When grief barged into my life in my late twenties, I questioned God’s goodness and his very existence for the first time. Under the weight of all my questions and doubts, faith felt like a mystery. I didn’t want to walk away from God, but I didn’t know how to believe when things were hard. In the midst of pain and loss, my faith was shaken, and I worried it would never be the same.
I grew up in a Christian family and took God at his Word without much difficulty, trusting that he would never let me down. Praying, reading my Bible, and attending church were part of my regular rhythms. I assumed my faith was strong.
But when my faith was tested, it started to crumble because I didn’t truly understand faith. In a desperate attempt to hang on to my faith, I set out to understand what it actually is. Thankfully, God’s Word has much to say on the topic and offers a pretty straightforward definition: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1, NIV). To put it simply, faith is placing your hope and trust in God alone. But what does that look like practically?
Place Your Trust in God
Faith requires confidence in God even when it’s impossible to understand what he’s doing. Even when things look bleak, we can trust that God knows what he is doing because he sees in full what we only see in part. He knows far more than we do, and he is always acting for his glory and our good. Tim Keller said it this way: “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”1
Our confidence in God grows when we study his character. God proves his goodness and faithfulness over and over again in his Word. So we can be confident that he will continue to be good and faithful even when doubt whispers otherwise. He is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
Faith Isn’t a Feeling
I treated faith like a feeling for most of my life, so when my world was shaken and I felt full of doubt, I began to slip into disbelief. However, the security of our faith should never depend on the fickleness of our own emotions and feelings! Building the foundation of our faith on our feelings is like building a foundation on sand in a broken world where rain is inevitable.
Instead, we should build the foundation of our faith on the immovable rock of God. Faith should depend not on our feelings but on his unchanging character. Even when doubts and questions creep into our hearts, we can be confident that it’s not about the way we feel but the way God feels about us. Friend, you may not always feel your faith, but you can still choose it.
Place Your Hope in God
Hope is what fuels our faith, but it’s easy to place our hope in the wrong things. When we place our hope in ourselves, worldly comfort, or a particular outcome, we are putting our faith in things that were never meant to bear the weight of our hope. When we fix our eyes above (Col. 3:2) and remember the hope that awaits us in eternity, we can endure the trials and heartaches of this broken world by faith, standing firmly on unshaken ground.
Faith Isn’t a Finish Line
So if your faith feels flimsy or weak, the good news is this: faith isn’t a finish line. Rather, it’s a muscle you have to keep working out. Just as our physical muscles get stronger when we work them out, the same is true for our faith. James 1:2–3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Exercising our faith will build steadfastness.
However, just as our physical muscles grow weak without exercise, the same is true for our faith muscles. Though you may have exercised your faith in the past, if you aren’t consistently working it out, then it’s growing weaker. So let us diligently work out our faith with joy, knowing that it’s not about the strength of our faith, but the strength of the One in whom we put our faith (Matt. 17:20).
Ultimately, understanding what faith is equips us to hold on to it with a white-knuckled grip through every season of life as God holds on to us. And though there may be days when faith feels like it’s slipping through your fingers here on earth, a glorious day is on the horizon for us, where our faith will finally become sight!