In my last post I closed with realization that we can be called children of God. However, if I’m honest this journey has not been clean and straight forward to fit neatly into little posts. Though, as I attempted to pull this neatly packaged truth of being God’s child into my life, I felt relief in the promise of being God’s child. Though I gained a sense of being loved and secure from His great care for me, I still questioned, how could I claim this position? How could I be sure this promise was for me? I found the answer in John 1:12: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
This verse showed how I could receive the title of “Child of God”—by believing and receiving Him—and it brought me to another uphill struggle that I had faced over and over.
To explain that struggle, I need to start back at the beginning. I grew up in a Christian home and received Christ as my Savior at a young age. God chose me to be a child of His while I was still a child. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me” (Matt 19:14), and I came with childlike faith. I believed fully and wholeheartedly in the wonder and miraculous plan of His redemption. I never questioned or doubted. I knew His love.
Then I went to college. It was a small Christian school, and during my time there, I took a class on the New Testament. One of the assignments for that class was to read a book about the compilation and history of the New Testament, as well as the fallibility of its writers and the compiling process. At least, that is what I took from the book and from the class. From the skepticism of the author, it bred in me questions of how could the Bible be compiled over so many years by people who make mistakes and remain the unchanged word of God. By the end of the semester, I had gained a B+ and a doubt in my faith, in my God, and in His Word. I hated that book, that class, and that teacher. They had taken from me my childlike faith. Now what could I stand on? I cried! I prayed. The prayer from the questioning father in Mark 9:24 became a constant proclamation and request for me: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
It was at this time that I started to listen more to the world. The seeds of doubt were sown, and I allowed the lies to settle in. I became set on the path of seeking myself by this world. I turned to believe that my worth depended on my status, positions and how well I accomplished them as well as what others thought about me. I looked to the world to take up where my faith failed. I believed my value could be built or achieved. So many doubts and fears were swirling inside my mind, and I shoved them down to be replaced by temporary status of this world. My attention began to be put into believing things that I could see. Instead of facing the doubt, instead of looking at what would affect eternity, I dove into finding my value in other things.
It was a very full part of life and I allowed my mind to be consumed by the changes and excitement around me. I felt pride in my achievements, such as graduating college and starting a photography business. I found identity in my decisions, such as getting married and becoming independent from my parents. I believed I was a success. What was brewing under the surface long before I felt lost at the museum was this shift from believing God for my value to believing I was defined by what my eyes could see.
As my struggle with the validity of the Bible continued, I began to question more. Who is God? What role does Jesus play in my life? I couldn’t seem to hold onto my childlike faith and blindly trust that I needed a Savior but started to need an explanation of why. I struggled to believe in Jesus. I struggled to know who He is, and how He relates to my every day. I believed who He was historically, but did He really rise from the dead? Was He really God? Could He be tempted but without sin? And if so, what does His life lived so long ago mean to me? Not just His example that I can follow, but what does His life, death, and resurrection mean to me?
I remember holding fast to the words “faith like a child” and wishing I could go back to a day when I just believed. I wanted to return to the faith of my youth. I coveted that childlike faith. I longed for the time when it wasn’t about history or validity and just about the fact that Jesus loved me, that He had died for me. In these years of doubt, I clung to Psalm 142:3: “When my spirit grows faint within me it is you who know my way.” I wanted to know the path, but my spirit felt so crushed, so shaken. I didn’t seem to know my way, and I just prayed that God did!
I went on like that for a long time. I was wandering, trying to find the path of faith. I began to seek out the definition of true faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And a couple of verses later Hebrews says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Putting these verses together along with others that we will see in the chapters to come, I came to the conclusion that saving faith is believing and being assured that Jesus’s death is what justifies me and puts me into a right relationship with God. I realized that faith was a pivotal point, that my standing with God rests on it.
