Applied Faith

It is the absence of faith that produces despair in difficult situations. No glib Christian platitudes compensate the reality of faith insufficient for challenges afoot. When we recognize our faith is not enough for the despair of our days, what are our choices? At one day in my life, this was me. Do you find yourself there, as well?

Systems thinkers, the likes of which populate the world of science and technology, will be given a crossroad situation. I have certainly had mine. Thinking in technology terms, this is the same sort of mental "race condition" that shuts down intelligent, killer androids; a logic puzzle with no solution would be equally jamming, but the spiritual puzzles are harder on believers. You can walk away from a logic puzzle much more easily than you can a spiritual puzzle. Dismiss it as intractable and walk on from it. There is no connection to the puzzle, it is abstract. Spiritual puzzles are all about us, though, right?

If we are meant to address the spiritual challenges in our life on our own, then we are meant to solve them as well. Following that thread, what happens when we can't solve spiritual challenges? How do we persist? These challenges happen to us, and we are compelled to care about them because they involve things we perceive to be important in our lives. Nothing is instinctively telling us to walk away, because we are meant to be compassionate about the problem. Sure, when we have an opportunity to make a clear choice, we should act, but many times, it isn't up to us. But, that's what faith is. God has told us that He cares about certain things in our earthly lives, and each have the potential to become a component of a spiritual challenge.

Faith is trust in God, his power, and his love. If some challenge in your life is spiritual, and things hang in the balance, and you really, really want it to go a certain way, but you cannot see what to do, to fix things, to make it right, what do you do? Trust in God. It is a little like giving someone who works for you a task and trusting they will do it, with the notable exception that we, in fact, are given the role of serving God. The first time through, it is painful, and you want to look over their shoulder and meddle and micro-manage. Faith is saying: "it looks like things are going to fail here, because nothing I can do or think of doing or ask someone to do for me is working, but God has it covered, I can trust that." When it is this hard, walk away. When the problem is spiritually intractable from what you can do, that just means it really isn't your puzzle to solve.

The systems thinker believes he can analyze this completely. He thinks he knows every person involved in the system, and every aspect of their decisions. He has laid out every possible set of choices by himself and by others and does not identify a God-intended outcome where his choices will lead to it. Taking the converse approach, trying to trivialize the problem to a series of very small systems, down to individual decisions, he is just as paralyzed, because it winds up back into the overall system puzzle with a zero-sum advance. Make a choice, and trust God will work with it. Avoid the ones that feel diabolically satisfying, and you won't mess up the system. If you aren't sure which is which, think about one choice for a while, really mull it over, then look in the mirror. If there's some sneaky smirk or grin, that's probably not the right choice. Repeat for all choices.

The Engineer's Prayer for Faith

God, please grant me the wisdom to recognize, early, that I am not meant to solve all problems, and that attempts to do so are risky and may waste resources. Further, may I have the humility to know when a problem is out of scope for a single processor such as myself. You are the greatest problem-solver there is, and for all my skill as a lover of technology, please help me to love You enough to trust You to solve things for me. I'm a hard worker, both with technology and with life, but not working on this problem just means I don't have the right knowledge or skill set to address it; it doesn't mean I do not care. I'm just asking for help, and that humility is the sign of a good work attitude. For all the times I have really trusted and believed my system or program that I built all by myself would work, let me, at this difficult hour give up on this puzzle and let You crank at it for as long as it takes. I'm just trying too hard and getting nowhere on my own. I know You are going to have a better perspective on the problem, being omniscient and all, so it makes sense that this task is reassigned.