Sometimes our faith is weak, formless, and flavorless. Sometimes it is nothing more than a dim sense that God exists somewhere in the universe.
Maybe a metaphor captures a life with weak faith. Maybe it is like being shut up in a musty, dank cottage. Windows are boarded up. Doors are latched. In place of sunlight and the singing of birds, we have dust floating aimlessly in semi-darkness. In such a place it would be quite natural to feel weary, dispirited, and aimless. We may even feel trapped, anxious, and fretful. We sag from one burden to the next. We may resent life and wish to be done.
Mortality is crowded with such sensations. We worry about losing our jobs. We wish our marriages were more animated. We feel spiritually inadequate. We wish our children were more like so-and-so’s children. Darkness threatens us on every side. We get tired.
We can distract ourselves with furious activity. We can resign ourselves to emptiness. We can kid ourselves. We can surrender to the darkness. But the underlying reality is that we often feel worried, tired, inadequate, and afraid.
Call in the Light
In the darkness, a voice speaks: “Look to me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). God invites us to pull back the drapes, throw the doors open and call in the light. But instead, sometimes we merely tug on the drapes or rattle a doorknob.
We might accept God’s offer of relationship on an “appointment only” basis. We sense His presence during times of prayer and scripture study. We turn to Him during times of need. We dedicate parts of the day to Him on the Sabbath. But perhaps we imagine that He is not concerned or involved with the ordinary tasks and encounters that make up most of our week. Perhaps we fail to involve Him during vast tracts of our daily schedules.
Vibrant faith is more than believing that God shows up in our lives once-in-a-great-while to rescue us from epic challenges. It is more than believing He appreciates our time during prayer and worship, but prefers to remain uninvolved when we are sitting in a work meeting, getting the children off to school, or listening to music in the car.
Those beliefs are wrong. According to King Benjamin, God shows up in every breath we breathe and supports us in every movement we make (Mosiah 2:21; 4:21). He is woven intimately into every moment of our lives—if we choose to see Him there. Radical faith calls us to see God in every detail. God invites us to chat with Him about everything from our furnace to our children’s science fair projects (Alma 34:17-27). While He may not weigh in on our choice of brands for green beans, He is glad to sit with us at dinner and rejoice in the magnificent gift of good food (D&C 59:18).
Experimenting with radical faith means not placing our relationship with God on the shelf for large chunks of each day. It is inviting Him into all aspects of our lives. It is looking for His orchestration in the people and experiences placed in our path each week. It is accepting the gift we are offered when we partake of the Sacrament—“that they may ALWAYS have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77, emphasis added).
Seeing God’s Goodness
I define faith as the stubborn resolve to see God’s goodness in everything that happens in our lives. When we do this effectively, we are exercising radical—or sweeping, vital, vibrant, drastic—faith. It changes everything. Those who receive all things—ALL things—with thankfulness shall be made glorious (see D&C 78:19).
A person with radical faith chooses to feel blessed in every circumstance knowing that God presides in our lives. We count sciatica as a blessing that teaches us patience. We rejoice in miscarriages that teach us faith. We welcome misunderstandings that teach us patience and openness. Rather than believe that human failing and reckless chance are writing the human story, we are serene knowing that, as Robert Browning wrote, “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.”
We can receive everything from busted water-heaters to broken hearts as invitations to bring God more fully into our lives. “Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord” (D&C 98:3). If we have faith.
Just as faith is needed in the details of life, even more it is needed in the grand perceptions. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people hint that they wish they could remake their marriage decision. “I was young and in a hurry and I thought I was in love. If I could do it again…” Satan steals growth by telling us lies. Generally God puts us with the partner who is perfectly designed to stretch us into greater compassion and larger charity. Rather than trust God’s purposes, we imagine that we are suffering the consequences of poor youthful decisions. We chafe. We break covenants. We drop out of the school of faith.
