A few days ago, a close friend of mine and I were having a conversation that led to a question about faith. My friend asked me how when a person goes through horrible things that leave lasting physical, emotional, and mental scars, how does their faith not only persist, but remain strong and even grow? I tried to explain my thoughts on the spot, and completely and miserably failed. Since then the question has been on my mind constantly, and after spending lots of time in thought, I would like to try and give it another shot.
To me, having and keeping faith is an active choice that I make daily. The first thing I am choosing is to believe that God sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sin free life, and then die the ugliest of deaths for my sins, so that I may be forgiven and live forever in heaven with Him. That is John 3:16, Christianity in a nutshell. For me, that is the part that has been taught to me ever since I was a kindergartner in Chuck and Loraine's Sunday school class at my old church-the easy part. I choose to believe that is true, from the deepest parts of my heart.
Growing up, I found out pretty quickly that the world can be a very dark, cruel place. Sometimes things happen to people who believe in and are faithful to God that are unfair. They are things that are so un-Godly, they make you question the existence of Him at all. If there is a God, or a Jesus Christ, why the heck do things like this happen?! I think choosing faith means that at the end of the day, all your doubts are put to rest, not because they were answered but because you choose to believe in spite of them. (Not an easy task, friends).
My second choice is that part of believing in God, includes believing what He says. I haven't read the entire Bible (or you know, anywhere near that), but I love how it is said in Isaiah 49 (especially verse 16, "I'll never forget you-never. Look, I have your name written on the palm of my hand"). Even though there are times in life where things just suck. When you've been hurt to the deepest depths of your heart, and you can't see God in any of it, He's there. I choose to believe that He is there. I choose to believe that He has a plan for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Instead of Babylon, because I don't live there, and because I'm not Jeremiah, I feel God is saying to me, "I know this sucks, and it's hurting you, but I promise, I'm here and I'm going to show you why. It's just not time yet. I know what I'm doing, I promise. I've got this. I am taking care of you, I'm right here, just be patient. Soon, you'll understand, and I can't wait to show you the beauty that is what's next." I honestly cannot explain how amazing it makes me feel to type those words. It is my honor to choose to believe those words.
The hardest part about that choice is following through with my actions. Staying put, when all I want to do is run. Being patient, when all I want are answers. Staying silent, when every fiber of who I am is begging to collapse into someones arms and cry. All the while, showing nothing but His grace and His love to the ones who are causing the discomfort. Because I choose to live in His light, and to be the person He wants me to be, I choose to do these things too- to the absolute best of my ability.
Because I choose to believe He is my savior, that His word is true, and I choose give my honest to goodness best effort to walk in His shoes, I get to experience the best part. I get His joy. His joy cancels out the gross stuff, it shines out, magnifying all the amazing things I've been given, leaving the gross stuff manageable and insignificant. I get to experience His hope. Hope in that future He told me about. Hope in the fact that my wildest dreams are bland in comparison to the plan He already has for me. Even in the darkest moments of my life, He put His hope in my heart, and I knew I was going to be okay. But the thing that I have been promised, before I was even a thought, the thing that out shines everything else He promised, is His Love. The unconditional, radiant, crazy love that underlines and intensifies everything else that is given, and restores all the damage and pain that I have ever felt. The love that only a Father could give, is mine for the taking. I'm still working on accepting it, but I know it's there. It's His love that brought me to the people, the places, and the experiences that I hold closest to my heart. And it's His love that will one day carry me home.