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Questions and Answers: What Does It Mean To Have Faith?
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Polly: Hello, Gloria! How’s everything?
Gloria: Hello, Polly. I’m fine, I guess.
Pol: You seem depressed.
Glo: I am, a little. I can’t explain it — everything is going fine, really. But somehow it doesn’t really seem to matter, all the achievements and belongings and fun activities in the world — life still seems empty. Is it just me?
Pol: No, hardly. But as a believer in Jesus, Gloria, you ought to know that none of those things can satisfy us: only Jesus can.
Glo: Yes, so shouldn’t I feel satisfied since I am a believer, regardless of my material situation? And certainly when my material situation is good, I should have no difficulty in feeling happy in Jesus then! But I do.
Pol: Actually, it’s when things are going well that it is easier to trust in our situation rather than Jesus, and that will always make us unhappy, because even the best situation is not made to satisfy us. But you can’t depend on your feelings to determine whether you are trusting in circumstances or having faith in Jesus. As C.S. Lewis explained, “moods will change, whatever view your reason takes … That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and from, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.”1
Glo: But, Polly — if faith doesn’t show itself in our feelings, how can we know it is there?
Pol: Our faith is dependent on the trustworthiness of God and Holy Scripture. As we follow Jesus in obedience, often the feelings follow, but not always. We have to learn to trust Jesus even when we don’t feel like it. Understanding faith as trust is a helpful way of getting away from the whole notion of feelings. Trust is not a matter of emotions, but of choosing to believe what someone tells us, regardless of what anyone else tells us or what the circumstances look like. And faith for a follower of Jesus is to believe that things are going to turn out the way He says in the Bible, even if that isn’t what politicians or current science textbooks or modern culture or individual circumstances or our friends say. Faith is a matter of choosing Who we trust, and sticking to it whatever our feelings are. And if we have decided to trust in Jesus, to have faith in Him through His death and Resurrection, it changes our perspective on everything in life. As C.S. Lewis stated, “If you like to put it that way, Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything for nothing. In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer … To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already.”2
Glo: But I still do worry — I sometimes feel that it isn’t sensible of me to expect things to work out differently for me than they do for the rest of the world, just because I’m a follower of Jesus.
Pol: Here’s where faith connects to the others of the trio of biblical virtues: hope and love. You see, when you become a believer in Jesus, you now know that there is more to life than this world. You realize that the purpose of the things that happen in this life is to prepare us for eternity with God in Heaven. Consequently, you attach greater importance to different things than non-believers. They have nothing eternal to hope for, and so they do not see why they should expect their lives to show evidence of purpose. But we know that God made every one of us for a purpose, and that everything in life is connected to that purpose — His love for us and our love for Him and our neighbor. So, our hope in God leads us to have faith in His control of all our circumstances, to where we can trust Him to transform our lives in accordance with His plan rather than what the world says is necessary. Our love of God enables us to have enough faith to put our own concerns and worries for ourselves aside, knowing God will take care of us; we can focus instead on doing what we can to take care of others, in unselfish Christlike love. Maybe that approach would help you to overcome the gloomy feelings that are attacking your faith right now, Gloria.
Glo: Can’t hurt to give it a shot. Thanks, Polly.
Ask your children: What do you think about Polly’s answers to Gloria’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give, if someone asked them a question like Gloria’s.
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 50th Anniversary ed. (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002), pp. 140-141.
2 Ibid. p. 147.