To be sure, much has been written on the subject of faith, but nothing has been written about my faith. Faith in Jesus Christ, that He lives, that he atoned for our – my – sins, and that it is only through His grace that I can be saved. It is only through Him that I can live again in the presence of God. This is the faith of which I write.
A Disclaimer is necessary when I talk about spiritual matters and here it is: (1) I am a sinner, (2) I sin every day, and (3) Because of my sins, I worry constantly that my actions do not belie “Faith in Jesus Christ”.
In this post, I don’t refer to “faith” as a religion or an institution. Rather, I’m talking about my struggles to exercise faith in Christ. I’m 45 years old and I struggle daily with my faith. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never doubted the existence of Christ, or of his divinity. I don’t doubt He is and was the Son of God and that He atoned for my sins. When I say “struggle”, I’m referring to my ability (or inability) to adhere. This is my “struggle”.
Paul defined faith:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Another Christian prophet defined it this way:
“And now as I said concerning faith – faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore, if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
My “struggle” with faith is difficult to reduce to words. To me, faith and adherence are inextricably linked, so I can’t talk about my struggles without explaining that I’m talking about my inability to adhere to His teachings. I’d like to tell you that my faith in Christ is such that I’ve mastered this life and its challenges. I haven’t. I’d like to report that my actions are in complete conformity with my belief in his teachings. I can’t. This is the “struggle” I live with daily.
Alma went on to explain how faith works:
“Now, as I said concerning faith – that it was not a perfect knowledge – even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Not, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves – It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
The seed is planted. It’s growing. However, it seems that the plant gets pruned when I’m not able to live His teachings. One month, the plant may have grown several inches, but then I sin and either the growth stops, or the plant shrinks. This may not be accurate, but this is how it feels.
It’s during those times (i.e. please re-read my Disclaimer) that I “struggle” with my faith. My “struggles” bring guilt . . . feelings of failure. I don’t live up to expectations. I don’t live up to my potential. I feel like I’m letting you down when these feelings blanket me, the guilt intensifies. There are times when I think the game is rigged because whenever the plant grows it always seems to shrink again. Maybe it’s best described as “running in sand”, or “swatting at clouds” but when I experience a set back in growth, I feel I’m failing you.
C.S. Lewis said this about faith:
“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that he says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you 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. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.
Unfortunately, this post doesn’t have a neat ending. The “bow” doesn’t get tied in these few words. I know I’ll continue to struggle, but I’m moving forward. . . I’m fighting through it. It’s discouraging and demoralizing to experience a set back, but I haven’t given up. I suppose that’s the message this evening.
Your Imperfect Father