And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. (Hebrews 11:32-37 ESV)
Many things in life can be so very different than the way they seem.
For me, depression seemed like an excuse for weak women…until I was depressed. For me, adultery seemed like something only a perverted harlot would sink low enough to engage in…until I was the perverted harlot. For me, cancer seemed so far away, if ever…until it was here and now. For me, faith seemed like a happy place to eat ice cream and never gain weight…until faith sent a sledge-hammer of suffering into my gut.
For the men and women listed in this passage above, things must have surely turned out differently than expected. When children of God are permitted to suffer, be rejected, and mistreated; to go destitute and afflicted, I believe, God is giving a gift to our world.
I believe He is spreading his love and grace to the world through those who suffer inside the unshakable faith that the Lord himself is better than life. I believe it is this raw faith that strips our heart of pretense and allows us to dance naked—laid bare—before our Creator.
Once upon a time my aim was to live simply; to survive the brutal blows this world hands out with a smile. My goal was once to live floating in my wade-pool of contentment; to go to church, have a loving husband, healthy children, a white picket fence, and a maybe a small dog, and above all, to never venture far outside of my religious box of experience in my small town underneath my small Southern-Baptist, sweet-tea steeple.
Once upon a time, I would have never written that last sentence for fear of what others might think. Once upon a time I would have never looked under the covers…never asked questions that actually stop people in their tracks…never do anything but shake my head yes and no like a small, female, soldier with no voice; doing whatever a ‘faceless committee’ deemed necessary for me to do and the ‘majority’ affirmed.
But God wanted me to look. He invited me to dig. He beckoned me to run naked through the streets of religion and scream, “Oh yeah! Well, take this!”
He wanted me to see faith as He sees—truly, deeply, unhinged and often unspoken of.
Prior to cancer I didn’t know what it was like to really be faithful…not the faithful like these people in this Hebrews verse.
My faith wasn’t naked and bare before God and others…it was clothed in hypocrisy-phony and small and timid.
I didn’t need God when I was happy. I didn’t God when we made a good living and the bills got paid on time each month. I didn’t need God when I delivered 2 healthy children with no problems. I didn’t need God when my husband came home every night still wanting me. I didn’t need God at church—I was happy there.
I believe that I am different now; more audacious now; more laid bare than ever before, for one reason– my faith is different.
Our trials, suffering, pain, and hardships prove to us a God of faithfulness despite our faith. If we turn toward God in our tough times, these seasons can work for us, not against us. They have the potential to create in us hearts that are truly satisfied in absolute surrender, instead of hearts that are clothed in doubt, fear, worry, anger, anxiety, envy, and bitterness.
Hearts that are faithful are hearts that sprint naked in surrender before the Lord.
Hearts that are truly changed and point toward God’s glory are not hearts that cower in the face of opinion and tradition, but hearts that leap for joy over the grit God has developed through trial in their life. These hearts are laid bare before God, welcoming whatever it is that will make us more like Jesus-if pain must be felt, so be it. If our pride or reputation must be ruined-so be it. If we never understand the ‘why’-so be it. If we never hear the, “I’m sorry-“so be it.
In my life I have come to one grace-grand conclusion…
Naked hearts are faithful hearts.
Kasey is a cancer survivor, a licensed professional counselor who has earned degrees in psychology, public speaking, counseling, and biblical studies. In 2014, Kasey was named ‘most inspiring woman of the year’ by Houston, TX and Buffalo, NY radio affiliates. She and her husband of 13 years, Justin, live in Bryan, Texas with their two children. She is the President of True Mission – a not for profit residential safe-home for minor girls rescued out of human trafficking within the US. She is also co-founder of Raven’s Way, Inc. – a not for profit online community of women who are learning to know and speak their life-story together (launching August 2015).
Kasey’s 2014 book and Bible Study: Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight, (Full Study Series Here) has been hailed as one of the most daring and vulnerable ‘cancer narratives,’ to hit Christian literature. You can find out more about her on her website: KaseyVanNorman.org or follow her on Twitter @KaseyVanNorman.