Life at the Intersection

Choosing the right direction in a crisis of faith

by Rose McCormick Brandon

Past generations referred to it as “a dark night of the soul.” Christians who have experienced a period of spiritual darkness say they felt bewildered and abandoned, as if everyone but them had received an invitation to a party. Prayers went unanswered. God seemed far away, uninterested. They searched their souls for reasons and confessed their sins, but the darkness remained. A faith crisis may begin with loss, disappointment, sickness, betrayal—any painful event. Or it may arrive unattached to any particular circumstance.

junjul_2012_300_intersectionA faith crisis is like an intersection that hasn’t been mapped for GPS. We’re cruising along, following the guiding voice, confident of our destination. Night falls. We come to an unfamiliar crossroad. The voice stops.

Ernie Nunn arrived at the intersection of faith crisis after a comment he made was misinterpreted. A minor misunderstanding ballooned into a major disagreement. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Ernie became bitter and angry. Time didn’t heal his wounds or assuage his anger. For almost 37 years he raged—first against his church, then his wife, and ultimately, his Saviour. In his words, “First came the misunderstanding, then came the misery.”1

From the intersection of faith crisis, Ernie chose to turn left, onto the road marked “Abandon God.” When a Christian is hurt and angry, the temptation to discard faith—like a piece of clothing that no longer fits—is incredibly strong. God has abandoned us. We’ll abandon Him. This diabolical reasoning makes sense to a soul in crisis.

The road straight ahead at the intersection of faith crisis is marked “Stubbornness.” Those who take this route bulldoze forward, clutching their wrong perceptions of God. They “pretend” the crisis out of existence. Their personal relationship with Jesus deteriorates into an outward appearance of holiness. This road seems like the right choice but, because of its tolerance for pride, is actually the most dangerous. It leads to the “lukewarmness” that Jesus threatened to spew from His mouth (Revelation 3:16). Those who choose this way walk away from their faith crisis unchanged, without making a hot or cold decision.

The one remaining road requires a sharp right turn. The sign reads: “Way of Submission.” Our initial steps down this road may seem to be taking us in the wrong direction. After the death of his wife, Joy, C. S. Lewis experienced a dark period. He submitted his loneliness and pain to God, but his frustration is evident in these words: “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” 2 God’s silence perplexes. But it’s often part of a faith crisis.

The best lessons, the ones that bring permanent change, are learned on the unlit, rough road of submission. During a personal dark time, I knelt by my bedside, determined to stay there until God spoke. He didn’t. After an hour, I rose and stood by the window, staring into the night-shrouded backyard. Gloomy. In a previous crisis, like Ernie, I chose to abandon God. No crisis, no matter how dark, could propel me in that direction again. There’s no life there. With a heavy heart, I turned onto the Way of Submission. Submitting is agony. It’s much nicer when God obeys our demands. That night I sent up a prayer—perhaps more like a declaration—that went something like this:

“Lord, if You never answer another prayer for me, I want You to know that what You’ve done for me so far is more than I expected. And if that’s all there is, it’s enough. If I never sense Your presence again, I’ll still know You’re with me. I made a lifetime commitment to You and, with Your help, I’ll keep it.”

I didn’t feel any better after that prayer, but it was transforming nonetheless. Since then, I have striven to accept God for who He is—One who doesn’t operate on my schedule or according to my needs. I had been a temperamental, demanding God follower. That childishness had to end. A faith crisis is meant to change us. By nature, we resist change.

Almost four decades after the incident that led Ernie Nunn to forsake his faith, Jesus spoke to him and asked him to surrender his grudges, hatred and anger to Him. Since that day, Ernie has experienced healing in his marriage, his relationships with other believers, and his family. He and his wife, Sandra, speak frequently about Ernie’s miracle and their newfound love for each other. Their new life is a result of Ernie’s decision to take the way of submission.

Over the course of a lifetime, it’s not unusual for a Christian to experience several dark nights of the soul. God works in the darkness as well as the light. He sometimes uses adverse circumstances to guide us to meaningful change. How we arrive at a faith crisis intersection is not as important as the direction we choose to travel from there.

Rose McCormick Brandon lives in Caledonia, ON, with husband Doug. They have three adult children and two grandchildren. Contact her at rosembrandon@yahoo.ca or visit her faith blog, Listening to my Hair Grow, at rosemccormickbrandon.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the June/July 2012 issue of testimony, the monthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2012 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

 1. Ernest and Sandra Nunn, Second Chance to Dance (Simcoe: self-published, 2011), 9.

 2. C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (London: Faber and Faber, 1961), 9.

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