Kevin’s Conversations: Restless Faith
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running.
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.”
I recently heard Bono refer to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as a “gospel song with a restless spirit”.
Along with being one of the most accomplished and recognizable rock bands in the history of the genre, U2 has long been known for its use of spiritual imagery and sometimes outright Christian lyrics. There is often much curiosity as to the faith and religiosity of the group. While the band would never fit into the category of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), there is still the impetus by some to classify them as a “Christian” band. Bono has been quite outspoken about his faith, especially in more recent years, while other band members are more reserved in what they share about whatever beliefs they do or don’t have. In many ways they remain an enigma when it comes to their “Christianity”.
This is frustrating to some of us. We want everything to be neat and tidy when it comes to the faith. You’re either in or out. You’re either a Christian individual/band/author/etc. or a secular one. You’re an Evangelical or Reformed or Lutheran or Catholic or Orthodox or etc., etc., or else you’re not a believer. And for some of us, if someone claims membership in one of the formerly mentioned categories of faith, that just might actually place them in the latter category of unbeliever.
Beyond the categories, we also want everything to be nice and neat in the spoken faith and actions of someone who has a professed faith. While we don’t expect everything to be perfect, we do expect that once someone gets saved or “rededicates” their life or joins the Evangelical/Lutheran/Anglican/etc. Church that they have found what they’re “looking for”. They shouldn’t be saying they believe in Jesus on one hand and remaining on some kind of unsettled search on the other. After all, shouldn’t faith in the work and person of Jesus Christ be the ultimate answer and destination and fulfillment of our needs and yearnings?
Now, of course, in reality nobody can be “sort of” a Christian. Everyone is either truly in the faith or not – there is no middle ground. Everyone is either in or out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. However, there is only One who is the owner of that book and knows all the names present or missing. For the rest of us, it can be a bit messier than we want in trying to “know” the truth about everybody else in regards to their faith and spiritual state. We don’t want somebody professing a faith in Christ and then seemingly remaining in a restless state. Even if we may all have our moments of doubt or uncertainty about matters of the faith, we don’t like it when somebody is regularly questioning the status quo or frequently looking for something more. These things just don’t fit nicely into our boxes. If someone is really saved, shouldn’t they be more settled?
It is wonderful when someone comes to faith in Christ and they find true contentment. It is great when someone joins a church and they feel like they have found a home and no longer struggle with restlessness or anxieties within their faith. I would hope that each and every believer would be able to experience such a state. Yet for some professed believers, it would appear they struggle to reach such a state and some seemingly never get there this side of eternity. Some may have gone through harrowing circumstances in their lives that make it difficult to come to such a peaceful standing. Others may not have had any specifically terrible traumatic experiences, yet a restlessness gnaws at their soul. I do not claim to be able to precisely describe and diagnose each such situation. But for those who struggle to reach that state of comfort and contentment, does that make them lesser Christians? Does that make them less genuine? Does that possibly put them out of the faith all together?
I certainly don’t want to play God here and act like I know all the answers and can explain it all. But I do tend to think that God has a purpose for that restlessness that resides with some believers. And that it doesn’t automatically make them lesser Christians in any sense. Maybe it is a tool that God sometimes uses to keep people searching after Him. Maybe He sometimes uses it to spur them into action. Maybe Bono wouldn’t have advocated so greatly for the poor and needy in this world if he didn’t have that restlessness. I don’t know these things, it is just speculation. But I think they are things worthy of consideration.
I recently heard a popular Evangelical preacher exhorting people to search their Bible when they have questions. Certainly good advice and a wise thing to do. But he then went on to say that whenever he has had a question about anything, he has never not found the answer in the Bible when he went looking for it. In fact, many times it has been quite simple to do, he said.
I called bull.
Tell that to the parents who lost their child to a grisly fight with cancer. Tell that to the one who lost a loved one to a senseless murder or terrorist attack. Tell that to someone who suffers with a severe and incurable physical or mental or psychological condition. Many of them are not going to find their answers in the Bible of why they have had to experience such a terrible matter. Yes, they may find comfort and peace and even contentment. But answers to why God has allowed such a horrible thing to happen? I would doubt many ever receive direct answers to such when searching the Word. Things just aren’t as nice and neat and simple as the big popular preacher wants to tell you that they are and that we want to believe them to be.
And so, a group Like U2 defies the expectations of many of us as to what we expect Christians to be. Even for those who know substantially more about the band than I do, in some matters there probably would be honest acknowledgment of perplexity. And yes, there are many things that U2 has said and done that could be worthy of criticism. They have been far from perfect in their actions or in some of their stated or veiled theologies….. just like the rest of us. But I don’t know if their restlessness is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe God has a purpose for Bono and the rest feeling like they “still haven’t found what they’re looking for”.
But this really isn’t about U2. They are just the popular example. Some of us have found a deep contentment in our faith and/or church. Others of us have that restless spirit with varying degrees of intensity for varying lengths of time. All of us are hypocrites from time to time when contrasting what we say Christians should do versus how we actually act. And so it isn’t always so nice and neat, even for those of us who are content. Why should we expect differently from those who are a bit more unsettled?
No matter what our state, we don’t always do all the right things or always rightly represent Christ or have all the answers (nor does God always reveal all the answers to us). Not everything within Christianity is always as befitting as we sometimes think it should be. And maybe that’s not always a bad thing. Whatever our lot in life, may God bless us and keep us.