Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Faith

Faith can be defined as complete trust. Most of us have been taught from a young age that faith is a firm belief in something or someone where there is no proof of its existence. As with love, with faith there is no tangible evidence, nothing to hold or embrace, it simply exists in one’s heart and mind. One can have faith in many things; God, a religion, a friend or in oneself. When you have faith you act without question, timidity or doubt.

Faith is wonderfully extraordinary, ever changing, evolving, and constantly growing. Like a rose turning toward the sun for light, faith is beautiful to witness. It gives one hope when lost. At times one’s faith can be as strong as an ocean current. No matter the distance the current must travel, or the obstacles it might encounter, the current, like faith, never stops until its waves safely reach the shore. When one has faith, one can overcome any hardship, pain or heartache. Faith will always lead you home, where ever that may be.

Having faith does not mean one cannot question, be upset and seek answers. Even people with the most steadfast beliefs, have doubts. No matter how strongly we believe in our convictions it does not mean we have failed when we question our faith, question ourselves, and question God. It simply means we are human. I believe that is the principle purpose of prayer, to ask questions. Prayer helps us when we are lost, feel misunderstood or neglected and we need guidance. At times we all lose faith in our convictions, our friends, sadly ourselves and God. No matter how strong our belief, at one time or another we have all strayed from our faith and become for a time the ‘lost sheep’.

There are times in everyone’s life when we are filled with questions. When we surrender to self-pity, lose hope and stop praying. “How did I get to this point?” “How much more pain and disappointment can I handle?” “Why is everyone else’s life so much better than mine, when I have tried to be good?” “Why am I so poor?” “Why can’t I find a better job?” “Why can’t I find love?” “Why did I lose my son or daughter?” The questions are too numerous to list, but they are echoed a million times throughout the world. If one thinks about it, we are never alone in our questions, our pain and our sadness. We are all bonded through the trials of life. With faith, together, we can navigate through any hardship.

I have a friend who once stated they had never lost faith in God but only themselves. I explained how I believe they are one and the same. When you lose faith in yourself, you have lost faith in God. If you do not believe in yourself, then you have forgotten God has given each one of us everything we need to travel this journey we call life. All we need is who we are. I know this because there were times I lost sight of who I was. I stopped believing in myself. I allowed others to make me doubt my abilities, what I could handle, what I could survive, what I knew to be true. I let them define me instead of showing them who I was. At times, I let the pain in my life overwhelm me. I built a wall between myself and God. I forgot one of the first lessons I learned as a child; God will only give me what I can bear. I had to let go of my doubts and go back to the faith I had as a child. I needed to remind myself not to question so much what I had lost but be thankful for the wonderful gifts I had in my life. I was blessed; I had experienced a pain so immense from losing a love that was so honest. I finally understood not to curse the pain but be thankful for the love. I have to believe I suffered so someone who could not handle the pain would not. There was a purpose to my sorrow, one day I may discover it, or I may never understand why. I have to simply believe in me, in God.

Like a rose, faith must never be neglected; it must be nurtured if it is to grow strong and beautiful. Sadly, if left untended, faith can languish and wither away leaving what can only be described as an ugly scar on the soul. I once carried that wound. When one loses faith in oneself and in God, one can never truly be happy. Without faith it is impossible to let go of the pain and move forward. Faith helps you find the rainbow after a storm, the joy after the sorrow.

How do we help our faith grow? One way to nurture our faith is to surround ourselves with friends who believe in us even when we may not believe in ourselves. Like God, they help us find peace in the middle of the tempest. These friends accept us for who we are, not for who they would like us to be. They view our ‘scars’ as beautiful, part of what makes us unique. They love us as much for our imperfections as our virtues. They steadfastly stand by us, behind us and at times in front of us.

Like an athlete who works out constantly to become stronger, we must ‘practice’ our faith every day so it too will be stronger. With proper attention it will be able to withstand any opponent. We nourish our faith through prayer; by trying to see the good in everything, and giving help to those in need, be it with money, or time, or simple words of encouragement. By openly giving ourselves to another, sharing our faith, it evolves, grows within them and strengthens within us. Our faith becomes stronger when we do not hide from it, we openly celebrate it, when we stand firm in our beliefs. If a friend fails to ‘have your back’; to stand with you when someone questions your character, then are they truly a friend? The same is true with faith. If you are unwilling to stand up for your faith, to speak up for yourself, for God, then do you really have faith at all?

I believe to find faith; one must study your religion’s teachings. One must also look within oneself. I am different than most people; I do not believe one has to attend ‘church’ to be one of the faithful. I have met many people who regularly attend Sunday service, who say they are ‘Christian’ but their actions demonstrate otherwise. Words do not prove our faith, our lives do. Faith can only be measured as true by God not by man.

I began this essay by saying we are taught that faith is intangible; it is a belief in someone or something that is not based upon proof. I have seen otherwise. I witness the proof of faith’s presence every day. I see it in the pain, struggles and hardships I have overcome. I witness it in the beauty and grace of those around me, through the people who have come in and out of my life. I see its affirmation in the love that surrounds me every day. Faith is the foundation of all that is good, of love, of hope for the future, and of the triumph over adversity. Faith is the seed of God’s love and faith is my constant companion.

It all begins with two simple yet beautiful words……I believe!

8 comments:

  1. This is a really good post. I needed to read this more than you know. I'm saving it as 'unread' so I can reread it tomorrow with fresh eyes. Thank you.

