Fighting the good fight.
I've been on quite the faith journey over the course of my life so far. There's a lot of history behind my faith experience that left me jaded and bitter toward religion. I'll save that story for another time because it's heavy and dark. Here's what's been on my heart as of late. I know that faith is a wonderful thing. But I don't think we can get the full "faith experience" unless we have the courage to enter into the fight. It's easy to say you have faith until life throws unexpected tragedies and unfair challenges at you. In those moments, how can you believe that God is really a good God? To really experience faith, I think we have to be able to acknowledge how freaking messy it is.
For me, the hardest part about faith has always been the uncertainty. I always found it ridiculous that people believe in God with every ounce of their being even though they can't prove his existence. I always thought praying was silly because you're just talking out loud to yourself. "How am I supposed to believe in something," I thought, "if I don't know if any of it's even real?" I needed proof. I needed to see the evidence. If I could just have that, then yeah, I would be so on board with the Jesus stuff. I dealt with quite a bit of frustration as I was wrestling with these things a few months ago.
It was hard to accept that I'd have to let go of my desire to know everything. To be okay with the fact that this life and our God are too big for me to ever understand completely. Faith is the assurance of things we can't see. Faith is about walking, not seeing. Faith is "letting go and letting God" (Yeah, I used to hate that saying, too). Faith is fighting the good fight (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
Uncertainty sucks. But as my newfound favorite writer Jonas Ellison says, certainty is "a false idol that never delivers." Certainty is "heaven for the ego and hell for the soul." The uncertainty is what pushes our souls to believe in something that much stronger. Our lives are fragile and uncertain in themselves. This verse hit me with a pretty big dose of reality and humility:
For what is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Kind of depressing, right? But it puts this universe and this life into perspective. I've found that the more I let go of controlling my life and the more I fight to think about the bigger picture, the less my world revolves around me. It makes me want to believe in something bigger than myself. So I've poured more energy into learning about not only God but also Jesus (yes, this is a Justin Bieber reference) (but it's funny because God and Jesus really aren't the same person) (so technically he wasn't wrong).
But that doesn't make it easy. How do you remain steadfast in your faith in God when the news is saturated with stories about Aleppo, mass shootings and social injustice? How do you have faith when close friends or family are diagnosed with stage four cancer? How do you keep believing when a car accident rips someone from your life? Let me know. I'll be trying to figure that one out for a while.
Anyway, I guess this is why they call it a faith journey. I don't think people ever actually reach "maximum faith." It's an uphill battle and you're going to get some bumps and bruises. Life will test your faith's limits and there will be days when you don't have any more faith at all, but that's when you fight.
I don't know why God does that to people, but I like to think it's his way of toughening us up. To really see if we believe in something bigger than ourselves.
I've always pictured faith journeys to look something like a marathon or Bilbo Baggins' trek to Mount Doom. It's a messy, sometimes disheartening, really exhausting, (hopefully not near-fatal) fight. But you know you're fighting the "good fight" because it's worth it. I'm giving up on trying to know everything there is to know about faith. But I do know that believing in something bigger than yourself is always worth it.