday, April 21, to assess the current status of the melanoma. I am looking forward to delivering a good report on our return!


  1. Dan,

    I am continually awed by you. My prayers are with you and your beautiful family.

    In His love,


  2. Dan,
    I am struggling with what God wants from me right now. In taking care of my mother (who was hospitalized this week with dehydration and diabetic shock because she's not eating and drinking), and which is much like taking care of an arguing 4 year old at times; my father (who has fallen twice in the last 2 weeks at age 82 but is still trying to care for my mom); my own family; and work full time, I wonder what I've done to deserve this much stress (which has not let up over the past 18 months or so). It reminds me of Linda's comment about needing challenges to figure out what God wants us to be. But in the midst of those challenges, it is difficult. John & I are still in the midst of reading The Shack and it is helping in that respect. I am trying to get closer to God in relationship. Maybe many tears later that will happen. :)
    Praying for you and Linda and hoping for great reports next week.

  3. Dan, Bill Hunter here. This week in my VMI Bible study we considered the meaning of worship. I thihk I would call your writings worship. Thanks for pointing the way!

  4. Dr C, you and Linda constantly amaze me. Never think you are not wrapped in loving prayers and constant caring because of the number of people you have blessed and nurtured during your medical practice, but, more importantly, during this journey you have been on. I hold you in my prayers and my heart and believe God will deliver you through this ordeal. I miss you and think of you many times during the day. I thank you and thank God for you!

  5. hey Dan, i just got back from Richmond and i was very relieved to see a new blog entry from you. Your last entry was pretty solemn. i was very concerned, we prayed continualy. i am so relieved that you regained your strength and have that child-like faith attitude. i know it's called child-like but to me i feel it takes a mature and wise person to let themselves succumb to that superior force of Christ Jesus. i have learned from your words on again how to succumb to Christ. this is my 2nd trip to Richmond where i learned how to continualy praise God, and let him give me that peace. this time the peace was different than last week but it was there, and then i come home and realize that your sharing is about different kinds of faith. God i love Jesus. i pray your traveling and comfort will be eased and i await to hear from you soon.
    john quain & family

  6. Actually, i meant to say that your traveling will be eased and your comfort increased! sorry, also i forgot to say give my continual respect to your amazing wife Linda.


  7. Dan and Linda, We're jogging with you tomorrow and helping to hold you up. Your words on free-falling faith were made for us during this season of life. Love you, Dick and Vicki