In seasons of trials we already know that pain and suffering are a given. Jesus even tells his disciples that, “In this world you will have trouble…”(John 16:33). So in our lives we don’t even have to question if trials will come. We know they will. Jesus tells us so. While that can be difficult to swallow, it is a fact that our loving and caring God is not trying to hide from us. He tells us we will be persecuted, that we will be fought against, and He also tells us we have a very real enemy that will attempt to derail our faith every chance He gets.
The surprise and challenge for me has been how the enemy has tried to use my cancer diagnosis as a battering ram against my faith. While I have faced relatively few deep periods of suffering in my life, I still feel like God had done a huge work of growing my faith in the past few years. In a matter of 10 years I went from a woman who believed in God but didn’t know much else, to a women who has a solid foundation built on God! He has truly been the sculptor of my life, and done a fair amount of chipping and chiseling on my rough edges. Now I still have lots of ugly points and edges God is working on, but He has been faithful in molding me and my faith in my young adult life. And this is exactly what I have asked for! At 18 I had asked God to start changing me – I offered him my whole life, and in doing so asked him to remake me into a women who would bring him glory! Shine His light! And though often His means of growth were not what I would have called “desirable” the results were always that of large faith.
With each struggle God proved to me that He was faithful and righteous. Even when the outcome was the exact opposite of my human desire, God was able to show me His provision in the circumstance and how ultimately He had protected me and grown me through a trial or period of suffering. So in seeking God through each of these trials He taught me and molded me – shaping me into the daughter of Christ that would most honor and glorify Him. But our reality as humans is that we are never done growing. We will never stop needing God to mold us, so no matter how strong your faith feels there will always be seasons of shaping, which is exactly where I find myself.
One thing that has come as a surprise for me is that fear and doubt, rather than faith, have struggled to become equal partners with me on this journey. When I received my diagnosis – Stage 4 appendicial cancer – my immediate response was fear. No matter how strong I had felt God had grown my faith, fear and doubt were trying to become the dominate voices in my head. Because of God’s faithfulness, I very quickly began to experience “peace that surpasses all understanding,” but as the sun rises each day I am still faced with a choice. Do I choose fear and doubt today? Or do I believe that what God says is true and choose faith?
Satan really used these struggles to make my faith feel weak. But as God always does He uses His Word to reveal truth, and because of His faithfulness I found a few stories that helped my perspective.
Matthew 9 is a chapter filled with stories of healing. Placed right in the middle of stories of Jesus ministry and life is a chapter defined by faith. And this is where God took me to remind me what faith is really about.
Here we find 4 stories of men and women who had faith that literally moved the mountains in their lives. Men and women who had heard of Jesus’ power and authority. Men and women that heard stories or miraculous deeds and didn’t scoff or pass them off as fable, but instead believed so deeply that they sought out Jesus’ power and authority, asking for and seeking healing.
Imagine yourself in their shoes. You start hearing stories of a man walking the country side. Certainly He was making some outrageous claims – He was the Son of God. He had the authority to heal all illness. He could cast out demons. He had power over the very evil spirits that plagued friends and neighbors, people you passed on the streets each day. Some most definitely considered Jesus to be crazy. Who had this kind of authority but God Himself? But the men and women in these stories heard His claims, and instead of scoffing their hearts softened to God’s truth and they believed.
First, we see Jesus confronted with a paralyzed man. This is a story not only of a paralytics faith, but also of the friends’ who would carry him to this man named Jesus. A man they had heard outlandish stories about. But they had faith enough to bring their friend believing Jesus could and would heal him! And they were right. Not only did Jesus heal his body, but He forgave his sins and healed his soul.
Second, a Jewish official came to Jesus asking him to bring his daughter back to life. What a bold request! Not only did He believe Jesus was capable of healing, but He also believed He could raise his daughter from the dead! And Jesus did just that.
Third, we see a women who had been sick for 12 years come and touch Jesus’ robe. Her faith was so strong that she believed merely touching Jesus would be enough to heal her sickness. And Jesus did.
Lastly, we see multiple blind men come to Jesus asking for healing. His question to them was simple – “Do you believe I am able to do this?” Their simple response was “Yes, Lord.” And Jesus healed their eyes!
