Develop Faith That Transcends Circumstances

Faith is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual life. 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…Without faith it’s impossible to please God. 

Heb. 11:1, 6

If we don’t have faith, our walk with God is dead in the water, so to speak.

However, for many of us, our faith life is not what it should be. I should know, because all too often I fall into that category.

My faith seems to falter when I need it the most.

When things are looking their bleakest, that’s when my faith should shine. However, those are often the times when I withdraw inward and keep God at a distance.

I’ve been a believer in Christ for over three and a half decades. You’d think my faith would have grown some by now.

You may be like me—finding yourself in the position of doubting God, doubting that He will come through this time. Even though He has proven Himself over and over, you still doubt.

Our faith muscle needs stretching if it is to grow. If we truly want our faith to transcend any circumstances we find ourselves in, we need to use it every day.

From the small things to the large things, we must trust God in everything. Then, and only then, will our faith begin to grow and strengthen.

I’m amazed at the faith that Abraham displays when God asks him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. I’m not sure I trust God enough to follow through with that.

I would doubt whether I was hearing God correctly. I’d say something like, “Are you sure this is what you want me to do, Lord?” or “No, I can’t do THAT. Surely you want me to do something else, right?”

Abraham’s faith lets him stand out as one of the greatest believers ever. He had to look beyond his circumstances and draw deeply from his well of faith in God.

I believe that’s what we must do if we’re to develop that kind of faith. 

No matter what our situation looks like from our perspective, we must remember that God sees things from His 360-degree view. 

He’s not limited to living in just the present like we are. Time is His construct, and He is in the past, present, and future all at the same time.

God knows how everything is going to turn out—you can count on that.

Even when things look their worst, we can trust that He is in control. That’s what Abraham did, and that’s what we have to do as well.

Trusting God for little things first will help grow our faith, especially if we’re unsure we can fully trust him for the big things in life.

However, just remember that your situation may not always work out how you think it should.

Often, God has a different plan than we do, and the thing we pray about and hope will come to pass may not happen. 

We must trust God nonetheless, knowing that His way is best. When we can do this, we’ll be on the path to growing our faith.

Be Happier By Avoiding Life in Crisis Mode

Are you operating in crisis mode? If so, you’re most likely being short-sighted about important decisions you make every day in your life. 

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of wrong thinking. When you’re only focused on trying to keep from going under, you’re neglecting the big picture of your life. 

While it’s good to be present and focused on the here and now, if you’re not also planning for the future, you can shortchange yourself and your life by your actions. 

For example, it’s easy to make wrong decisions about money when you “declare an emergency” on your finances. You may get so caught up in trying to find the money to pay the electric bill that you borrow the money you’ve got set aside for something else.

crisis

It’s also easy to fall short in our obedience to God.

If we view the end of each workday as having survived yet another crisis, it can be easy to pick up vices such as drinking, smoking, and other bad habits. After all, we deserve to let off a little steam after going through such a hard day, right?

If every day is a crisis, then we never get around to truly planning for the future—we’re too focused on merely surviving.

We end up cheating ourselves and those around us out of the fruits that come from setting and achieving long-term goals.

So, how do we avoid this trap? We have to become masters at planning simultaneously for short-term and long-term goals. 

If we’re truly in a crisis, we have to manage it diligently while also planning for the future. That may mean we need to become more creative with our problem solving and not throw all our mental energy into merely making it through another day. 

That may mean that we need to stop throughout the day and consciously tell ourselves to think long-term—to bring to mind the bigger goals in our life and not live for just the here-and-now.

The last thing we want to do is wake up one day and realize that we’ve wasted our whole lives putting out one fire after another—and never taking time to put in solid effort toward worthwhile life goals. 

survival

I’m very guilty of having done that. So much of my adult life has been spent trying to contain all the apparent crises, that I’ve often neglected working toward bigger goals. 

Yes, I regret that tremendously. However, there’s nothing I can do about it now, except to change how I live my life from this moment forward. 

That’s all that any of us can do. We certainly can’t change the past, and the future isn’t here yet. All we really have is this tiny slice of time that we call the present—right now. 

What we do with this moment is the only thing we have control over. 

At first glance, it may seem like I’m contradicting myself from what I said above. But, I’m actually not. 

The trick is to make the most of the present so that you build toward the future, all the while learning from the mistakes of the past without dwelling on your shortcomings.

And just because we use the present in the best way we know how, doesn’t mean that everything is going to work out how we want it to. It may or it may not. 

But if we put in our best effort, we will always have that to fall back on. Knowing we did our best is really all that any of us can ever hope for.  

And, who knows? One day we may look up and see that we’ve achieved the goal we’ve been working toward for so long. That would be a wonderful feeling indeed. 

Forget about merely trying to survive. Instead, focus on thriving in whatever environment you’re in. Don’t worry about finding the perfect job or the perfect mate — or the perfect anything for that matter. 

