27 January 2013

Faith and New Starts

I'm not quite sure what people mean when they say they're "putting their faith to the test."  I'm not sure that faith is something that gets tested, like light bulbs or cars or anything that's manufactured.  I am sure that the saying generally comes up when people take risks, especially huge risks--and by huge I mean potentially damaging ones.  When we take risks, we're putting ourselves in situations in which we can get hurt or damaged, emotionally, physically, financially, or in any of a number of other ways.

But isn't risk an important part of life?  And shouldn't faith be a natural part of our lives, also, and thus a natural part of any risk-taking that we may encounter?

Right now, for example, my wife and I are involved in a pretty large risk.  Because of our former job and living situations, as well as the current employment problems that still confound the world in general, we decided together to set out and move to a new place and new jobs.  While many people would see this as a huge risk, we don't necessarily see it as such.  We do see it as a risk, for there is the potential of damage, but we don't see it as a huge risk, mostly because of our faith.

You see, life always has been good to us.  Not in the ways that we sometimes wanted, and not in ways that have made us wealthy or that have given us an over-abundance of material goods, but in ways that have kept us safe and well cared for.  We both have faith that things will work out, and that faith helps us to see our current move in a very positive light, rather than looking at the world from a place of worry and concern.  When I was laid off from work last year, that wasn't the end of the world--after all, millions of other people were going through the same thing, many in much worse situations than I.  Rather than look at the situation as justification for losing my faith-- or questioning it--I saw the situation as life pushing me in a different direction.  And the work I ended up getting six months later definitely turned out to be a positive learning experience.

I don't see faith as trusting that God is going to look down and meddle in my life to make things work.  God is not going to flip a switch in someone's brain and have that person feel magically compelled to offer me a job.  God is not going to take over the steering of my car and drive me to someplace that's looking to hire someone with just my qualifications.  Rather, I see faith as simply trusting.  I need to go on doing what I do, following my conscience and following my heart, trusting that things will turn out.  What we tend to call "setbacks" are usually just minor obstacles that we need to go past.  I may apply for thirty jobs before getting one; some people apply for hundreds.  But the right work is out there for me, and it may be that the right work isn't anything at all like the work I had thought it would or should be, but if I approach it in the right ways, I most certainly can find any work to be fulfilling and gratifying.

When I was younger, I had a pretty negative relationship with faith.  I used to think that prayers would only be answered through strong faith, and that since none of my prayers were being answered, my faith could never grow.  And since my faith could never grow, none of my prayers would ever be answered.  That perspective, though, was about me and my thought processes, and not at all about the true nature of faith.

Many people have trust issues.  Adult children of alcoholics, people who come from broken homes, people who grew up with unreliable adults in their lives--all of us have internalized some sorts of problems with trusting others.  But even among those problems, we can see that such problems are inherently unfair to those who deserve our trust.  A woman who has been burned by several different men, may have issues of trust, but is it fair to the potential new men in her life that she treat them with distrust?  They don't deserve not to be trusted.

And very often, we don't trust people until they prove that they can be trusted.  This is the wrong way of going about things.  The proper way to view trust is that we should trust people until they prove that they can't be trusted (while still being careful--we wouldn't trust a person we've known for an hour with our life savings, would we?).

I do know that God (however you choose to see God) and life are deserving of our trust.  This trust is our faith.  When we have faith, we live our lives as if things are going to work out well, no matter how they may look at any given time.  And the fact that we're living our lives that way can help us to create the lives that we have our faith in, thus helping us to strengthen our faith even more.

My wife and I don't take God for granted.  We don't say, "Well, we're taking chances so God will make things work."  Rather, we say that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, looking to make things work in our new home, and we trust that our hard work will help us to find what we need to find.  We may not find the work that's what we envisioned, but we have faith that we will find the work that's best for us at this point in our lives.  And that faith is going to help us not to worry and not to feel too much stress and to be able to give our best no matter what we do.  And that faith is going to allow us to live each day fully in the meantime, not squandering days because of concerns about the future.  Faith truly is a strong tool in our lives, and one that we can go about strengthening on our own.

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