And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6
That’s a nice verse to know, and it sounds pretty simple, right? And as a plus, equations where “pleasing God” is the final answer always sound like good ones to know!
But the gritty truth is that faith is hard. It’s against our human nature to look at something tough, or be facing something painful, and say “Oh yay! How nice!” when its clearly not nice at all. It not intuitive for us to face a situation where we are not in control, and have no idea how it will turn out, and remain completely calm and at peace. It is difficult to watch those you love in pain or in turmoil and to not get bound up in emotion, swirling doubt and crippling fear on their behalf.
As is the nature of close relationships, I have a few darling people in my life that are struggling big time right now, and so I am witness to their pain. My heart hurts for them, and I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of their situations. In those moments, I don’t want to meet them with pithy sayings and false comfort or platitudes that speak about faith. I want to be the one who gives them a great big hug first thing, says “I’m so sorry, that stinks big time”…and then “let’s pray about it because God is in control and understands what is going on even though I don’t.”
I hope I’ll never pretend with you that you aren’t allowed to feel the things you’re feeling or make you feel guilty for being human or for struggling in your faith in the midst of a situation. I’ll never try to convince you that something isn’t unfair or hard or too much to bear.
I hope I’ll be the friend that will be there to say “yes, this is awful….but God.”
I have been learning a lot lately about true faith, and in a moment of frantic prayer for one specific outcome lately, I was repeating over and over what I “needed” the answer to be, and I felt God remind me in a quiet moment that true faith isn’t belief in an outcome, but belief in the One in control of the outcome.
Ouch. That hit me hard right in the heart.
As I was praying for one specific thing, and lost my focus on praising God for His control, His provision, and His perfect plan, I narrowed my faith down to be completely dependent on whether the outcome I want was achieved.
In my life, I profess faith in God, but am I believing in Him and His goodness only as long as He comes through in the way I want? Or am I believing that He is sovereign, that His plan is best, and that whatever the outcome, He is there, and it is for my good?
Now, I absolutely believe that God wants us to pray for specifics – for healing for a friend. For a pressing financial situation. For an immediate issue in our marriage. For a struggle with our children. For wisdom in a specific area that needs a decision. For comfort and peace. In fact, His word says in James 4:2 that we don’t have because we don’t ask!
But the real FAITH comes in when we trust the outcome to God, and don’t lose our faith in Him if the end result should look different than we prayed for.
We have to have faith in the great, great God of the universe who sees the whole picture and knows what is to come, and what is going on all around the universe, just not in the tiny corner of our own little minds – we have to trust that the Father that we call “loving” actually is…loving. And good.
“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”Malachi 3:6
The same God that was “good” to you when you did receive the answer you prayed for is never changing, and never wrong – so the answer that looks different than you hoped for still comes from a good and loving father. He just knows better than you.
When I do have struggles in faith, I try to remember the litany of ways God has been faithful in the past – and I don’t mean just the times He answered the way I wanted Him to, but also the times where I pouted because I didn’t get what I wanted; in looking back, I can see that what happened was always exactly what I needed and what was best for me and brought Him the most glory. His track record in my life is one of deep, deep love. Of provision for every need. Of comfort in times of trial and peace that has been unexplainable. Of blessing upon blessing. Of difficult lessons that brought out the beauty of His love and amazing grace.
So when I say “have faith” – all you have to do is make the choice and He will do the rest. Choose to believe in the goodness of your Father over the apparent impossibility of your situation. Tell yourself, 3000 times a day if you have to, that God is good and He has your good and His glory in mind. Remind yourself that with God nothing is impossible, and that He sees all, is outside of time and space, and most of all, that He LOVES you. He will never act in a vindictive way to punish you or bring ill into your life. All of it will be for your good. All we have to do is to believe.
Faith is hard….but God.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadowJames 1:17
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.2 Corinthians 4:16-18