Is Faith in God a Crutch for Weak People?

It takes incredible strength to do these things—to stand in the face of death and claim victory.

Is faith in God a crutch for weak people?

The short answer: Of course it is. 

For anyone experiencing a moment of weakness, struggle, or sorrow, knowing that there is a God who knows them, cares for them, and is looking out for them is an incredible “crutch,” an incredible support to lean on.

And who among us doesn’t feel weak from time to time and in need of something to lean on? So, sure, faith in God is a wonderful support to lean on when we are weak. Except when it’s not.

And here’s where this question posed by non- or not-yet-believers—“Is faith in God a crutch for weak people?”—doesn’t acknowledge the challenges of faith, or of following Jesus, or of believing in a good God when bad things happen. Because, as believers know, it’s not like faith is always easy, or always something to lean on, or always a source of great answers.

I work on a college campus. Every death in our community is a tragedy. If it’s a student, the tragedy is obvious, but even when it’s an adult who serves on our faculty or staff, it’s a tragic loss because that person was in the prime of life, working, serving, loving—and is now gone. When faced with losses like these, faith in God may be a support to lean on, but just as often our belief in a good and loving God is challenged to the point of breaking. When we look at a 20-year-old lying in a casket, we wonder: How can a good God allow this? How can I/we believe in a God who let this happen?

Those are moments when our faith in God feels less like a crutch we can lean on and more like a burden we bear. We ask the ancient questions about evil and suffering and faith and hope. We stand by a grave in disbelief. Our hearts literally ache with loss.

At those times, our faith isn’t a crutch. A crutch just won’t do it. In those seasons, our faith is about the cross. It’s about knowing that our God loved us so much that he faced death itself—and won. It’s about singing “no guilt in life, no fear in death—this is the power of Christ in me” as tears stream down our faces. It’s about standing at the grave and saying together, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” It’s about reciting, one more time, that we “belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to [our] faithful Savior, Jesus Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).

It takes incredible strength to do these things—to stand in the face of death and claim victory. To bury a child and continue to trust God. To weave grief into the rest of your life even as you celebrate baptisms, weddings, and holidays. These are not the actions of the weak. These are the actions of the strong. They may not feel strong. We may not feel strong. We may feel more like we are barely holding on. But in those moments, our faith is not in our strength, but in our God who has said that in our weakness, God is strong. We don’t lean on a crutch. We don’t lean on our faith. We lean on our God. “Till he returns or calls me home—here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.” 

About the Author

Mary Hulst is chaplain for Calvin College and teaches at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Comments

       Thanks, Mary, for your insight as to when God is or isn’t a crutch in the Christian’s life.  I think you may be misunderstanding the non Christian point of view as to God being a crutch.  The question for the non Christian is not whether a person is weak or not and in need of support or a crutch. I think the question for the non Christian is whether God is a substantive and tangible support or simply an emotional and subjective support?  Is the support and encouragement that the Christian feels only conjured up from within the person?
      The psychological support that the non Christian is likely skeptical of is likened to that of an invisible person or friend who is not real or substantive.  Children or adults having invisible friends often find a significant source of strength in such friendship.  But the existence of such a friend is based on faith, believing in that which is not seen as though this invisible person is real (much like Christianity).  Such a friend is not going to help pay the bills, sit with you, prepare a meal, or go to court with you.  The support is only psychological or imaginary.  Parents and psychologists generally try to discourage such invisible friendships because, in the end, they are more harmful than helpful.  In the mind of the non Christian, the support that the Christian claims is more like an invisible friend.  It is more a matter of superstition than being actual.  And I suppose that all of us would acknowledge that superstition is a tool that caters to the weak, knock on wood.
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