This morning I was looking at a passage in Luke’s Gospel about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (its chapter 4 verses 1-13), and once again I asked my usual question of ‘why would you go into the wilderness and get tempted?’ (I’m coming to the conclusion that its for the same reason many of us retreat from the busyness of life by running, walking dogs, playing games or going into the wilderness: to find peace and space for our thoughts… so if you’re needing to do some thinking, go find some wilderness where the wind can blow through your mind).
But then I got to thinking about trusting and testing… you see, in this passage Jesus trusts God- for an overarching plan, for material things and for his place in the world. You can see that in the responses he gives when tempted.
In contrast, the tempter tries to test those things- questioning who Jesus is, what God’s doing, how best to live.
Now, I think that questioning is good- faith without questions isn’t faith, its just acceptance.
Hear me again- questions are good- they show that we’re thinking.
Was that clear enough? The strength of our faith is shown by how much we can stretch it, rather than by how much we leave it alone.
If my faith in God can’t cope with the knocks and tumbles of life, then its not much of a faith, nor much of a God. Fortunately, all the stuff i’ve gone through so far has increased my trust. I think at the heart of my thoughts lies the question of intention- if I question something that I trust, there is an implicit expectation that the object of my trust will come good (when I’m climbing I may ask ‘is this rope going to hold?’, but i do it whilst I’m in the process of climbing so I’m pretty much already committed and positive about the outcome!). If however I test something, often the implicit expectation is that I’m looking for weak spots or that I’ll push it until it breaks (when you test climbing rope you sometimes stretch or weight it until its irreversible damaged…there’s no way I’m going to use a rope thats been tested like that!). The thing is that someone has tested the ropes that we buy and use, and they’ve figured out a series of damaging and non-damaging tests so that I can go climbing with a rope that should hold. When we’re thinking about God we use all kinds of long theology words like the doctrine of whatever to express our thoughts, but basically those are our ‘non-destructive tests’- people have done some rigorous thinking about God and the world, with the hope that those who come after will find it easier to trust God as a result.
So- trusting and testing are both good and fine, but I need to remember to be wary of what I’m trying to achieve… life and faith are not about ‘how can I break this?’ but ‘how does this work?’