I have struggled with the concept of faith for as long as I can remember.
It didn’t make sense to me, why faith was so important. I clung to passages like 1 Corinthians 13:13, which states that “now faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.” I understood love. Love was the feeling I got in my chest when I got a hug. Love was kindness, love was sharing joy in laughter. I thought I understood hope – hope that everything would be okay, that God loved us, that I might get a good grade on my vocabulary test. Love and hope felt like necessary parts of my being, parts that I naturally fell into as a child. Faith just never felt as essential.
In Chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes about the faith of Abraham. “Hoping against hope,” Paul explains, “he believed he would become ‘the father of many nations,’” according to what God had promised him (Romans 4:18). He had no reason to believe this would come true. His wife was barren. They were both very old. But still, he did not waver in his trust in God. He continued in faithfulness, and God fulfilled His promise to him, and, more importantly, he was brought to righteousness through complete trust in his God (Romans 4: 19-25).
And the importance of faith rushes into me as I remember the time when faith truly did save me.
I was nineteen and I was afflicted by traumatic stress that bore down on me like a river of pain that I could not escape. For the very first time in my life, I had moments of complete hopelessness. I felt that darkness would swallow me, and that external darkness would swallow the whole world.
In this state, all I could do was turn to God.
I cannot boast of faith in the way Paul says Abraham can. My faith melted away. But as a college sophomore, feeling dismantled by the world, I finally chose as Abraham did. Realizing only God could heal my pain, I turned to Him. Distraught that justice was inconceivable, I turned to the One who declared that His true desire was to “release those bound unjustly [and] set free the oppressed” (Isaiah 58:6). I rekindled faith in a most loving and benevolent God, a God who truly cared for me.
I can hope that it will rain tomorrow, that I’ll have something in my closet that is red and clean enough for Pentecost, that someday I’ll have a deeply fulfilling job in a place that heartens me. Hope can bring me into the next day with intentionality and courage. But faith is steady ground that I can rest on. Faith is strong enough to hold the truth of the world’s brokenness with God’s promise that He will mend it. Faith lets me love wholeheartedly with the assurance that no drop of love is wasted in God’s sight.
Faith is not just the futile hope that a beloved disciple will get well, but the more firm trust that she will eternally rest beside the God she so faithfully loved. Faith is hearing news of wrongfully imprisoned children dying from medical neglect and mourning even as I declare that God’s story will not end before all is made right. Faith is feeling crushed by a fallen world, but believing that God is lifting the whole thing up, and that I am a part of it.
Paul says that faith brings us righteousness, but I also believe it can bring us peace and healing. Wherever you are in your faith journey, I pray that today you may “believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” enough to believe that He just might be able to raise up your deadened parts, too (Romans 4:23).