Cognitively, I know that unless I purge myself of my extreme emotions, I am useless to my family and most poignantly, to helping Sissy. I'm not a self-centered beast of a mother that can't feel the reality of my child's pain, I'm simply realizing the depth of my own pain, allowing myself to feel the raw emotion now, before she returns, so I don't exact more harm on her when she's headlong in a fight-or-flight rage about brushing her teeth.
Recently, though, the arched swing of my pendulum is bumping into a road block that rebounds it prematurely, and with a dangerous wobble, right back into the raging emotional arc. My opposing emotional arc typically takes me to the healing I get from my faith so it is disconcerting to be continually diverted from this peace. But I think I've finally put a name to the roadblock my pendulum is hitting, it is the rogue and impossible man-made rhetoric of religious faith.
Previously, I've postulated on the meaning of faith and how that faith can be applied to the extreme challenges of life. There are many debilitating and destructive daily challenges people endure, besides raising RADishes. Every day, people live through harrowing, difficult things that go above and beyond normal life issues. Many of those people daily live that chaos for years on end without respite. But does admitting the pain of those events equate to not having faith that God will see us through them? Is being honest about those challenges and the mental and emotional toll they take ignoring God's deliverance from the wages of sin and death? Is asking for worldly assistance the same as denying God's ability to do something supernatural? Is accepting and verbally acknowledging a child's mental health illness and developmental delay and preparing for the long term prognosis equivalent to claiming that God isn't capable of miraculously healing those issues? Is admitting my fear and trepidation a sin because I'm not relying on faith to see me through?
What is "faith" anyway?
Today in Sunday School, another family was citing their current life challenges. My heart aches for them. It seems like an impossible road ahead of them as they prepare to sell a house in an inundated market so they can stay employed with the company that is relocating to another city. Not being "in the boat" with them as they traverse these murky waters of transplanting a family in an economic recession, I can look down the time line of life and see that they'll come out on the other end of it, one way or another. But I know that those words aren't helpful, the "God is in control" comments are hollow and empty, especially when fear is a factor. The leader got up and wrote on the white board, "Lean on Faith." He wasn't dismissing their concerns, in fact, he cited some of his own personal struggles as he sat down. He was simply redirecting us all to the truth, to the hope we have that is sure, that Christ is sufficient in all things, no matter what.
In the absence of a true definition of faith and how it applies to my religion, I decided to do some research. What is faith and do I have it or do I lack in it?
Merriam-Webster defines "faith" as this:
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
synonyms see belief
— on faith : without question
Britanica says this:
Greek - Pistis, Latin - Fides
inner attitude, conviction, or trust relating man to a supreme God or ultimate salvation. In religious traditions stressing divine grace, it is the inner certainty or attitude of love granted by God himself. In Christian theology, faith is the divinely inspired human response to God’s historical revelation through Jesus Christ and, consequently, is of crucial significance.
No definition allows for identification of “faith” with “religion.” Some inner attitude has its part in all religious traditions, but it is not always of central significance
An excerpt from Wikipedia:
Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing. The English word is thought to date from 1200–50, from the Latin fidem or fidēs, meaning trust, derived from the verb fīdere, to trust.
The term is employed in a religious or theological context to refer to a confident belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of scriptures, teachings or a Supreme Being. It may be used to refer to a particular religious tradition or to religion in general.
Since faith implies a trusting reliance upon future events or outcomes, it is often taken by its detractors as inevitably synonymous with a belief "not resting on logical proof or material evidence."
Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true, belief in and assent to the truth of what is declared by another, based on his or her supposed authority and truthfulness. Informal usage can be quite broad, and the the word is often used as a mere substitute for trust or belief.
And finally, Hebrews 11:1 says:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:6 describes the meaning and the practical role of faith: "Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
By definition, I have faith! I LEAN on faith. I am a faithful person. I have faith in God. I don't have to strive for my mustard seed's worth, I have a Stone Mountain's worth! I can officially annihilate that road block in my emotional machinations. Faith is not an issue for me 'cause Baby, I got it!
And all that other ridiculous religious rhetoric? Garbage. I'm not sure why a mystical religious faith became an ideal we have to strive for when we meet challenges in our life that we struggle with. Or rather, that faith becomes something we lack in because we express that we have a challenge we're overwhelmed by. By definition, that's not what faith is. The substance of faith, is simply saying "God, help me through this hard thing, I can't do it on my own."
God never promises us a life without trial but He does promise to be by our side every minute of it, to never leave us nor forsake us. If anything, living a life that is filled with trial and tribulation gives us more cause to exhaust our own resources so that we find the only path to peace despite our trials, is to have faith that God is with us every second.
Today is the second Sunday of Lent, a 40 day season of personal reflection and sacrifice toward Jerusalem and the cross that saves us all. 40 is a number that shows up in scripture many times, it means "God at work." I challenge you to find the ways God is at work in your life in the midst of your struggles and trials and to live in the truth that by doing so, you are, in fact, leaning on faith.