Years ago, I was in Kenya serving with an HIV/AIDS care ministry. The sick would come to the church and people in the church would feed them. Sometimes in this village, people who had contracted AIDS were cast aside since everyone knew that they were dying. Sadly, feeding the sick was considered a waste of food. But, this church fed these needy ones and had a weekly Bible study for them. The day I visited, some shared their testimonies of faith. One young, single woman, who was holding a toddler in her arms, told her story. As she concluded, she said that she thanked God for her disease because, without it, she would have never met Christ as her Savior.
My jaw dropped. My heart sank.
How could this woman be thankful for a painful sickness that would take her young life and leave her baby as poor, orphan?
That’s faith. And it reminds me that I know very little about that word. Faith is difficult. There are so many times when life’s challenges become overwhelming and well-intentioned Christians (like me!) run out of wise things to say, so we just say something like this: “Well, now is when we really have to have faith and trust God.”
We all say that, right? I know I do.
Basically, this means that we’ve run out of all other wisdom, possible solutions, excuses and methods of control, so now we’ll try to exhibit some faith. It seems for me that the thought of faith only enters my mind when I have nowhere else to go. But, the truth is: we should probably have faith and trust in God long before our desperate needs present themselves.
It’s not easy, though. We hear stories about mustard seeds and moving mountains. Faith can seem so elusive and so intimidating.
I know that when I’ve traveled to economically depressed countries and hear our Christian brothers and sisters thank God for providing food and a place to live, I’m usually ashamed and kind of jealous. I’m jealous because I hear the intimacy that they have with the Father and I’m ashamed because I rarely consider the Lord as the provider of my needs. I just I don’t depend on the Lord as quickly as I ought.
But, I’m not being asked to have faith like these brothers and sisters, right? I’m not am missionary raising support, so I don’t have to depend as much on the Lord financially. I don’t live in a poor country. God’s sovereign hand placed me in America and it’s not my fault that I have a new roof over my head, air conditioning, plenty of food in my pantry and a nice, big comfortable memory foam mattress. If I’m desperately hungry, I depend on the next fast-food restaurant that I see. If I’m in need of rest, I place my hope in the next vacation or get-away that I can schedule. If I’m sick, I go to the best doctor I can find. And there is anything wrong with good doctors or vacations to Cabo or McDonald’s! But, maybe those solutions require me to place very little faith upon the Lord. And, the problem is, when they fix or heal my needs (and they often don’t), I can become despondent.
And that’s my point. Even though I often don’t need to depend on the Lord for my daily bread, I ought to depend on him for something, maybe most things. I don’t think that the poor are more loved by God because they are forced to live day to day by faith, but I do think that they may have an advantage over me in how they are blessed to learn to live by faith.
Is it possible that we have less when we have more?
I consider what James wrote about the lowly brother being exalted and the rich one fading away in the midst of his pursuits (James 1:9-11). I consider what Paul wrote about suffering leading to glorification (Romans 8). I consider how Jesus (our elder brother) was made perfect through suffering and how that is our lot as well (Heb. 2:10-11). Is it possible that this dying Kenyan woman knew more about life in the Spirit and faith than I do?
Man, I want to grow in grace and understand faith like her. Can I learn to rejoice in my sufferings like her?
But, I don’t think the Father wants us to feel defeated when we read Hebrews 11 or consider our faith. I certainly don’t think he wants me to compare my faith to that dying woman’s faith. I think he wants us to lift up our eyes and our drooping hands. He wants to strengthen our weak knees (Heb. 12:12). And, I think, for our good, he wants our faith to grow.
What is one way today that I can entrust myself and my life to a Father who loves me? What is one way that the Lord is working to strengthen my faith and grow in my relationship with him? What is one burden that I’ve been trying to manage that he wants to carry for me?
I think he wants to grow my faith every day in a way that is unique to me, but not unique in Christian experience. This is how he grows us all.
“Faith is willing to let God act with the most perfect freedom knowing that we belong to Him and are to be concerned only about being faithful in that which he has given us to do for the moment.” – Let Go by Francois Fenelon
Sue Harris serves the congregation at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church (Birmingham) as the Women’s Ministry Director. She has a passion for spiritual formation as she earned her Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta in 2014. She served Mission to the World for nine years challenging PCA congregations in missions as well as serving missionaries on the field through encouragement, teaching and short-term teams. Previously, she spent 12 years as a college women’s basketball coach, earning her MBA at Texas Woman’s University.