Walking in faith is a long and winding road. For certain stretches the path is straight and easy. But for other stretches, the path is filled with unseen twists and turns, hills and speed bumps, potholes, detours and rush hour traffic. Faith Ave. for me has been anything but straight and unwavering. As I look back to consider the times my faith has been bumpier, I’ve noticed some commonalities. In those seasons, my faith isn’t contingent upon who God is, but rather is contingent upon the following three things:
I have serious chameleon tendencies. In any new situation, my M.O. is to blend with my surroundings and adapt as I go, in the name of being relevant. According to Strengths Finder, Adaptability is one of my greatest strengths. No surprise then that it would also be one of my greatest weaknesses. As a people-pleasing adapter, I have to be mindful of how my faith fluctuates based on my surroundings. When I’m in close proximity with people who are walking nearly to the Lord, it makes me want to do the same. There is a sort of holy peer-pressure that does, to an extent, “spur us on to love and good deeds” like Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about. But when I adopt the cultural holiness of my companions, instead of a Biblical holiness, I end up looking to people to tell me how I should think and act, rather than walking in obedience to what God has told me in scripture. And on the flip side, in seasons when I’m walking alongside people who have no relationship with God, or a distant one at best, I adopt their level of holiness, or lack there of, questioning whether or not “the whole God thing” is such a big deal after all and if my efforts toward obedience are actually necessary, or just extreme and outdated. My faith cannot be contingent on other people—both for better or for worse—because when my eyes are constantly watching on others, they cannot be on the Lord. To combat this tendency, I hold fast to this verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2.
I have developed a snobbery toward unnecessary vowel replacements solely for aesthetic appeal. So when I saw “ROI” captioned beneath a man on the news, I assumed it was pronounced “Roy” and this was a classic example of the I replacing a Y. I invited HusBen to scoff at this with me, and he swiftly escorted me off my high horse explaining that ROI stood for Return On Investment. Though I knew this already, I didn’t hate the quick refresher. It is typically referenced in the context of finances, but ROI applies to our faith as well. I find that I’m more willing to be faithful—walk in obedience, spend time with God, serve at church etc.—when I believe that I’m going to get something out of it, my “return.” This ranges from trying to earn leadership positions in ministry to trying to catch the eye of a godly guy. Somewhere along the way I adopted a view that the amount of blessings the Lord would give me would be in proportion to the amount I invested in the faith. Basically, using the Lord as means to an end, believing that if I played by his rules, he owed me a thing or two. Do we benefit from knowing the Lord? Yes. But the heart behind my approach in this scenario is manipulative. No surprise then that when the Lord hasn’t given me the return I was expecting, based on my years of investment, my faith has faltered. I’ve questioned whether or not he was good, and ultimately why he wasn’t holding up his part of our bargain. David felt similarly in Psalm 73, when he questions whether or not he was living for the Lord in vain, but he follows this thought saying, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” Psalm 73:25-26. God is not the means to the end, he is the end—our portion and our prize.
I have a friend who told me she never thought of faith as being a spiritual gift until she met me. Thanks? More than anything I’ve mentioned, my faith is most likely to waver based on my logic. When confronted with the questions I cannot answer, pain I cannot explain, death, disease, and evil, my logic tempts me to write all of this off. If there’s a God and he’s good, why does evil exist in our world? If he’s able to stop it and he doesn’t, is he really good? If he is good, but unable to stop it, is he really God? These are the things that keep me up at night, that make my mind spin. These are the conversations that I have with unbelieving friends who want to understand where I’m coming from, and all I can tell them is that I believe he is who he says he is and I trust him, all things considered. He is wiser and kinder than I can fathom. He sees beyond time and space. His definition of “good” isn’t limited by finite perspective. He cares more about the well being of mankind than I do. He works in mysterious ways that I am unable to comprehend. So in the midst of my logic and my culture tempting me to think otherwise, I cling to the verse that says,“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:4. The Bible is chock full of counter-intuitive commands like this, but this one is perhaps the most difficult for me because my “own understanding” has a tendency to read into things, overreact, worry, doubt, and literally pirouette to conclusions. Fortunately, I do not have to will power my way into understanding and acceptance, but the Lord helps me with that. Even then I will say, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”
If we want develop unwavering faith, it cannot be contingent on other people, or on what we get out of the deal, or on our logic, because with each of those things, our faith becomes more about us and those around us, and less about God. A faith that is not based on God really isn’t a faith in him but in ourselves. As I have released my faith from the pressures and expectations of people leading me well, circumstances working out, and my logic aligning with Scripture, I have found freedom. These things shift as the shadows, but the Lord does not.
As we consider the contingencies in our lives it’s essential that we fix our eyes upon, and set our foundation on, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Praise God that though our faith may waver and falter at times, his faithfulness is not nullified by it.
What is your faith contingent upon?