You’re not perfect, so why should anything in your life be perfect? Make the best out of your circumstances, whatever they may be. Learn how to be content in any situation, as Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4:11.

Rely on God and trust that he will reward your efforts. The outcome may not always look like you expect it to, but don’t fret. It may actually be better than you had expected. God has the power to do that, and He loves giving good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11).

So, don’t operate in crisis mode. Instead live life to the fullest every moment of each day.

The Christian’s Advantage

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

If you are a Christian, you have an advantage over non-believers. That’s right, the above verse says so. 

Christians are what this verse refers to as the called. So if we’ve chosen to follow Christ and we love God, we can rest in full assurance that everything that happens to us in our life is working out for the best. 

We don’t have to wonder if the future will work out, as we’ve been guaranteed that God Himself is at the helm of our lives, making sure things go exactly as He has planned.

Now, it may not always feel like things are working out for the best. We will have days when it seems that everything is going downhill. 

However, these are the times when our faith must kick in. We must have faith that God is still in control, no matter what the circumstances look like.

As James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Not only can we rest in faith, knowing that God is working everything out for the best, we can also count on the trials we face to cause our faith to grow. 

The next time we find ourselves in an unwanted situation, we’ll have that much more faith to stand firm during the trial.

The person who has never accepted Christ into their life does not have any of these assurances. 

When they face the trials of everyday life, they really have nothing to fall back on.

As Christians, we have the assurance that God is on our side—every day, all the time.

Does this make you want to share the gospel with someone you know?

How to Quit Living in Survival Mode

Are you operating in “survival mode”? Does every day feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above water?

Many of us—myself included—have lived far too much of our lives just trying to make it through another day.

It’s like we’ve been thrown into the ocean and we’re fighting desperately to keep from drowning. 

You don’t know how to swim, and you can barely tread water. 

You’re close to going under for the last time while those around you are wearing life jackets, exerting no energy at all to stay afloat. 

You can’t even think about trying to get to shore because all your efforts are going toward simply surviving.

Others appear to be thriving and are making steady progress toward their goal—the beach and the safety it offers. 

You’re terrified that at any moment a huge wave could engulf you, taking you under and sealing your demise.

You can only dream about what it would be like to float effortlessly on top of the water like you see others doing.

It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? 

Yet, that’s exactly how I’ve lived much of my adult life; maybe you have, too. Each day, I’ve spent my time and energy dealing with the demands and trials of life, waiting for my real life to begin.

That’s right—most days I’ve felt like this wasn’t my “real life”; it was more of a “starter life”—a warm-up to the real thing that I would begin someday when everything fell into place.

You know what I mean. The wonderful, awesome life I’d experience every day when I had more money than I needed, when there were no problems that required my attention, when virtually every moment of every day was as close to perfect as it could be. 

I have believed that that is when my life would begin. 

This fantasy has staked a hold in my brain for decades now. Here I am in my 50s and I’m still waiting for “real life” to begin. For everything to be exactly the way I think it should be. For there to be joy inexpressible every day without any effort on my part.

So far, none of that has happened.

I don’t believe we were put on this earth merely to survive—just to squeak by with no real progress toward anything of significance. 

So, what is the answer to this game of survival that characterizes so many people’s lives?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. If I did, then I wouldn’t have spent so many of my years as described above. 

I believe that to overcome living in survival mode we must take a step back and take a hard look at our lives. We must make a mental shift—doing it daily or even hourly if need be—to see ourselves as living our true lives now.

Life is not about to begin—we certainly don’t have any promises about the future.

Life is the here and now. Today. This hour and this moment. Every minute builds on the one just before it, so if we want to experience all that life offers, we have to live purposefully in the moment. 

We must realize that we have nothing else. The past is history. The future is not guaranteed. This very moment is all we have. 

Make this moment count, so that the next moment is even better.

Take what you have and make it the very best it can be—whether you have the metaphorical life jacket on or not. 

Life doesn’t treat everyone the same way. Some are born with advantages that others can never even dream about. 

It is up to us to use what we have to the best of our ability, realizing that even if we don’t hit every goal, we’ll still be better off than when we started because we did our best every moment of every day.

We have just one life. We must make the most of it every moment of every day.

Eyes to the Future

Sitting in the back seat of the car on our day trip led to an incredible bonding experience with my grandson recently.

Although he is only 11 months old, when I focused on his eyes—deep gray blue marbles speckled with dancing light—he seemed much older. The eyes are the windows to the soul, as they say.

I gazed at him and wondered what kind of world he would end up inheriting from us—his parents and grandparents. 

In 2046, what will the world be like when he’s 27, my son’s age? If the world remains on its present trajectory and God doesn’t step in, I can only imagine the kinds of trials he might have to endure.

I was lost in his beautiful, soulful eyes, and he looked back into mine with a similar intensity. He had the same intense gaze, with an almost quizzical look, so uncharacteristic of a child that age. 

Maybe he was wondering why I was so focused on him. 

