discovering faith


I wish I could¬†feel my faith. ¬†I know I have faith that God exists, that he made all, that he has changed my life and even caused specific things in my own life to happen. ¬†I believe that and I cling to that belief. ¬†But often I feel as though that’s all I’m doing–clinging to something I don’t really understand but know won’t let me down.

I feel like I’m stuck in a pool of still water. ¬†I suppose the change I’m asking for is one that often comes through hardship and I certainly don’t want that. ¬†What I want is to really know, deeply love, and completely trust the God I believe in.

When I wrote these words in my journal I had no clue what I was asking for.  While I realize that the events of the coming months were not because of my prayer, looking back I can see how God was preparing me for the events about to take place.

A couple weeks later,¬†I received two phone calls within the span of a weekend. ¬†Two family members had been diagnosed with cancer. ¬†On top of that, my cousin’s husband of one year was still battling the melanoma that was spreading throughout his body. ¬†I was lost. ¬†I didn’t know what to pray or even how to pray. ¬†I tried over and over but all I could say was, “Please, God. ¬†Please, God.”

In the coming months, I tried to have the kind of faith I see in those I look up to. ¬†I tried to believe that God was working all things for good and that we would someday look back and see His plan. ¬†I tried to faithfully read my Bible and pray and worship. ¬†I tried. ¬†But I discovered that sometimes the best thing–the only thing–you can do is sit and cry out to the only One who knows the ache in your heart.

In July we celebrated the end of my aunt’s chemotherapy. ¬†It was a welcome ray of sunshine in the midst of what was turning out to be a difficult year. ¬†My grandpa’s chemo had started off rough but they had figured out the issue and things were going better. ¬†As the summer progressed, I clung to that hope.

Fall came and my cousin and her husband celebrated their second anniversary. ¬†Oh, the joy that surrounded that day! ¬†As weeks went by, though, the melanoma began to make itself evident. ¬†There are no words to describe the next couple of months. ¬†December saw his admittance to hospice and steady decline in health. ¬†I didn’t know what to do for my cousin. ¬†All I wanted was to fix everything, to take away the pain that filled her and renew her joy. ¬†Again, my prayers consisted of two words, “Please, God. ¬†Please, God.”

In January, the day we all dreaded came. ¬†I went home for the funeral with an ache in my chest. ¬†When I saw my cousin, I could do nothing more than hold her and attempt to take some of her pain so she wouldn’t have to carry it. ¬†I had no words for her; no Bible verse or prayer. ¬†I just hugged her and cried with her. ¬†Even now, when I pray for her, I can’t say much more than my simple cry, “Please, God.”

While the ache of losing a loved one is a lasting one, we all breathed a small sigh of relief when the calenders flipped over to 2015. ¬†Twenty fourteen had been a hard year, one that has left scars that will never disappear, but it was over. ¬†Through all that had happened, I had learned the value of simply resting in God. ¬†I no longer felt like I was stuck in a pool of still water. ¬†I did not understand one bit the circumstances of the previous year but I was clinging to the simple fact that he is God and he loves me. ¬†And even while I wept, he surrounded me in his love. ¬†I discovered that faith is something that is both a feeling and a decision and it looks much different on the outside than it does personally. ¬†Sometimes, though, you can’t feel it and you have to make the decision to believe anyway.

Apparently, though, we weren’t done. ¬†Last week our neighbor’s daughter, a girl not much younger than me, was suddenly hospitalized and passed away a couple days later. ¬†“Reeling” and “shocked” are the words that come closest to how everyone is feeling. ¬†All I could think was, ‘Twenty fifteen was supposed to be better.’ ¬†I won’t lie, the words “why, God?” went through my mind more than once.

My family had tickets for a Rend Collective/Chris Tomlin concert the next day. ¬†Oh, the beauty of how God orchestrates our lives¬†far in advance! ¬†Rend Collective opened with six songs, immediately ushering us into God’s presence. ¬†As the words to¬†My Lighthouse¬†filled the room, I was struck by how amazing it was that my whole family, after everything that had happened in the previous fourteen months, was standing with me worshiping. ¬†‘This is faith,‘ I thought. ¬†‘This is what I was looking for.’ ¬†I had tears running down my face from the ache in my heart but I could still stand and sing, “I won’t fear what tomorrow brings; with each morning I’ll rise and sing; my God’s love will lead me through; You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

I still haven’t figured out how faith works or how it develops. ¬†I don’t understand how my simple crying out seemed to lead to a development of faith. ¬†At the time, I barely even had the faith to pray for healing. ¬†I don’t understand why all of this happened–I don’t think we ever will. ¬†But as I was singing, I discovered a deep longing for Heaven had developed within myself. ¬†While I will do God’s work on this earth for as long as he has determined I should, I am no longer satisfied with this world. ¬†I was not created for this temporary place with its short joys and lasting pain. ¬†Rather, I was created to¬†be with God!

