The Essence of Faith

 “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  - Luke 18:8b (NIV)

“Faith is the bird that sings while it is yet dark.”  - Max Lucado

I took a cursory look at where I am at in the present moment.  At first glance, I believe the best description of my life is that of being in a desert – “a dry and thirsty land” – bordering on despair and hopelessness at times. I have been groping around in “the dark” with only sparks or faint glimmers of light breaking through. What do I have to ‘sing’ about?

I could go on in explaining this place where loneliness overtakes my thoughts, when it seems like the world conspires to rob me of everything, especially my joy. But each time I find myself at what I perceive to be my ‘bottom’, the remembrance of where I have come from and the fact that I am still alive and able to write this excerpt is evidence to me that I have a God who knows me. ‘Something’ within my spirit responds.

Let me ask you…where does ‘faith’ actually begin in a person’s life? I’m not necessarily talking about faith in God but the essence of faith.

I believe that faith is inherent in our make-up, our DNA, our humanness. Even before we are totally cognizant of it, we, as babies, have faith that we will be cared for by our parents. We have faith that, when we cry out, our mothers or caregivers will pick us up and care for whatever our immediate need is. ‘Something’ in our make-up is designed to trust that our needs will be met. We learn to trust that they have our best interests at heart, no matter what, because we are their children. We exercise faith in their love for us. Even though their love is not a tangible ‘thing’, we see the outward manifestation of that love through their actions and provision for us.
This inherent beginning to faith tells me that ‘something’ in our core is designed to respond to the nurture and care of a God – our Heavenly Father – who loves us. In this truth, the essence of faith exists. But due to the nature of a fallen world, that essence of faith can be ‘lost’. Life happens, and various negative events and experiences can work against what is in our DNA to respond to a loving God.

I was taught about Jesus as a young girl. My parents decided that my sisters and I should start going to a Sunday School in the neighbourhood in which we lived. Although my parents themselves did not attend unless it was a very special event, they felt that it would be a good thing for us, primarily because of their own upbringing in church in our country of origin. It was during my Sunday School years that I accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

I was always in awe of the Sunday School teachers I had. I especially admired their strength of faith and how they were concerned about our salvation. We were taught that Christ was gentle, loving, and wanted us to give our lives to Him. However, we were also taught that God is a God of wrath, He is a judging God, and we must flee from any wickedness in our lives. And yet… God was one with Jesus… and with the Holy Spirit… and Jesus was one with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In a sense, I realize where some of my confusion arose as a child. I believe this conflicting picture and my immature perception of God – with no spiritual understanding or insight – was the cause of a lot of wrong choices throughout my early adulthood.
Life went on, and I graduated from high school. I spent a year in Europe trying to “find myself” and to figure out what I should choose as a life path. After my return, I stepped away from the church.

I moved to a new city to attend college, but upon trying to get back into a church near my residence, there seemed to be a coldness in the atmosphere that had me walk away on a spiritual detour for over ten years. During that time, I met and married a young man with whom I share two children. However, the marriage did not last. This was largely due to not having a solid foundation of faith to build upon.

I know I was lost because I lacked the spiritual nourishment I needed to thrive and build my life upon. Without spiritual nourishment, your soul withers. Although you can fill your life with events and people that bring pleasure to your physical being, when you are alone – in the quiet of your mind and your inner being – the emptiness is a constant void. A quote that is paraphrased from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées says it most eloquently: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Truthfully, I had forgotten the essence of faith.
I met my second husband during a time where I was close to ending it all because I just didn’t know where else to turn. Although I continued to believe in my Creator (God) and in Jesus, and therefore knew that I couldn’t take my own life, I felt that I had lost my chance at a relationship with Him because of my ‘wrong’ choices.

 But God is so good! He continues to chase us even when we aren’t aware of it!
Through a recovery program that my second husband introduced me to, and especially through a book that he gave me to read, In Tune with the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine, my perception of God began to change. In Ralph Waldo Trine’s book, the author explains the love of God in such a way that it changed my heart knowledge to that of understanding that, although He was a God of vengeance and wrath in the Old Testament, with the coming of Christ, He showed us that He IS a God of love, mercy, and grace. Thus began my journey back to the essence of faith and what was inherently within me that could respond to this good God.
Although my husband and I had our highs and lows and our ups and downs during our 25-year marriage, the anchor for me was that Christ was the center of our marriage. We were a triangle, and we went into our marriage with that understanding. During those years, I believe that God was building my faith reserve, strengthening me in my understanding of my connection with Him and that it was also a personal thing. My husband and I did not always share the same strength of faith, nor did we always live out our lives the way we should have or model the ideal, faith-based partnership, but we continued to try.

On September 15, 2011, my faith was shaken to the core!

Six days earlier, we were told my husband had lung cancer…inoperable…and that he only had a few weeks to live. One day earlier, we had a consult with the doctors, and they gave us an even shorter timeline, so we started planning on bringing my husband home for the remaining time. That evening, I said goodbye, expecting to spend the next day with him at the hospital along with our oldest son. As we were getting dressed and prepared to go to the hospital early on the 15th, I received a phone call from the hospital requesting us to come immediately as there had been an event that happened overnight.

When we got to his room, we found that my husband was unresponsive and having difficulty breathing. The hospital staff was very gentle and cautious when they advised us that he was in his last hours. By 3 o’clock that afternoon, his spirit had left his body.  

It was difficult for me to pray during the next days. I truly struggled, wondering why God would take him before I even had a chance to say goodbye – to ask forgiveness for when I had failed him and to sort practical things out – to be able to wrap my head around what I needed to do. In the days that followed, I found it particularly difficult knowing that Jesus was sitting on the right hand of God the Father and my husband was with them…but I was here, alone, not knowing how to carry on.

Since then, I have had my eyes opened up to a whole new realm of spiritual awareness. Holy Spirit moved me out of the church I had attended for 19 years and planted me in a church where I experienced what I can best describe as my perception of what the early Christians experienced in their gatherings. The journey is an adventure to say the least! At times, it feels like I am on the edge of a precipice, not knowing whether I will make it another day in the natural, but inevitably, God is there to lift me up.

In my own intellect, I have no way to explain the faith that is still alive in me, even when I fail God through poor choices or wrong turns. Nevertheless, it is the assurance that He loves me, and He will not allow the enemy to prevail, that keeps me believing that a better day is coming. I keep coming back to the essence or core of my faith – that which was placed within me even at birth – that enables me to respond to His love and have faith that my needs will be met.
I am reminded in Scripture of what Jesus said in John 16:33 (NIV): “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It seems to me that I am in the crucible of ‘trouble’, praying that the refining that needs to happen will indeed happen according to His promise.

I also believe that God has a plan and a purpose for my life. I can ‘go out into the world’ and be a light in the darkness. I have a testimony of how He is bringing me through and has brought me through this ‘desert’ experience into a flourishing land, not only with a deeper and more abiding faith, but with tangible examples of His goodness in all areas of my life. This can be used as an encouragement to many who yearn to build faith during dark times.

The thought I want to leave you with is this:
Faith is the assurance that despite how we fail or feel, God has an enduring love for us.
He loves us no matter what.

Deep within our very being, God planted the seed – the essence of what is needed – to have faith in that love.
How will you respond???
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