I am choosing to believe in the midst of crisis and fear, and I want to teach you three steps to do the same.
By the way, I said “choosing” because it is a choice.
It is these moments—when the unknown is dark and dreadful, and each day’s news is worse than the last—that faith resides. All too often, we allow ourselves to be convinced that faith is agreeing with a specific set of principles. Like if I check everything off the list, then some warm, fuzzy feeling of “faith” magically appears. But that warm, fuzzy feeling (if it ever even came)—was never faith. In most cases, it was little more than superiority and judgment over those who weren’t as “faithful” as us.
You see, you don’t need “faith” when the sun is shining, when all is joyful, and when you’re “right.” A vacation at the beach needs no faith. A drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible doesn’t require us to wrestle or worry. Yet in this global moment of panic and crisis, it seems that wrestling and worrying are about all we can manage.
For many of us, this is the first time in our lives when we’ve ever needed faith. The first time when it’s been more than a brain exercise or an intellectual argument. The first time when we’ve come anywhere close to the kind of terror, pain, or existential uncertainty that has been normal for most of humanity’s history. It hurts to admit it, but many of us have been privileged and rich enough to not only be sheltered from much of the nasty, brutish pain of life but to actually believe that such pain is abnormal—as if we’re being unjustly treated somehow.
Sadly, it isn’t. Regardless of what you feel about God or spirituality, it’s pretty clear to all of us that we live in a broken world full of flawed people—ourselves included. The current pandemic has thrown a spotlight on exactly how broken our world and its inhabitants are, but it isn’t the culprit. It’s just showing us what already existed. The brokenness around us may have been easier to ignore before, but it isn’t new.
Put simply, we’ve been thrust into the middle of a crisis where we desperately need faith, but we’ve never learned how to develop it. There are a million different steps you can take to grow your faith, but I’ll give you three to start with.
First, you have to KNOW what you’re CHOOSING.
Just like faith isn’t a big list of abstract philosophical ideas, it also isn’t a big blanket statement that you choose once, hang on the wall, and forget about. It is a day by day, moment by moment set of specific choices.
- Will I choose to trust that God will provide enough money to make it to the next payday?
- Will I choose not to panic because my kid developed a cough overnight?
- Will I choose to give toilet paper to the family across the street, even though I don’t know when I’ll be able to buy more?
Quite often, clarity brings calm—it’s easy for us to be overwhelmed by emotions and situations. Take the time to stop, breathe, and clearly articulate what fear you’re facing. In order to have the kind of faith that actually sustains and powers you through the crisis, you have to know what you’re choosing.
Second, you have to REMEMBER what God has PROMISED.
Specifically, you have to understand His character. He is a God of limitless power (Jeremiah 10:12), who consistently says that He will rescue his people (Isaiah 46:3-4). There is nothing that can take us away from Him (Romans 8:38-39), and one day, he will make all things right (Revelation 21:1-5). But at the same time, He said that we would experience difficulty (John 16:33). In fact, Jesus himself was rejected by his own people, betrayed by his closest friends, and put to death in place of a known murderer and terrorist.
God is very clear—he is bigger than whatever we’re facing, and it cannot take us away from him. Yet He will not necessarily prevent that hardship from coming. If we don’t stop to remember both sides of this equation, we will end up disappointed, believing that God is either too weak to help us, or doesn’t care enough to do so.
Third, you have to CHOOSE to act FAITHFULLY.
This is the hard part—it’s the part we don’t really talk about or model for each other nearly enough. Put simply, you’re comparing the fear you feel to the reality that God describes, and then consciously, proactively choosing to act differently as a result.
For example, I might be afraid of losing my job in the midst of the pandemic-induced economic recession we’re facing. That’s a reasonable, logical fear based on the fact that many other people have already lost their jobs. From there, I take the three steps (obviously greatly simplified here, for the sake of brevity):
- Step One: What am I choosing?
- I can choose to indulge my fear and allow it to dominate my mental processes and affect my physical health.
- Or I can choose to be open to the idea that God has an alternative for me.
- Step Two: What did God promise?
- Well, He promised that he’ll always provide.
- He promised that nothing can separate me from him.
- He also promised that difficulty like this could come my way, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
- Step Three: What is my faithful choice?
- I have to ask myself, “Have I lost my job yet?” (No.) “Do I have any indication that I’m going to lose it?” (Again, no.)
- I also need to ask myself, “Has God provided for me in the past when I’ve needed him?” (Yes.) “Am I able to believe that He will do so again?” (Maybe yes.)
So in this instance, my faithful choice is to look at that fear I’m feeling and recognize that it is not true. Faith doesn’t make me immune to hardship—miserable stuff still happens—but God still provides. He’s provided in the past and will do so in the future. As a result, I refuse to dwell on that fear. I refuse to make decisions based on that fear. I refuse to make assumptions based on that fear. And the crazy part? The more I do this—the more I intentionally bend my beliefs, emotions, fears, and assumptions toward the reality that God describes, the easier it gets.
This is what it looks like to build your faith. It’s one choice at a time, one moment after another. Let me be really clear—this isn’t easy. It isn’t clean or simple. Most of us have never had to flex these kinds of muscles in our lives. But it is times like these when faith is actually grown. It’s crisis and difficulty that pushes us to trust, which forces us to choose to rely on God for help because we simply can’t do it on our own.
And it’s that choice that makes all the difference. That choice is where faith is born.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What strikes you most about this article? Why?
It is more than OK to have fear. It’s human! We shouldn’t feel bad about having it, we’re just meant to move through it towards something better—trust. What barriers do you have to trusting God? You know, all the “Yeah, but…” and “What if…”s that come to mind. Write them down or share them out loud with a friend
Take the one that looms most heavily and go through the process Eric describes. Note how you feel before and after. And keep trying it as a regular conversation you can have with God. Ask Him for help, for his peace, and be open to actually embracing it when it comes.
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