Another big decision: Sometimes we let doctrinal sand in our shoes cause us to throw away our shoes. We may not understand polygamy or some marginal doctrine so we toss out the stunning revelation of a glorious God and His joyous plan.
I am trying to welcome every experience of my life as a divine gift. So, to the person who faces difficulties with life, health, marriage, or children, I invite: Is it possible that God is willing and able to create a blessing for you from this affliction? If so, what would He have you do to turn the challenge into a blessing?
An Example of Faith
A good friend has allowed me to share his story:
I work with children with severe disabilities. I have often seen them discouraged and angry. Many of them will never walk or talk normally. Many of them will never dance or run or play on a playground like most children. Most of them will not live a “normal” life filled with the experiences most of us take for granted.
Justin* was born with severe cerebral palsy, and I have had the honor of being his helper for the past 12 years. He cannot walk without assistance, and he has very little use of his arms and hands. Several years ago the doctors determined that he would have to be fed through a tube placed in his abdomen that goes directly to his stomach. He stays in a wheelchair most of the day, and has equipment to help him communicate, stand, move about, and eat.
In spite of all these “disabilities”, Justin has some amazing abilities. His sense of hearing is outstanding. His elephant-like memory will record every word and he will brighten up when topics from one conversation come up in other situations.
He has a special computer that has recorded phrases that he uses to “speak”. The only spoken word that is clear in his vocabulary is “Yeah”. He does make a modified sign language motion for “no” and in many situations a pretty good conversation can be carried on by reading his eyes and asking him careful yes/no questions.
Personally, I don’t know of anyone else that has had as hard a life as this little guy. His mother died tragically in a car accident several years ago. His father has not wanted to be a part of his life for several years, and he has been adopted by his grandparents. All this in addition to his disabilities, is almost more than one person should have to bear. His “Pa” and “Nana” are great, however, and they are real heroes and make great sacrifices to make sure that Justin gets all the attention he needs.
Justin is normally cheerful and full of fun, but one day he was crying and reacting angrily to his caregivers. I had a private prayer and asked to speak with him alone. Because I have known him longer than anyone else in the school, they agreed. I felt impressed to ask him some difficult questions.
“Justin, do you ever get mad because you can’t eat food like everybody else?” I asked. As loud and clear as I have ever heard him, he said, “YEAH!” “Do you ever get mad because all the rest of the kids can walk and run and you can’t?” “YEAH!” was his reply again. “Does it make you angry that you can’t talk like other kids?” “YEAH!” was his quick answer.
I could tell that he was beginning to feel that I understood some of his frustrations and he began to calm down. There seemed to be a sweet peace in the room and I leaned over close to him and whispered in his ear that it was not fair that he could not do any of these things. I felt to promise him that one day, however, his Heavenly Father would make it fair. Justin was listening carefully to me now and I promised him that because of Jesus and his resurrection, one day, he would get a perfect body like Jesus and that he would walk, talk, eat, run, jump, and even turn somersaults.
I asked him if he believed that God would do this and if he believed that Jesus had made it all possible. He gave me a resounding “YEAH!” I told him that I believed it too and that from now on that this would be our little secret.
Since that time he has had some down days. On those days when he seems especially discouraged, I whisper in his ear, “remember our little secret”, and he brightens up and smiles and with a big sigh he says, “Yeah!” I have no doubt that Justin will be there on that day, and I have no doubt that Jesus will restore his body to its perfect form. I also know that Justin believes it, because of the way he says, “YEAH” when I ask him if he does. Our Heavenly Father will make up all his losses. [end of quoted story]
We can have more joy and feel more peaceful as we are mindful and grateful for God’s constant participation in our lives. May we invite Him into all aspects of our lives. May we welcome every blessing with grateful hearts. May we face every challenge with the firm conviction that God is blessing us. May we, with Justin, say “YEAH!”
*The name of the boy has been changed to protect his privacy. Thanks to my friend for allowing me to use his sweet story.
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her insightful additions to and refinements of this article.
H. Wallace Goddard is the author of many books.