“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Heb 11:6)
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” That’s a strong word – impossible. For so long, I internally measured my spiritual progress by how hard I was trying and by the degree to which I was avoiding specific sins. Of course, that is a losing battle because I can never work hard enough, and I never manage to avoid particular sins. This verse suggested that God’s measure is different. Faith is what counts. From there, the author of Hebrews goes on to define the essence of faith. Faith is first, believing that God exists. Second, faith believes that He “rewards those who seek Him.” In other words, God is good.
Believing that God is good is harder than it first appears. We view God as the disapproving grandfather, never satisfied, always ready to “discipline” us for our own good. This attitude creates a feeling that we are only one sin away from God dropping the hammer on us. I think this is very close to Satan’s first distortion in the garden when he asked Eve, “did God really say?” Faith, though, is believing that God is good and that He is on our side.
This kind of faith is manageable when things are going well. But what about faith when the evidence seems to contradict God’s goodness? What do we believe about God when life turns sour? When faith is challenging, we are drawn to pray like the father who brought his possessed son to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
I have found four particular circumstances when it is hardest to believe in God’s goodness. These are the times when I need to lean most into faith.
- God is good, even though my circumstances are bad.
- God is good, even though my loved one died.
- God is good, even when I make mistakes and fall far short.
- God is good, even when the world around is upside down.
The tendency is to think that faith is too hard, to feel overwhelmed by our doubts. Doubt often has seeds of trust. Like the marathoner who is unsure whether she can make it those last few miles, those small seeds of doubt grow into beautiful flowers of faith as we water and tend the seed.
Doubt is a turning point in which we either give in to fear, resentment, and cynicism, or we lean into what we believe to be true, though we don’t yet feel that truth. Faith is cultivated in our quiet meditations on His truth. We learn to rehearse His goodness and trust in His strength. Faith enlarges as we grow through community, even in these Covid days. Friends buoy us with their faith when we falter.
We have limited perspective. Faith, even when tainted by doubt, looks beyond the visible. It trusts that God is good and will always be good. It is who He is.