How would you define faith? What does it mean to have faith in something? Is there a difference between faith and trust? If you’re struggling to answer these questions, join the club! When we began putting our thoughts together for this article, we struggled too. That caught both of us by surprise. Faith seems like such a basic and simple foundation of life. We rely on things like the postal service every day without conscious thought. We trust that if we put a letter in the mail, it will be delivered to the address noted on the envelope. After enough repetition, we develop a belief that it’s reliable and dependable. Faith is built. However, aspects of faith are often misunderstood and debated. How someone defines faith depends largely on their life circumstances and personal background. There is faith that is part of salvation. There is also daily faith we exercise. For this article, we will focus on the walking out of faith, what it may look like in our lives, and how to increase our faith walk.
Faith During Crisis
Several years ago, Michelle was going through one of her life’s deepest crises. During that time, friends truly touched her with their kindness and tender prayers. Many well-meaning people would offer cheery encouragement like, “I know you’re walking through this with such faith. You’re walking strong with Jesus, aren’t you?” She’d try to muster up a slight smile. Thankfully, they didn’t press for details. She mostly stayed silent because, truthfully, everything in her wanted to cry out: “Well, yes, Jesus is present and walking strong, but me? Not so much. I’m flat out, face in the dirt, clinging to Jesus’ ankles. He’s walking, and I’m desperately, barely, hanging on. I’m with Him, but I’m dirty, exhausted and feeling every painful bump or rock on this road.” That process wasn’t a pretty, graceful or scenic walk in the valley with Jesus…but she knew He alone was her hope, and she would not let go!
We’ve all heard, “if you only have enough faith!” That makes the responsibility ours for manufacturing the faith to make this whole God/faith thing work. Sometimes, faith is just hanging on to hope, no matter what. For Michelle, her hope is named Jesus. Her faith is in Him. Her faith is not in faith but in a real, living and ever-present, all-powerful God. He guided her to the other side of that valley, and her remembrance of His Presence encourages her faith even today.
Often, our faith is walked out and grown in the ordinary. If you are a Christ-follower, I’m sure you can recall seasons in your life where you felt similarly to Michelle as she continually grasped for her faith in the midst of the struggle and uncertainty. The events over this past year have stretched all of us in some way. We have all had to make adjustments and trudge through new challenges. There is no “Faith Formula” that will guarantee everything turns out pretty, happy or healed. Not on this earth. That guarantee is reserved for the Eternal.
The Root of Faith
Recently, we read from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. He says, “Faith never knows where it is being led but it knows and loves the One Who is leading…The root of faith is knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest snares is the idea that God is sure to lead us to success. The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings but a life of walking and not fainting.” In other words, faith is lived out by ordinary people in the ordinary days in ordinary ways. Faith is for the mundane days. It’s also for the beautiful, magical, rewarding, “more than we could ever ask or imagine” days. Believe me, though, those days are the grand exceptions, not the rule.
So, when the world caves in on top of us, what does faith look like then? Oswald Chambers refers to difficulties we encounter as “clouds.” He explains that as we suffer through the clouds, God teaches us how to walk by faith. The process increases our awareness and legitimate need for faith in God. He says, “If there were no clouds, we should have no faith. The clouds are but the dust of our Father’s feet. The clouds are a sign that He is there. Faith must be tested because it can only be turned into a personal possession through conflict.” (pg. 153)
Leaning into “the Clouds”
Though struggles are essential for our faith to grow, how many of us turn to our tried and true escapes when troubles come? How we long to numb ourselves until the pain or stress goes away! We escape perhaps into movies, alcohol or busyness. We ache for distraction instead of leaning into “the clouds” to find true answers and relief. At times, you may feel like you’re drowning. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t leave you to fend for yourself as the waves crash and the clouds hover. He’s with you, lovingly shaping and teaching you with each breath. How do we grow our faith? By choice. Being present in the struggle…leaning into the pain. Purposefully, turn your heart to God. Remember, He hears your sighs; He sees your tears and knows your frustrations. Be real and be honest.
So what are some practical steps to grow or maintain your faith when “the clouds” appear in your life?
- Be mindful of God’s presence. Invite Him into the situation. You may not FEEL His presence (this is normal), but you can CHOOSE to acknowledge it. Remember past times God has been faithful and present.
- Be mindful of who you spend time with. Be wise in who you share your heart with. Be protective of your heart and mind during vulnerable times. You will need mostly to hear from God; don’t let the contrasting thoughts of others clutter your mind and spirit. Be gentle with yourself, your heart.
- DO spend time with a few people that will lift you up: spiritually, emotionally and in practical ways.
- Seek wise counsel when you’re stuck, discouraged, confused or needing direction. Surround yourself with positive and wise counsel.
- Be in God’s Word. The Psalms are full of emotions we can all connect with. All of the Bible goes together as God’s Love Letter. It’s a story of His faithfulness to us. Get familiar enough to recognize His voice in your life and especially when it’s NOT His voice.
- Take time to “sit,” think deeply and listen intently. Also, take time to rest, laugh and cry. Play music that lifts your thoughts to truth, hope and reminds you of His presence. Music touches our hearts, spirits and increases our faith. We have included a list of songs that many say have ministered to their faith.
Your daily faith will grow through this process and equip you with an eternal mindset. In the smoother times of life, continue to grow your faith through studying His Word, developing meaningful relationships with encouraging people and allowing yourself to be in situations that might require a stretch of your faith. We hope you will see each day as an opportunity to gather sweet gifts of faith for your life’s journey. Seize the day and accept the gifts of faith each one offers!