Lindvall's metaphor of deserts in which wild animals lurk may not be quite so apt for those of us who are comfortable in deserts and mountains as for those who live their entire lives in cities (which may seem to use like far more fearsome wilderness), but his point is good. We go through circumstances in life that test our faith, even defy it, and we meet people who challenge our ability to believe. What are some of the challenges you have faced, and what was your relationship to God as you passed through them?
In the library at MVPC, there's a banner that says, "A Christian is a person who makes it easier for others to believe in God." Although I don't think any of us would consider that the whole definition of Christianity, is it even true? Do all good Christians make belief easier for others?
Theodicy is Christianity's attempt to explain "why bad things happen to good people," or more accurately, why bad things happen if God is good. Have you worked out, in your own relationship with God, an explanation?
Lindvall quotes the existentialist philosopher Kirkegaard as saying that every Christian has points in his journey where he feels utterly empty, desert times when his soul is hungry and thirsty for Spirit. Eugene Peterson has translated the beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit ..." as something like, "Blessed are those who are at the end of their ropes, for they are finally ready to turn to God." Do you think the deserts are necessary as opportunities to develop deeper faith, or perhaps to develop a deeper understanding of God? Or is Lindvall (and C.S. Lewis) right in saying that their usefulness fails to justify their existence?
And if that is true — if, for example, deeper faith or a deeper yearning for God is not a sufficient reason for hardship to exist — does that say that our relationship with God is not worth some prices we might be called upon to pay? (I am taking exception with the word "justify"; I agree that their usefulness does not explain their existence.)
What do you think of the statement of Terry Wait, that Christianity doesn't reduce suffering, just makes bearing it more possible?
How does this relate to the incarnation?
Hebrews 4:15 is a scripture that is often used at the funerals of people who have taken their own lives or who have made other choices (e.g. drug use) that have led to their deaths. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." Is that helpful to hear? Does it lead the listener to believe in salvation, or does it just sound like the speaker really does not sympathize?