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Testing our faith

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Psalm 40. 2

There is something gritty and real about the Bible. People make mistakes, things go wrong, even the heroes have clay feet! Yet, through it all, runs the thread of redemption, that despite the mess and the tragedy, everything is coming together and that it's going to work out in the end. At the end of the road stands the risen Jesus, his arms stretched out to welcome us. All the while he is alongside us too: guiding, helping, carrying even.

That doesn't necessarily make it easier when we find ourselves in the firing line, when our own lives fall apart, or when we are struck by crushing disappointment. We are faced with a stark choice: give up or dig deep? Sometimes people actually feel the better for the experience, once they are safely through it. They may be chastened - but wiser, stronger, firmer in their faith.

Clichés like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "you have to lose something before you appreciate its value" have a ring of truth. It is often through the school of hard knocks that the naive assumptions in which we were raised become the heart-felt convictions upon which we base our lives. But still, it doesn't make the actual process of going through the mill any more palatable.

And it's not all about us or about our relationship with God. One of the hardest things to deal with may be when bad things happen to those we love. If they are spared, that experience may prompt us to re-evaluate what endears them to us: do we value others in so far as they fulfil our expectations, or simply for who they are. And, should the worst happen, shall we still trust God - who promises to be with us, who claims to want the best for us, in whose hands is life itself? That is surely the ultimate test of faith...

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