This is by no means the end of my journey in discovering and developing faith.  I do, however, hope and pray for a year filled with joy and healing for my family.



Right now I’m learning about forgiveness. ¬†I’ve never had an issue with forgiving people in the past because I’m very much a “go with the flow” kind of person. ¬†I’ve always been really good at forgiving and forgetting. (especially forgetting. ¬†I’ve been told that’s a sign of aging but I certainly hope not. ¬†I’m only 20.) ¬†And if you think I’m kidding or trying to talk myself up, I’ll give you this bit of information: I’ve only been actually angry three or four times in my life. ¬†We all have different areas we struggle in; mine happen to be ones that don’t include forgiving others. ¬†It’s just never been much of an issue for me. ¬†So anyway, my point is that this is a new journey for me.

I could explain my journey, but that’s not important. ¬†What is important is the lesson I’m learning along the way.

I thought I was fine. ¬†I’ve never struggled with being angry with someone for any length of time or harboring unforgiveness toward someone so I certainly didn’t expect it to be an issue during this journey. ¬†But when I was sitting in church today, I discovered that, rather than throwing out my bitterness and anger, I had buried it deep down inside and it was slowly brewing and growing. ¬†I prayed. ¬†I told God that I had tried and thought it was gone but apparently was still there. ¬†I asked him to scoop it out because I didn’t want to push it down again. ¬†I didn’t want it. ¬†But it didn’t go away. ¬†Instead, during the entire service I could feel it there, in the pit of my stomach, slowly, slowly, feeding off my thoughts, trying to grow.

The sermon, as is par for the course with God, was exactly what I needed to hear. ¬†I was like, “Okay, I’ve got the tools now. ¬†I can deal with this. ¬†Maybe.” ¬†But God wasn’t done. ¬†Right before closing the service in prayer, Pastor said, “If you’re trying to make a decision, whether it’s a relationship, a sin, or anything, come down and talk to someone.” ¬†I was like, “nah, I really don’t want to. ¬†But I should… No.” ¬†Pastor: “Don’t let this chance go by. ¬†Take action and make your decision. ¬†We want to talk with you.” ¬†Brain: “I should. ¬†But it’d be so uncomfortable. ¬†It’s fine. ¬†Just pray. ¬†It’s between me and God anyway.” ¬†Pastor: “Don’t leave without talking to someone.” ¬†Brain: “FINE.”

So I did. ¬†I went down and talked to Pastor. ¬†I told him I was having trouble with forgiveness and about how it was buried after I thought I had scooped it out and asked him how to get rid of it. ¬†He told me something unexpected. ¬†“Do you remember when Jesus told Peter how many times we’re supposed to forgive our neighbor?” ¬†“Yeah, every time.” ¬†“Seventy times seven. ¬†Obviously we don’t keep track and stop at 490. ¬†But forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. ¬†There are times when you have to wake up every morning and choose to forgive the same thing. ¬†Every time your mind comes back to it, you have to actively choose to forgive that person. ¬†Write it down somewhere: I forgive _______. ¬†Obviously not where people can see it because then people will ask about it but put it somewhere where it will be a reminder to you.”

I’d always thought forgiveness was something you did once and then it was all better. ¬†And if it wasn’t, then there was something wrong with you and you hadn’t really forgiven in the first place. ¬†The thing is, that’s partially true. ¬†There is something wrong with me. ¬†I am a filthy sinner who can never cleanse herself of her old sins or stop herself from committing new ones. ¬†Which means I can’t stop myself from being angry. ¬†That’s why I have to forgive every day. ¬†That’s why I need God’s help to forgive. ¬†Because, on my own strength, I can’t forgive even once. ¬†I need God. ¬†If I didn’t have him and was trying to do this entirely on my own, that anger wouldn’t be buried deep in the pit of my stomach. ¬†It would be raging through my entire body, wrecking me. ¬†“What a wretched [woman] I am! ¬†Who will rescue me from this body of death? ¬†Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

So rather than dwelling on how I think I’ve been wronged, I need to choose to forgive and dwell on how much I’ve been forgiven. ¬†Daily.