The story of blues guitar player Robert Johnson’s extraordinary encounter with the Devil at the crossroads of two country roads has for decades been the subject of folklore. Legend has it that the Devil made a deal with the guitarist that he would give him amazing talent that would make him famous in exchange for his soul. Young Robert Johnson is said to have taken the Devil’s offer. For those who believe in the legend, Robert Johnson’s short but tragic life can all be attributed to the decision he made at that crossroad.
The idea of this crossroad has taken on mythological proportions. It has since been passed from generation to generation. I, for one, have had a curious fascination that such place may exist but can offer no proof of its existence. On the other hand I am a very firm believer that we always come to personal crossroad moments that have life-altering impact based on the choices we make. The crossroad is the defining place. The place where decisions are made and choices become memorials to lives lived and left behind.
On a recent cold December night my family and I stumbled into a local café in our city. Our purpose was to have hot chocolate together and warm ourselves from skating in our outdoor ice rink. At the café a young folk man was performing on an acoustic guitar for the patrons that were in attendance. I have always felt drawn to performers and feel obligated to give them a moment of my time to show appreciation for their effort. On this night my family and I all sat down to listen to the young man play. For the next 45 minutes I sat as this young man with regret, sorrow and sometimes hope, expressed in music what I believe is the greatest crossroad we ever face…the decision to believe in a God who seems to choose silence over any other action.
Song after song offered brief glimpses into the crisis in faith this young man was having through his life. A life in which he openly spoke of his personal journey to believe in one of life’s great mysteries; Is there a God and does HE really care what happens to me or not?
May I confess to you something? I have always been intimidated by people who claim to have unshakable faith. When I hear people make such affirmative confessions of their faith I tend to grow quiet because as much as I believe in God, I also struggle with very real doubts.
I have been taught what to say when people question the existence of God. Like many the lessons on apologetics are ingrained in my Christian DNA. I know what the answers are supposed to be, but forgive me if sometimes they sound hollow in my own ears. How do I answer the one who asks if God is so loving than why does He allow so much pain and suffering to happen when I’m still trying to find the answer to that myself? How do I encourage people to have faith that He will take of their needs yet all the while my heart breaks at the poverty and hopelessness that I see surrounding the lives that I try to encourage? It’s at that moment when you find yourself standing at the crossroads of faith. Will you chose to believe in spite of what your feelings are telling you?
I will never be able to count the moments when my soul has felt so torn that I’ve cried out to the Lord in anger, hurt or frustration. Those lonely dark hours of the soul, when I’ve stood at the crossroads and the Devil has called out to me to stop fighting and stop trying to believe in a God who seems to prefer silence over any other action. Why He chooses a road that is so filled with doubt when faith is the essence of our belief is difficult to understand until we start to accept that it’s only in brokenness that we can ever truly enter the Kingdom of God.
Over the past few months I have found a surprising source of strength in an unusual place, the diaries of Mother Teresa. What an affirmation of what faith really is to read how she was ready to leave the dirty, poverty-stricken streets of Calcutta after her first year in the city. She had gone with the fervency of a crusader, yet after a year she was broken and wondering why God had deserted her in such a Godforsaken city. We now know the rest of her story and we celebrate her life, but I wonder how many people along the way knew of the struggle in this great woman of faith who, when confronted with the crossroad, had to choose between the lonely road of greatness or the easier road of comfort? The kicker is that even if they had known they couldn’t help. You see the crossroads is a place built for one. Only the one who has been called there can go.
It is the crossroad moments of crisis in faith that will define us. It defines us by our perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. It defines us by our ability to walk with grace under pressure. And most of all it defines us by our decision to choose to believe in the goodness of His plan despite the reality that our eyes tell us.
Our battle will always be to believe and keep our hope when we can’t see an answer or way out. When change is not happening, when prayers seem unanswered and our troubles only deepen is so often the moment when the difference between success and failure hangs in the balance. So today if you find yourself in a crisis of faith may I suggest you’re not alone? As much as the voice of Satan is there telling you it’s okay to give up, God is also there to help you stand.