“[Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4:40, NRSV)
Everybody has troubles. We tend to think that some people “have it made” and their lives are always easy. Although some people’s lives appear easier due to their resources, everybody’s life still has challenges. I think the reason it seems like another person’s life is easier has more to do with the presence of resilience than it does the number of difficulties they experience.
“Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.” --Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience)
The amount of resilience we possess results from genetics, upbringing, and other environmental factors; however, resilience also increases through practices that turn us away from negative thoughts and toward more positive thinking. Rooted in resilience is an underlying belief that everything will work out in the end, so we can endure the present circumstances while awaiting a better outcome.
Resilience is also a byproduct of an ever-deepening faith in God. Richard Cecil, the eighteenth-century Anglican clergy, asserted that faith establishes a frame of reference through which we understand and deal with the troubling and traumatic situations that arise during our lives. He said:
“When outward strength is broken, faith rests on the promises [of God that all will be well]. Amid sorrow, faith draws the sting out of trouble and takes out the bitterness from affliction.”—Rev. Richard Cecil
At this point, I need to add a word of caution. If you lack resilience, it doesn’t mean you lack faith. The relationship between faith and resilience is much more complicated than that. Often what feels like a lack of faith is a lack of experience in living the life of faith. Trust in anyone develops over time as we increasingly experience the trustworthiness of the other. It wouldn’t be wise to trust someone we’ve just met without having some evidence that they are trustworthy. The same is true in our relationship with God. The more experience we have in putting our faith in God and seeing him come through for us, the more our faith increases.
An essential component of our vision as a church is that we want to help you experience lifelong transformation. I often say the deeper we go in our relationship with God, the deeper we can go. We will never exhaust the depths of our relationship with God, for there will always be one more step we can take in that ever-deepening relationship.
The challenge for many of us is that we have an inherited faith that is static and fixed. The disciples in the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee had an inherited faith. That is, the religious leaders of their day handed down a set of beliefs about God that the disciples adopted as their faith. When faced with the storm on the sea, their inherited faith wasn’t enough to sustain them. Jesus was allowing them to turn their inherited faith into an experiential faith as, over time, they learned to trust him more.
Our inherited faith is vital in our development; however, it is just the beginning of our life of faith. We must grow in our unique and personal relationship with God, experiencing faith as an awareness that grows over time as we interact with God in various circumstances and situations in our lives. It is in those experiences that we observe God’s trustworthiness and our faith in him deepens.
If you’re struggling with the challenges of life, you may need help navigating toward a deeper and more sustainable faith. Don’t beat yourself up over not having enough faith. Instead, reach out to someone whose faith you admire and ask them for guidance and help. Terry Stubblefield and I are both here for you, but many others in our church would be honored to walk with you in your struggles. If your faith is weak, all you need is more time to grow in your faith experience, and with help from others, you will get there. Before you know it, your growing faith will inspire others, and you will help others on their journey to a deeper faith.