September 28, 1993
Nearly every school has one or more students hobbling the halls on crutches because sport programs starting in September, after a summer without them, usually mean injuries. Some sprain their ankles or break bones; others tear ligaments or dislocate a knee joint. At first, many injured don’t mind the attention their injury receives; however, the novelty of being a cripple wears off quickly. No one likes using crutches for more than a day or two.
Perhaps that illustrates why those who disdain faith in God sometimes call it a “crutch.” No doubt they remember times when life’s problems loomed large and they were helpless. At those times, they may have cried out to God for help, such as when the tornado ripped through an industrial building in Edmonton a few years ago. One survivor told me workers clutched to whatever seemed solid and everyone was praying aloud. Even though most had not prayed before (at least publicly), they desperately grabbed for some “crutches” as the building came down around them.
Who can fault them? No one. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging to God our utter helplessness and crying out to Him. They did it, at least for that moment. But their memory of a time when faith was needed reminds them of their own weakness, and who wants to think about that, hence faith is only a crutch.
This temporary faith is relatively common. The first time I grabbed that crutch was when my favorite childhood pet went missing. After a tearful but unproductive search, I prayed God would help me find it. I even promised to believe in Him if the kitten showed up. It was a clear case of a temporary “limp” because I didn’t keep my promise, at least not at the time.
In contrast, the Bible tells us we are to “pray without ceasing” because we trust Him without ceasing. That means we call on Him daily, crisis or not, and even implies we need crutches a lot more than we think we do.
From this, I see faith has at least two dimensions. There is trust in God for the crisis situations only, which I have already called “temporary faith” and trust that is more permanent. It could be called “eternal faith.”
Eternal faith could be further defined as a trust that understands we have a permanent limp. (Those who accuse us of needing a crutch are right but not exactly.) Eternal faith realizes there is a crisis not directly related to falling down under the trials of this life. It is a large problem that looms ahead and all are helpless to solve it. This unseen calamity requires more from us than a now-and-then cry for help when we feel weak.
This unmanageable crisis is rooted in the past to another kind of Fall, unlike those that merely break bones and scrape knees. Romans 3 says it like this: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Because of that Fall, we are without strength to meet the inevitable, the crisis of God’s judgment.
Those with eternal faith know we limp. We cannot walk like we ought — the standard of measurement is Christ — and we cannot make our way into eternity with God after we die. Heaven is a place of perfection and we are spiritual cripples; heaven’s door slams shuts in our faces. But He opens it for a faith that goes beyond an occasional plea for help.
Our choice is simple, but not easy: do we limp on — with or without a sense of having fallen? Do we cry out only when we feel weak and ignore Him when we feel strong? Or do we step into a walk with Him — happy that He offered us a crutch?