On Faith and Cannonballs

“There are some things that affect us so deeply that move us so emotionally that it makes objective rational organizing of thought around a topic impossible.” This was the honest and forthright opening to John Ray’s sermon on faith and pain. He was preaching a passage from Jesus’ teachings on faith, and confessed his struggle with the topic.

He expounded, said that while his daughter lay fighting for her life in the hospital after a tragic accident, a well-meaning woman tried to prop up John’s faith. “If you only have faith like a mustard seed,” she said, “all things are possible.”

Maybe all things are possible with faith, but these words don’t do a hill of bean’s worth of good to a man in the midst of trauma. These are the words that feel less like comfort and more like millstones, as if the entirety of outcomes rests on mustering up of some sort of religious fervor.

John’s daughter would pass later that day, and John expounded on the near passing of his faith, too. He said with all candor, “yes, this passage has been used to deeply hurt me, and it’s not the passages fault.” Then, he fleshed out faith, spoke of the invisible hand that gives us the gift. And it was good.

I’m telling you this story for no purpose other than asking you to listen to his sermon. You can find it here. (For the iTunes download, click this link.)

I’ve been though a similar experience, have had others claim that my son’s recovery from a mystery illness hinged on my faith. Titus pulled through, though, and this begs the following question: what does that say of my faith in contrast to John’s faith? Nothing.

In honor of yesterday’s sermon, and as a reminder to us all, I’m reposting Psalm #11 from my archives.


Psalm #11 (Mustard Seeds:Cannonballs)


If addiction to grief were a thing,
such would be the carnal cravings
of those with the most authentic lives.
Children with velvet blankets,
we might rub the corners first. Then
we’d pull the edges over the eyes,
shroud ourselves in night, usher in
the dreams of the murder of crows,
the legion of doubt,
or the garden of Eden,
whichever the night might first give.

Lord have mercy.


If tomorrow’s healings rest in today’s faith
are we to bear the eternal fever?
The thing meant for hope–
the smallest seed of faith–
becomes a cannonball to be dodged
as if such a thing were possible.
If faith is a suspension of the will,
the laws of nature, of nuclear hatred,
fear, and the ashes of doubt
that cover every potential promise,
is such a thing possible?
We, our own little gods, have always
turned mustard seeds into cannonballs.

Christ have mercy.


There was a man, said Theophilus’ friend,
with demons aplenty and he lived
among the graves by the sea, among the pigs
on the overlook of the foamy unpredictable.
He was without his wits, and without wits
can there be a mustering of any worthy faith?
His demons were Legion, the usurpers of will,
and they were as obstinate as the tide, once,
but now no longer.

Only say the word and we shall be healed

Theophilus, the demoniac and I know this to be true:
every gentle hope of peace passes first through
addiction; then, through a Word; then through life
and into death. From sea to glassy sea, it moves,
plunging headlong into the sparkling forever.

Lord Have mercy.

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  • Jerry

    This cynical mind sees the lady’s encouragement as a verse slinging wild west persona. I am sure we have all experienced this type of encouragement on occasion and have put it in our souls pocket to retrieve it when our frustration at the human over intentions of the Body of Christ (albeit meant for good), like bullet points, cause us to bleed out faith-wise and detach from the “Body.” I wonder if Jesus weeps at all persons involved, and if grace can redeem it all.
    “Addiction to grief… The most carnal cravings of the authentic life.”
    Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
    Sometimes we need to come close with no words and be present.

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  • Josh Freeman

    On one end of the spectrum we have name-it-n-claim-it wish-fulfillment theology, and on the other we have practical agnosticism. I don’t believe either of those are correct, but man! this is a hard thing.

  • pastordt

    Amen, my brother. This is one of the toughest points in our Jesus walk, I think. Remembering that, although faith is a good thing and thing that needs to be growing, it has no power – in and of itself – to bring healing. God alone heals – and sometimes we wonder why. And sometimes we wonder why not. It ain’t up to us. Rats.