Faith has always been a challenging word for me. I was a philosophy major, not to mention a classic overthinker who likes to do my research right down to the details. I want proof. I want to be able to see and touch and hear and feel what I believe in. And that works fine for many parts in life.
In my own life, I absolutely research someone before I believe in them enough to hire them to help run my company. I get inspections and look at the maintenance history of a house before I believe it’s safe enough for my family to live in. Makes sense, right? But there are some things I’ll never be able to adequately research, or see and touch and feel before I can believe in them. For those things, all I have to follow are little breadcrumbs of information, never seeing or knowing the big picture. Those things require faith.
For me, faith means going from crumb to crumb, letting them show you there is something or someone bigger than you out there. A light to guide you when everything around you is shrouded in darkness. An otherworldly feeling of love and care that you can’t prove, but that you certainly can’t ignore. A Higher Power.
Faith is much deeper than mere belief. It’s the bone-deep soul knowledge that there is something — someone — far greater who will guide you to your best path, guide you to your greatest purpose and love you no matter what. When I focus on faith, I want to draw closer to God and to remind myself that it’s okay if I feel out of control because I know that He’s got me.
When Faith Falters
I know I’m not alone in struggling with my faith sometimes. Faith can be so challenging because it requires almost blind trust in what we cannot see, touch, taste, feel, or hear. Our senses provide safe, concrete evidence and certainty. It’s easy to have faith when life is going well, but it can become so much more difficult when we’re experiencing trouble or profoundly devastating circumstances.
I’m certainly no exception. There have been plenty of times when my faith has been tested by situations that took almost everything I had out of me. One time, the church I’d attended and loved for years went through dark betrayals and stopped being a safe space. After a scandal involving our youth leader rocked the congregation, our lead pastor lost his struggle with cancer and passed away. The new leadership brought about chaos and unhealthy, twisted, scary theology. Once I left, I felt completely lost. I had always felt that God was watching over me, but instead I felt confused.
I tried going to different churches, craving that connection and sense of fulfillment and belonging, but I couldn’t bring myself to trust an “institution” again. However, I just couldn’t let it all go completely. I started a Philosophy Night with friends once a week. We’d ask and debate the questions that none of us could answer, poring over philosophy books and trying to find anything that had a ring of truth.
There was a turning point when I visited with Franciscan friars at a monastery in the Bronx. I was in awe of how deeply they embraced God’s teachings, spending their entire lives serving, helping, and encouraging the poor. The friars had a humble, servant-hearted, peaceful reverence for God I had never seen before. It couldn’t have been further from the modern church I’d grown up in, with its smoke machines and rock concert worship. Spending time with the friars renewed my hope.
I realized I hadn’t actually been searching for a new church; I’d been searching for some proof that God was real after having my faith beaten and bruised. What I learned along the way was that I had to be okay with not having all the answers. I had to learn to live in the tension of uncertainty and the unknown. Life can be full of breathtaking beauty and love and deep kindness, but it can also have sharp edges and difficult situations and impossible choices. None of us are ever guaranteed a firm place to stand. That’s where faith comes in. Even in my greatest moments of doubting, I can’t freely live without a connection to and reliance on God. And that is real enough for me.
If your faith has faltered, I would encourage you to do your own searching and research. Look into the history and origins of your faith’s traditions and customs. Which teachings are specific to your community, and which are intrinsic to your faith? Look around at your faith community and take stock. We can all benefit from learning from others who share our faith, but if the people you have surrounded yourself with aren’t reflecting what you know your faith is really about, it may be time to find a new community. Look for people who have a faith that challenges and bolsters yours. Seek out people who allow you to ask questions and have doubts. Surround yourself with people whose authenticity, love, and passion set your faith on fire. Those are your people. Hold onto them.
One of the simplest ways to deepen your faith is to simply talk to God and trust Him to answer in a way that only a Higher Power can. There are many ways to do this. You can pray formally, on your knees, journal your thoughts, talk out loud while you lie in bed, or contemplate while you fold laundry or drive your car. There really is no wrong way to reach out, and nothing is off-limits.
There is nothing you can say to God that He hasn’t heard before. Sometimes just admitting your worries, problems, issues and anxieties can give you a measure of peace — and that release can lead to a feeling of relief and serenity. But a huge part of faith is truly believing that God can answer those prayers.
Try writing out your prayers (or at least jot down what you prayed for). Keep a prayer tracker, a journal, or even a box filled with your prayers scribbled on paper. This can be a great tool to help you see your faith more clearly. After some time has passed, go back and review what you’ve written down. How have your prayers been answered? How many were answered in ways you never expected? How many were answered in a way that was better than you could have imagined? Over time you will see all of the wonderful ways God is working in your life.