“You need to have faith.” Most of the time, I hate these words. It’s not that I don’t have faith or that I have anything against encouraging others to have it, but it’s the context in which these words tend to be spoken to me. When I’m going through a hard season or feel like I’m walking through the great unknown, the words, “You need to have faith,” don’t fill me with faith at all. They make me think, “Isn’t that what I’ve been doing this whole time?” and then I start to feel like I’ve done something wrong. I don’t walk away from these conversations feeling encouraged and empowered. Instead, I walk away feeling deflated and slightly condemned.
A few years before I was diagnosed with lupus, I was given a smaller diagnosis. Like most diagnoses, it came at an inconvenient time. I was living in the Philippines and had just been accepted into a graduate program to study piano performance in the States when I found out I had carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in both of my wrists. Over and over again, people told me, “You need to have faith.” What they meant was, “If you want to keep playing the piano and get a Master’s in piano performance, God has to heal you.” I prayed for God to heal me. He didn’t. And I did get a Master’s in piano performance.
It took faith…
- to pursue a graduate degree in piano performance with carpal tunnel and tendinitis.
- to choose my repertoire and practice every day.
- to keep going and not quit when it got hard.
I know that God could have completely healed me and it would have been great, but my 70 minute recital with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis was no less miraculous, no less glorifying to God. But didn’t that make it harder? Yes. I’ll get more into that later, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
When I was diagnosed with lupus, I heard it again: “You need to have faith.” What people meant was, “You need to be completely healed of lupus to be able to fully live your life. And if you aren’t healed, then you must not have enough faith.”
It takes faith…
- to get out of bed each morning when my body is stiff and in pain.
- to work. (According to the Lupus Foundation of America, only 31% of adults with lupus are employed full-time.)
- to continue to practice and prepare for performances.
- to plan for the future.
Speaking of the future…
A Dream Delayed
Ever since we were in college and still dating, my husband and I have dreamt of moving to Japan to start a church. It’s something we feel God has placed on our hearts. But even though we’ve been on a missions trip to Japan, we have yet to move there. There are things that we feel God has asked us to accomplish first—that’s why we moved back to the States—but lupus has caused those things to take much longer than we anticipated.
It takes faith…
- to keep moving towards this goal, even when things feel slow.
- to keep studying Japanese.
- to remember that God was not surprised when I received my lupus diagnosis and knew about it years ago when He placed the dream for Japan on my heart.
- to trust in God’s perfect timing and to rest in the fact that He is in control.
I’ve spoken about my infertility in other posts, so I won’t retell those stories here. What I will say is that unanswered prayer—no matter the subject matter—is painful. It fills us with the darkest of doubts and questions. Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Did I do something wrong? Does God really love me? Is God really who I thought He was? It’s in the midst of unanswered prayer when people’s statements of “You need to have faith,” are most painful to hear. Haven’t I been having faith all along?
It takes faith…
- to hope and pray when the doctor says words like, “zero percent chance.”
- to pray to God after being wounded by unanswered prayer.
- to continue to believe that God is good and that He is not withholding good from me.
- to choose to live with hope and purpose when you feel like your hope and purpose have been crushed.
The Truth About Faith
“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:32-40)
Did you catch that? Hebrews 11 has been nicknamed the “faith chapter” of the Bible. If you want to know what faith looks like, this is where you look. So. Many. Miracles. And also weakness. And torture. And imprisonment. Oh, and also people who were destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The life of faith isn’t as neat and tidy as many would have us think. In fact, if faith were easy, it wouldn’t be faith at all.
We do need faith, but not because God has called us to a life of comfort and ease. We need faith because life is hard.
So let’s get real for a moment. When the object of our faith is faith itself, it falls apart when things don’t go our way. But when the object of our faith is the God who is sovereign, loving, and good, then it can be subjected to hardships and still continue to stand.
Before you keep reading, I want you to pause and ask yourself this question: Is your idea of what faith looks like so narrow that it leaves little room to be surprised by God and to notice when He works in mysterious ways?
Too often we try to make the works of God fit into a box too small to contain Him. We think that when faith looks like x, God will do y. God’s ways are too creative and too wonderful for our preconceived ideas!
The God Who Can Do Anything. Literally.
Could you imagine what would happen if we believed God could do anything?
Let me give you an example of what I mean by anything. Let’s say someone you know is sick. Do you believe God can do anything so He can heal them? That’s great! But believing God can do anything doesn’t stop there. He can heal how He wants and when He wants, and no matter how God decides to work, it’s going to be good and amazing, and even if He chooses to wait and doesn’t heal someone on this side of eternity, He can make them strong out of their weakness and use them to be the catalyst for a myriad of more amazing miracles that can change the course of history. God can do anything!
I hope that you’re getting really excited right now because I’m getting excited just typing this! If we can live with this kind of faith, can you imagine the kind of faith we can inspire in others? When people spend time with us, instead of walking away feeling discouraged about their lack of faith, they could walk into the great unknown full of faith, believing and expecting God to do anything!
So enough with telling people, “You need to have faith.” Let’s fill people with excited expectancy and say, “What if the God who is sovereign, loving, and good—the God who can do anything—is preparing to do something infinitely more amazing than we can imagine?”
This is the kind of faith that can change the world!
3 thoughts on “What Does Faith Look Like?”
Reading your latest post now and found this extra “a”. “I was a given a smaller diagnosis.”
Thought I’d send it now but am compelled to respond once I have finished reading the whole thing.
Sent from my iPhone
Your words hit home on so many levels. Sometimes I feel like, when people say “You need to have faith”, it is pretentious and a little bit of looking down their nose at those who need a miracle.
We all need to have a little more faith, but God answers each of us according to His Good and perfect will.
The hardest answer to prayers isn’t no answer, but a “No” answer. That will shake our faith at times as well.
As far as your church plant in Japan. You are in the meantime. It’s the space between where you were and where you know you are headed. I wrote about this space a couple weeks ago.
Thank you for being obedient and sharing in your weakness. It’s in your weakness, He is made strong.
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Thanks for the catch, Sammy!
I’m glad I’m not the only who feels this way about when people tell us to have faith. And the space…It was so hard for the first 5 years after we came back to Springfield, but now we can see what God has been doing the whole time and we know that there’s even more that we can’t see.