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  2. Wow, Denise once again you spoke so eloquently about so much. Epecially the "you don't have to attend church to be one of the faithful" part rings so true to me as I call us "the Christians who don't go to church by choice." We have had more pain inflicted upon us by the people who you may speak of in that category of churchgoers. (Alot more to those stories through the years) I am never saying we may never find somewhere we want to go eventually but the times my family spends together now actually talking about God and trying to live out our faith seems more important and actually seems to make a real difference, words verses actions. It is hard when you already know that a head of a Congregatation does not practice what he preaches. This is where I get upset as the ones he has hurt, they really have to have faith and seperate man from faith in God. I am sure some church goers are geniune. I know some. But as your blog says it is your inner faith that is important.

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  3. Catherine Kellam KastnerDecember 28, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    I believe and very thankful you have shared and written. The coming and goings... The current is ever so unpredictable and yet as I sit and read this, I can see the places and events unfolding as our faith is tested, day after day. "All we need is who we are." - Peace

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  4. Kelly, who knows maybe I was meant to write this piece for you. I have always believed sometimes we unknowingly are angels for God giving friends, strangers exactly what they need when they need it.
    Thank you Tim.
    Linda I am sorry you were let down by the head of your congregation but remember they too are human. I included my thoughts on church from a disagreement I had with a friend last week. He insisted that if one does not attend church then you will not go to Heaven. I told him totaally untrue. Attendance doesn't give you a free pass into Heaven, it's what is in your heart!! I explained to him, I have met some people who swear they are Christian, attend church every Sunday. They let everyone know how wonderfully 'Christian' they are, yet I watch them judge others, they assume instead of ask, from what I see they don't show much compassion or empathy toward some. So I asked him, because they attend church are they more worthy of Heaven than the man who does not attend church yet practices what the Bible teaches us, compassion and caring? Just as I believe you can't buy your way into Heaven you can't attend your way there either. It is your faith and actions!!
    Undderstand Linda, the congregrations and the fellowship that comes with attending Sunday Service is wonderful. But you have to find a congregation where you fit in and feel welcome.
    God does not care where you worship and pray only that you do and have faith in him and his word!! That was my message. Faith is all that we feel, all that we say,are actions and who we are.
    Kitty you are one of the wonderful gifts God has placed in my life. You are my constant ray of sunshine when I am down and when I am happy. You have such a warm compassion about you and a way of understanding that no one else seems to get. I truly believe you are one of the few people who really see "all of who I am".

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  5. YES, just to be clear neither you or I were cutting down church in general or church goers at all BUT I have been criticized more than once by "church going Christians" about that issue so it was interesting you wrote about it the way you did. Church can be a great support and educational experience. We have had that experience a few times. Moving though presents alot of change. Unfortunately, the human side showed it's head too many times and they used it as an excuse instead of "what would Jesus do". 50 families left a small church school before we realized how big the problem was. I prayed for them all the time and then I found out why they all left. But what I think is wrong was to be told I was not a "good enough Christian" because we were taking a break. Or if I disagreed with their policies. Like I said, not practicing what they are preaching. It turns people off to religion and that can be confused with faith or a relationship with God which I think was the point you were writing about.

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  6. I am at a lose of "faith" right now. And do not see myself ever getting it back. It has been 2 years since my world was turned upside down and I just can't get it back upright again. I am just going through the motions. Nothing seems to hold joy for me anymore. I use to take pictures all the time but now hardly at all as there is no one to share them with. I love reading your blogs. And I do believe...but still.....

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  7. Cyndi,
    I wish there was something I could say or do to make your world better. I know all too well the pain and confusion you are feeling. I have had my world, spun, tossed, turned upside down and back again. At times I felt I would never find my way back. I was in pain and lost in a fog of emotion. There were days I would wake up in tears and would literally have to say out loud to myself, “I can do this. I can survive alone.” I was great at hiding to the world how much pain I was in. Slowly I realized allowing my pain to run my life was only going to kill me inside. I had to remind myself that the most wonderful gift God gives each and every one of us is life. Every day I wake up is another gift, another chance to take in all the wonderful gifts around me. I began to tell myself no matter how bad I thought my life was, someone was having it far worse and would gladly trade places with me.

    God did not turn my world upside down because he hated me. He was not punishing me. It was simply time for a new chapter in my life. Now I know God was with me in my pain. All I had to do was ask for his help. I was the one who shut God and my friend’s out. I thought building walls around me would protect me, it did the opposite. The walls trapped me in my pain. I spent too many days longing for my old life when I should have been praying for guidance to find my new life. Even when I look back and question everything, wonder what could have been. I look at my grandson and know I am exactly where God wants me to be. This is my life. It may not be perfect, it may be hard, it may not be what I envisioned when I was younger but it is my life.

    We need tears, they are a part of life. The beauty of tears, without them we would never appreciate the truly wonderful days in our life or the journey it took us to get there.

    There are so many beautiful amazing things around us every day. Today driving to the Eastern Shore I looked up at the sky and the rays from the sun were creating these wonderful roads between the clouds and earth. There were patches of bright brilliant blue skies between dark clouds. It was an amazing stark contrast. I wish I had taken a photograph of it for myself.

    Find your love of life again through your lens. Pick up your camera and start taking photographs. You should always do something you love for yourself not for another. I am sure there are lots of people you can share your photos with, friends, relatives. Why not start a blog of your photographs, lots of people do, share them with the world. Post them on facebook…. go out and discover the magnificence of God’s beautiful earth. Every day people and the world change. With your camera you can capture the change, capture life, capture God’s gift to all of us, maybe find your Joy again!! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends and most importantly from God. Have faith, he is listening and wants to help, you simply have to ask.

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