We have some interesting ideas about what faith really is. And by 'interesting,' I mean...well.... At its core, faith doesn't seem so hard. It's just believing in God, right? It's just choosing to take Him at His Word.
But here's a question for you: when do you believe in God?
In asking that question, I'm not asking under what circumstances you believe in God, although that's probably a fair question, too. What I'm asking is at what point in your circumstances you believe in God. When something goes wrong, do you trust Him right away? Do you instantly recall His Word and embrace His promise? Is belief your default?
And if it's not, do you consider yourself a person of faith?
I think we beat ourselves up over this far too often. We think that when bad things happen, if our first thought is not to believe in God - wholly - then there's clearly something wrong with our faith. We're supposed to be people who trust Him first. Who believe in Him first.
Or are we?
The danger of being a people who immediately turn to God is that it's too easy to become a blind people. We can shut our eyes to the very real troubles of living in this world and become disconnected from our own lives. You know people like this. You know people who never seem to understand how life really feels because they're too busy spouting buzzwords about faith and trust and God. They 'believe' in God so much that they fail to remember what they're believing in Him for. They lean on God so hard that they don't know what it's like to fall over. They would easily tell you they don't know what stress is. They don't know what pain is. They don't know what trouble is. 'Because they know who God is.'
How can you possibly know who God is if you know not His peace in the midst of the storm, His healing in the midst of the pain, His comfort in the midst of trouble? If you don't know trouble, you can't know God.
So the question is, again, what is faith?
It's not so simple as merely believing in God. It's not so disconnected as believing in Him first, as much as we talk like that is the goal. You can't believe in God wholeheartedly until you know the depth of your circumstances, so first is about an honest assessment of where you are. A good look at brokenness. A grief over a fallen world. That's first.
Faith is never blind in that it doesn't see this world. Faith demands that you see this world for what it is. If you don't, there's no reason to believe in anything.
Faith, then, is a willingness. It's a willingness to believe. It's creating the space for God in the midst of the world. It's allowing Him to interrupt your stress, your pain, your trouble. Sometimes, you're looking for Him. And that's great. Sometimes, this world is so pressing that you're not there yet. You're not looking for Him yet. You're still...stuck somewhere. Stuck here. But faith is being willing to stand stuck and look anyway when you hear His voice calling. Even if you weren't expecting it.
Faith is living with open eyes, with open ears, ready to see, ready to hear what God is doing. And ready to believe Him when He comes.
I had kind of a stressful weekend. And that's an understatement. By Saturday night, I was physically shaking from stress. Everything in my body ached from the burden the world had suddenly decided to drop in my lap. Tears were streaming down my face, and I was stressed. And I needed to just be stressed for awhile. I needed to feel it.
I crawled into bed ridiculously late, knowing even then that I wouldn't be able to sleep. And as I laid there shaking, crying, and loving on my faithful dog who had come over to comfort me, something swept over me. All of a sudden, for just a blink, I had this very clear sense of peace and heard the little whisper: Watch how I do this. Watch what I'm about to do.
It is by faith that we hear such things. Faith alone. My mind was racing a thousand miles a minute, and yet, by faith, I suddenly knew this one thing.
And it is by faith that we believe such things. I could have dismissed it. Could have gone back to worrying, to thinking, to trying to work through my own problem, to stressing. I could have, and it would have been easy. EASY. But I simply said, "Ok." And my breathing slowed down. And my tears dried up. And my body stopped shaking. I still didn't sleep much that night, but I didn't stress any more of it, either.
Some might say faith would have meant believing instead of stressing. That faith might have meant turning to God before I let this world get so far under my skin. But I don't think so. You can't understand the power of a Savior unless you're dying and sometimes, I think, we need to feel like we're dying in order to understand God.
But I think faith is this: it is being ready to hear and willing to believe. Faith is what says, "ok" when God speaks and settles into His peace about things. Faith is not not stressing; it's being able to stop stressing when He shows up.
So it's not about whether you believe in God first. But whether you believe in God now.
Or something like that.