My wife and I awoke once more to another pummeling wave of grief and sorrow crashing through our minds, “Oh God, why . . . why . . . why?” Though it had already been several weeks, we still could not make sense of the premature death of our baby girl, Isabella. Every medical report was positive all the way up to week 21, then at a routine sonogram the devastating news was still echoing in our minds—“I’m sorry . . . I can’t find a heartbeat.”
Our Search for Answers
Ten years ago on that dark December day, our painful journey through grief had only just begun. Over the next two years we would endure another similar stillborn pregnancy and a final miscarriage necessitating a hysterectomy for my wife at only 32 years old. And for me, a PhD student in theology writing my dissertation on the nature of faith . . . I had no answers. We kept thinking if only we could understand why these losses occurred our suffering would subside. We weren’t struggling with a loss of faith but a loss of answers.
Then one day, all of this changed as I was praying. Despite our present circumstances, I began to reflect on God’s faithfulness in years past, not only towards us but our families—extended and near. In that moment, I recognized that my understanding of God’s faithfulness was more of a knowing from the heart than the head. I knew God was faithful because of my experience of his faithfulness. Right then I understood that Christian faith consisted of different kinds of knowing—rational and nonrational (though not irrational). Yes, that day I knew that “answers” were not the answer to our grief.
Knowledge of the Heart
This nonrational aspect of faith is grounded in what cognitive sciences explain as “affective” knowledge. More popularly we call it a knowing in our guts or conviction in our hearts. Such heart knowledge is literally mediated to us through the various emotions and feelings we encounter in our faith relationship with Christ. Though such knowledge is often the consequence of deeply impacting emotional experiences, it’s not reduced to mere emotions or feelings.
So what exactly does all this mean? It means that through our experiences of God—the ebbing and flowing of our emotions and feelings—we can actually strengthen our faith. As we learn to surrender our hearts to God, we’ll come to recognize his still small voice whispering through the windy weather of our emotions, “I am enough.” Next week we continue our theme of emotions by discussing their influence on behavior and impact on faith.
What Do You Think?
Can you identify with this notion of “gut” knowledge? If so, how do you think it might be important for healthy Christian faith?
♦ To see the poem this post is based on, click here.