To me, he is nearly perfect in every way. He’s a beautiful child, as I’ve referred to him on more than one occasion. 

On this sunny day, his sparkling eyes captured glints from the summer sun and danced in an almost hypnotic way.

I searched his eyes for glimpses of his future. The deeper I gazed into them, the more I thought. What will he encounter in the coming years and decades of his life? 

Part of me shudders just thinking about it. If he follows Christ and lives as a Christian (which I pray he will), he may face intense persecution, the likes of which I’ve only imagined. 

He may have to fight for his rights to worship the way he wants—even right here in the United States, the land where freedom is supposed to ring and citizens are guaranteed the right to worship however they choose.

Each generation tends to think their generation had it the best (or the worst, depending on the context). I believe the 70s and 80s were the ideal time to grow up; however, I’m sure my millennial kids hold the same view of the 90s and 2000s.

What will my grandson say about growing up in the 20s and 30s? Will they be his ideal time or will he wish he had been born in another decade?

My hope is he will live his life to the fullest, no matter what he faces during his time on this earth. 

I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sorrow as we held each other’s gaze.

Is it irresponsible to raise a child in this day and age, given all the uncertainty in the world? Have previous generations asked themselves the same questions? 

I didn’t feel that way about rearing my own children. On the contrary, I felt it was the responsible thing to raise children and teach them right from wrong. 

At the time, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could feel that the world was too far gone to bring children into it.

How am I able to understand that viewpoint now? Have I changed, or has the world become a more dangerous and volatile place? Both perhaps.

Of course, the decision to bring this tiny creature into the world was not mine. However, there is little doubt I would still choose to have children all over again, even in these difficult times.

Certainly, I want the best for my grandson. I want those beautiful gray blue eyes to see only good in the world, ignoring the evil and the disturbing. 

Alas, I can’t shield him from all that. I’ll have to leave that in God’s hands for Him to manage.

As of now, his eyes have seen only good in the world. They have yet to witness many less savory things that he will no doubt come in contact with. 

I wish those mesmerizing pools of color could maintain their innocence throughout his life. My prayer is that all the negative he will inevitably encounter will somehow mold him for the better.

Reframing How You See Your Life

Too many people struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis—and I’m one of those people. One approach that I have used from time to time to help eliminate my worry and anxiety over the future is to completely reframe my thinking regarding it and the past.

By nature, I have always held onto the past. It’s where I’m most comfortable because it’s a known. The future is unknown of course. By thinking about the past and dwelling on the past I’m able to keep my mind in a more comfortable, secure place.

However, we don’t live in the past. We only live in the here-and-now, with the future to look forward to. So, by living in the past in my mind, I’m actually creating more anxiety for myself. What happens now is that I see my “true” life as that which I had before I left home for college. That’s the point at which one major phase of my life ended and another began.

Therefore, in my mind, all the events that have happened since I left home are cataloged as leading away from that anchor point. 

Let me explain it this way. It’s as if I’m wading into the ocean backwards with my eye on the shoreline that is getting ever farther away. My childhood is represented as my walk down the beach until I reach the edge of the water. 

Everything after that (adulthood) is represented by my wading into the water. The longer I live, the farther I get away from the shore with its supposed safety and the more treacherous my journey becomes. 

Slowly but surely, I’m wading backward out into deeper waters, getting closer to the point where I’m completely underwater. My focus is not on the direction I’m headed, but rather it’s always on the shore.

Each day of my adult life is seen as a crisis—it’s not my real life because that ended at childhood when I began wading into the water. The crisis is heightening day by day as I get deeper and deeper. There is no real living in this scenario—just survival for as long as Ican.

As you can imagine, this way of thinking makes for a very anxious kind of life.

However, by reframing my way of thinking, I can see my life in a whole different light. If I create a different schema to catalog my experience, then everything is flipped 180 degrees. If I see each new day as the beginning of the rest of my life, and all the events that come afterward as just a long extension of my real life, then a great deal of worry, fear, and anxiety is eliminated.

I have to tell myself, “My life is here and now. Everything else is in the past. This is my life, along with everything that I experience from this point on.”

But the real key is to see my life this way. I have to keep in mind the image that the past is all behind me and that the future is a great, wide road in front of me, representing all the potential that life holds.

Creating this image in my head helps me see my life completely differently. Instead of ruminating on the past and fretting because each day takes me further away from its “safety,” I’m instead focused on the future and making each day count for something. I can look forward to each day instead of being anxious because life has taken me so far from my past.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells his readers that he uses that same approach:

“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

Phil. 3:13b

It’s good to learn from the past, but not so good if you live in the past. As the motivational saying goes, “Remember the lesson, but forget the details.”

Living in the past cripples you and makes you totally ineffective for you present life. Plus, you end up fearing the future because your mind is conditioned to crave the apparent security of the past. 

That security is all a lie, however. The past has no real power, only that which you allow it to have. The present and the future are where life is truly lived.