What does faith look like?
I’ve been reading the Gospels lately, and I am constantly struck by the contrast between those who believe Jesus and those who don’t. Sometimes that contrast occurs in the very same people!
Take the disciples, for example. In Matthew 14, Jesus feeds five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The disciples themselves picked up twelve basketfuls of leftovers. In Matthew 15 - one chapter later - Jesus and his disciples once again find themselves with a crowd of hungry people to feed and the disciples are absolutely flummoxed about what to do about it. “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” they ask (v. 33).
And then, of course, Jesus takes seven loaves of bread and a few small fish and multiplies it to feed four thousand people. Of course he does. You and I are not surprised. But the disciples – the ones who picked up twelve baskets of leftovers from the last miracle – were clearly not expecting that outcome. Theirs is a fickle faith. But then again, mine is too.
Jesus could answer every prayer, provide every request like some Santa in the sky, and I would still doubt him. It’s in my nature. Like Eve and the apple, I always have my doubts about God. Did He really say that? Does He really care about me? Is He even paying attention to what’s going on around here? Doubt is my first language. But I am trying to learn how to speak the language of faith.
The Gospels provide a few stories in particular that have been teaching me this language of faith. In Mark 5, we meet a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. She has sought help in every possible place, yet she has only continued to get worse. Twelve years. Twelve years of unanswered prayers and suffering.
That’s 144 months;
4,380 days of suffering and waiting.
And time crawls when we’re suffering and we’re waiting - anyone with the flu knows that. Yet she doesn’t give up hope. Because when she hears about Jesus, she doesn’t scoff with hardened cynicism and stay home. She doesn’t roll her eyes and continue with her to-do list. “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:27-28).
This woman’s faith began before she had ever heard about Jesus. This woman’s faith was daily being tested for twelve years and yet she still believed that God would provide for her. Whether He provided healing or the strength to live with the suffering, she clearly had put her trust in her good and gracious God.
Listen. The eyes of doubt will never see the answer to our prayer, even when it is right in front of us. It is only the eyes of faith that will be open to God’s activity. This woman had eyes of faith to see when God might be up to something in her life.
When the bleeding woman touched Jesus’ clothes, “immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:29). Jesus turns to the crowd and asks who touched his clothes and the woman confesses that it was she who had touched his clothes and who had been healed. Then Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).
Wait a minute. Did the woman’s faith heal her or did Jesus heal her? The answer, I suppose, is yes. Because while clearly Jesus had provided her healing, she never would have gotten it had she stayed home, swimming in bitterness and resenting her twelve years of suffering. Her faith propelled her to Jesus’ side and then Jesus took it from there.
I want to be like that woman in Mark, chapter 5. I’d like to be a woman who has the eyes of faith that look for God’s goodness and believe that He will provide. I’d like to be a woman who clings to Jesus and lets him do what only he can do. I don’t want to stay home and resent my hardships and grow hard with cynicism. So I am asking myself a question nearly every day:
What would faith look like in this situation?
Sometimes I ask it when I am reading the Bible. When I read about the disciples panicking in a boat that is about to capsize, I wonder, What would faith look like in this situation?
Sometimes I ask it when I am writing prayer requests in my journal. What would faith look like in this situation?
Sometimes I ask it when anxiety is gripping me like an icy hand around my chest, and I take a deep breath and say, What would faith look like in this situation?
What about you? What would living by faith look like in your situation today? What do you need to trust God with and what does trusting God look like in your situation? Take a moment to picture it - to picture a version of yourself that is faith-filled, hopeful, and facing the day with courage. Now ask God to help you be that version of yourself.
I don’t know what trusting God might specifically look like in your situation, but I do know what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like bitterness, cynicism, or fear. It doesn’t look like a demanding attitude or frantic striving. These are all things that come easily to us, but we can learn to live a different way. We can learn to choose faith.
Speaking the language of faith takes practice. So let’s practice together.