My faith seemed so small, but it carried such weight and importance. Constantly I asked: Do I have enough faith? Do I have conviction of what I can’t see? Can I claim the position of child of God by my belief? It felt incredibly heavy to place on my shoulders the responsibility to muster up that much faith, to understand and believe.
I wanted to believe, and I continued to wish I could go back to the bliss of my childlike faith, but for some reason my heart couldn’t convince my head. How could I overcome my own mind? I was caught in a cycle of believing and questioning. I was trying to live out in faith what I wished was unwavering, but I struggled at every turn. In the Bible Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), but I couldn’t convince myself, my mind, to believe.
More and more, Christianity started to seem like a myth or a fairytale to me. It seemed too good to be true. I couldn’t wrap my mind around Jesus’s death and resurrection. I couldn’t grasp the need that His actions filled. I tried to make sense of the mystery that I knew—or wanted to know—deep down, but I also questioned it every day. From the following verses I came up with some equations:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This meant that:
my sin = death
(my sin + Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection) + belief = eternal life
It seemed like a simple enough equation to me. I had it figured out. I believed. Or I wanted to believe. And yet I doubted. I wanted to complete the equation, to uphold my own faith. The problem was that I couldn’t hold up my part of the formula. Every time I had convinced myself that I believed, fear and doubt would creep in.
It took a long time to see but eventually I came to realize that my focus was only on myself. I focused on my belief and my position. I was failing to look more closely at God. I was acting as if my belief in Him changed who He was.
What I came to understand is that God doesn’t need me to have faith in order for Him to be faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 makes this clear. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” God is who He says He is, whether I believe it or not.
This realization lead me down the path to seek out who God is. However, all the answers I wanted to use to support my faith came from the New Testament which I was questioning.
I started diving into the Old Testament, which for me was a more reliable source, in search of who this God was. God’s faithfulness is spread throughout. Deuteronomy 7:8 speaks of the oath that God made to the Israelites and kept as He redeemed them out of slavery. They are reminded to “know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Genesis 8:22 recounts God’s promise that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” We can see this promise being kept each day as the sun rises and throughout the year as the seasons change. Believing that God’s faithfulness did not depend on me and my search to find more about Him, grew into knowing that I can have faith in God because He is faithful.
The first that this connection between our faith and His faithfulness had occurred to me was listening to a Beth Moore video. In her Bible study, Stepping Up, a journey through the Psalms of Ascent, Beth Moore teaches that we can have faith because God is faithful. It sounds so simple, but that was a revelation for me. Saying, “I can have faith in God because He is faithful” is like saying, “I can believe you because are believable,” “I can trust you because you are trustworthy,” or “I can depend on you because you are dependable.” In these situations, the person’s character does not change but their history of holding these qualities instills a trust that they will continue along this path. I was able to look at God and see that He was faithful. However, it was not until I started to see glimpses and foretelling of Jesus in the Old Testament that I began to see how Jesus is crucial to the character of my faithful God. This portion of my struggle will be explored more over the next several posts but it is critical for our belief. The Old Testament God promised redemption. He talks of the one to come. (See Isaiah 53 as an example.) Jesus’s actions toward us were promised and are yet another proof of our God’s faithfulness. Each time God makes a promise He keeps a promise.
Take a look at an example in the Bible in which someone considered God’s faithfulness: Hebrews 11:11 says, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” Sarah had faith because “she considered him faithful.” We too can have faith because of the faithfulness of the God we trust. Our God is a God of Promises. He is a God of kept promises. He is faithful! He is trustworthy. May we rest our faith in the only One that is faithful.
Next week on the blog we will continue to discuss God’s faithfulness and how He applies it to us. I hope that you will continue on this journey with me to explore identity. To receive updates please subscribe to Steps to Trusting. As a welcome for subscribing you will receive the a printable file that includes much of the encouragement that I found in God’s word. When I was searching to see who I was, I found healing and an identity of value and purpose in God’s promises. I hope that these truths will be a blessing to you too.
If you missed any of the posts in this series and want to catch up you can find them below.