Throughout our lifetime, we will hear many songs, poems and stories about faith. When we are down, our friends encourage us to "have faith." When things go right, some may think, "well, they had faith." But to others, faith may seem to be an illusive prize that they tenaciously grasp toward but never quite achieve.
When I was a girl, I found a verse: Mark 11:22: "Have faith in God." I clung to it tenaciously as I prayed for family members. I struggled with feelings, but was taught by my spiritual mentor that feelings have absolutely nothing to do with faith. Feelings come and go, wax and wane, and are just plain fickle. However, faith can remain constant, consistent and become stronger as we age.
My life changed when I realized that faith is not something to be worked up or prayed down. Rather, faith is taking God at his word, plain and simple. Putting my finger on the verse in Mark 11:22, and saying: "I don't feel this, I don't see this, and I don't sense this, but I'm trusting you to work, because 'you said you would.'" The key here is in the leaning, not in the striving. When we lean against a wall, we trust it to hold us, right? It's the same with God. We can lean into him and know he is working even when we cannot see him working. When our world falls apart, our loved one dies, we become ill or tragedy strikes, we can lean into him and be safe. We can know he's still in control and can be trusted without reservation.
When thinking of faith, I love the metaphor of a chair ... Find the chair closest to you. Look at it closely. Examine its design. Is it structurally sound? Is it sufficiently engineered? Will the materials chosen by the manufacturer support your weight?
Most likely, you picked a chair that you believe will support you. That's belief. You applied logic, knowledge and experience to make an informed intellectual decision.
Now sit in the chair ... That's faith. At one point, intellectual assent only goes so far. True living requires that we put our beliefs into action. Intellectual belief without actionable faith is hollow and meaningless.
Have you ever heard about the guy who walked a tight rope across Niagra Falls? Many people watched him do it. To them he asked, "Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the falls?" They all replied, "Yes." They had already seen him do it.
Then he pushed a wheelbarrow on a tight rope across Niagra Falls. When he completed the feat, he asked the onlookers, "Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the falls pushing a wheelbarrow?" To that they replied unanimously, "Yes." Because they saw him do that, too.
Finally, a buddy of the tight rope walker climbs into the wheelbarrow and the tight rope walker pushes him across the falls. Wow, what a daring feat! When they finished, the tight rope walker asked the crowd, "Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the falls pushing a wheelbarrow with a person in it?" To that they exclaimed, "Yes!" For they were now believers in this guy's awesome abilities.
Then he looked at the crowd and asked, "Who's next?"
There you have it ... Belief vs. Faith ...!
As we age, and we see situations and circumstances work out the way he plans, then faith becomes more second nature. Though everything may whirlwind about us, we know he is in control and he works everything out for good. That's how faith grows. I have often thought that when life becomes like a tornado and is a whirlwind of trouble on every side, I remember that in the very center of every tornado there is a pocket of safety and calm. We've all heard stories of people being taken up in tornadoes, but were found later unharmed because they were in that pocket or safe room of calm within the storm. It can be the same with our father. We can run into him and be safe.
Faith is taking God at his word by resting in his son for our souls, and trusting him with our lives. I Corinthians 2:10 - "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the hearts of man, what God has prepared for them that love Him."
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and grief counselor/bereavement coordinator/chaplain for Mountain Hospice. firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)