2019 was the year I started on this journey. “Believe” is my Word. It has not gone as I expected. Rather than a wonderfully victorious race, it’s been a year of slow and painful deconstructing of old beliefs and a laying of true foundations. It’s left me wrung out and off balance. Most recently, a deeply entrenched, old church teaching about faith and believing got the heave-ho.
Whatever the culture or religion, wherever people gather, we pass down stories and beliefs, understandings of how life works. The Church is no different. For generations we have believed, as plain fact, that faith must be stirred up so that we fully conquer doubt. Otherwise, it isn’t faith. We have agreed that faith is a strong proclamation of belief. We’ve taught that faith can force what we will into happening, and that without it we’ll jinx anything good that God could do. We don’t use those exact terms, but stripped down to bare bones truth, we treat faith like magic. What we don’t realize is that in doing so, we have misshaped the very foundation of how we see God.
In 2016, I had the kind of faith that believed without any doubt. I had full belief that my husband would live and be healed of cancer. In nine short months, I learned that I knew nothing about faith. My relationship with God wasn’t shaken, but I was confused and I had new doubts about what I had thought were solid facts. I knew I was somehow misunderstanding what faith was, and I questioned my own ability to hear from God.
A week or so ago, I was talking to God, trying to hand over fears I have about new responsibilities I’ve taken on for someone else. Things are precarious in this situation, and I’d been trying to conquer fear and worry in order to generate that feeling of believing I think I’m supposed to have. Although I don’t believe it’s actually true anymore, I feel as though there is a curse hanging over me in the area I’m stepping into. I believe more in the power of my weakness than I do God’s strength.
Holding onto God, ignoring the fear that I still have not conquered, I look to God, hanging onto his promises, no matter what I’m feeling. Whether my emotional response changes or not, I leave it there. Many times a day. As I was apologizing to God for my lack of faith and my unbelief, that Still, Small Voice gently said, “This IS faith. You ARE believing.”
As happens when he speaks to us this way, suddenly, I understood! Faith is not a feeling. Believing is not determined by what I feel. Faith is not the absence of fear or worry. My emotions are a small part of who I am. They do not dictate my choices. I may feel like eating brownies for dinner, but if I choose to eat a salad instead, I receive the nutrients of the salad, not the sugar of the brownies. I can even eat that salad while staring at the brownies, and still get the benefits of the salad. It would be pretty dumb to subject myself to such torture, but that’s another story.
I am choosing to trust God, believe not just what he says, but who he is. I have faith, not because I have no doubt, but because I choose to place my life and circumstances in his hands in the midst of my doubt and fear. I choose to believe in his goodness more than my weakness.
Choosing to focus on what God has promised when my feelings don’t agree is exactly what faith is. It’s resting in him before I conquer my emotions. It’s believing his words before my reasoning comes into alignment. I am exercising faith, to have faith!
Today stretches long in front of me, and my tomorrows are full of change. I believe God is laying out the path before me, and I have faith he will walk with me all the way. This is the Adventure in God.