In these stories Jesus response is what hit me. The message is essentially this – because of your faith, you will be made well. What mattered to Jesus was their faith, and what HUGE faith they all displayed!
You see, I think there is something about sickness, trials, and pain that lets us see Jesus’s words and actions differently. When you are in a place where you are completely unable to “fix” your situation, essentially you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It forces you to look at Jesus’ claims more deeply. These men and women heard Jesus’ claims and believed they could be true.
As I sit here in my trial, I wish I could see into these people’s minds. See their thoughts. There are days I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will be completely healed and that God will work a miracle of epic proportions in my life. That He will be glorified in ways that perfect health would never have allowed. Then there are days where fear plants a seed that seems to sprout too quickly. I think about next Christmas or my friend’s wedding next summer and wonder if I will still be around. These kind of thoughts make me wonder if my faith is maybe just too small.
Then I read stories like these in Matthew 9 and I wonder how the paralytic felt even days before he met Jesus. How the sick women felt after so many years of illness and pain. Were they 100% sure that Jesus could and would heal them. Did they have such confidence that doubt never even crossed their minds? Oh how I wish to have faith like this – faith that is never tarnished by fear and is never put in second place to my uncertainty. This very well could be the case for each of these men and women in Chapter 9. But then I wonder if maybe they were like me and, my guess is, like many of you. Were they afraid and uncertain, but simply had enough faith to take one step forward? Did they allow faith instead of fear to rule in their lives and take a leap believing Jesus was able?
Either way, my conclusion is this: Faith isn’t so much about the total and complete absence of fear and doubt as much as it is about choosing to put your faith first each and every day! Not letting fear rule over you and dictate your decisions. Not letting doubt change your mind about taking a step in obedience to God, even when it seems crazy! Maybe faith is about believing more each day of God’s truth over the lies our enemy tries to plant in our hearts.
We as believers are all new creations. 2 Corinthians 5: 17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” And these words hold deep and amazing truth! When we accept Christ we are no long imprisoned by sin. We are not controlled by every temptation or held hostage by our evil desires. We indeed are new and have the power to live in our newness! We have access to the same exact power that healed these men and women in Matthew 9, because we have that same God living inside of us! I can not think of a more beautiful truth that this. And this truth is what can help us live by faith rather than fear. I am new and have every right and ability to choose faith in a powerful and loving God!
Our reality is also such that we live in a world that is broken, surrounded by sin. And that Satan is still prowling like a lion in this world – looking so desperately to find someone to devour and destroy. This is our reality, and because of this I am tempted by my own evil desires or by Satan himself toward doubt and fear. And especially in the middle of my trials those voices seem to get louder and more insistent. They say that God is not able, or that He is not willing. That He doesn’t love me enough to answer my prayer. Eventually, the voices of my fears and doubts can be so much louder that they drown out my faith almost completely. But that doesn’t have to be the final word.
Here in lies my challenge. If I choose to feed my faith rather than my fears, slowly God’s voice will seem to get louder. Instead of a whisper in a crowded room full of people yelling, His voice becomes a megaphone leading me to truth! If I dwell on my fear there is no doubt that these voices will stay loud and obnoxious in my ear, preventing me from hearing the truth God longs for me to know. If, however, I dwell on what is honorable, what is right, what is pure, what is holy (Phil 4:9) God’s voice, which is calm and steady, will eventually drown out the noise of temptation and sin – letting me choose trust in a holy God who loves me completely, rather than fear of the unknown.
In the end I am not sure whether these men and women every doubted, or if indeed their faith was perfect. But, I am also not sure that is really the point of these stories. What we see again and again, was that no matter what their first response might have been, their final choice was faith. They took a leap and chose faith over fear, over doubt. And that is the type of faith I believe Jesus is seeking! The kind of faith that leads to obedience and action! The kind of faith that says – “Well this may be scary Jesus, but I know who God is and I believe He has a purpose for me!”
So as I continue on this journey, my thought is this: I want to make faith my first priority. This does not mean I will never have doubt, that I will never have fear. Instead it means I will choose to believe that what God says is true! That Jesus is a man of miracles, and that taking a step in faith – believing what He says and does – I may be healed. And either way, I will be freed from my sorrow and pain to find peace that surpasses all understanding in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord! He gives me just enough grace for today….