Our childhood stories made us feel cozy and warm. While snuggling in a blanket, we were transported to another world learning lessons about life as we listened to a grown-up read to us. I love to enter into story from time to time because stories found in books, film and biography resonate with our lives – the hopes, joys, conflict, dissonance, pain and, sometimes, resolution. In the classic stories of “Winnie the Pooh”, there was a gloomy donkey, Eeyore, who always anticipated a negative outcome. He never looked at life through rose-colored glasses, although some may say he was simply a realist. To give him credit, some of his gloom could be attributed to being an introvert who didn’t want to be bothered by intruders, “He turned around angrily on the others and said “Everybody crowds round so in this Forest. There’s no Space. I never saw a more Spreading lot of animals in my life, and in all the wrong places.” So that’s my theory.
In our world far from the Hundred-acre Wood, while many of us experience life’s wonders and joys, the stresses of life can threaten our well-being on a consistent basis so we must find a way to deal with the negatives. After our bedtime routine when our girls were young, which, yes, included stories, one of the girls would often come untucked after a scary thought took over her imagination. I would tell her every time to say “God is with me, I am not afraid.” As adults, we can still be fearful of things that go bump in the night. Only they are all too real. News affects us. We face our own trials while living in an unprecedented world of information. We don’t want to be the Eeyore in the bunch. We must have faith. We face the challenge of sifting through a bombardment of information on a daily basis and must choose what to meditate on. Faith comes from hearing what God is saying to us. The primary means is through studying the Bible daily. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
But where do we place our faith, how does faith play out in our daily lives, and is it simply positive thinking or optimism? Here are a few approaches many take to faith. Do you recognize yourself in any of these?
Those who chose to look at life through rose-colored glasses view life with optimism. Here are a few common phrases: Everything will turn out well if you only believe. You can have your best life now if you follow God’s principles. Look at the bright side. If you make positive confessions, positive things will happen. But rose-colored glasses leave out the tint of suffering, the problem of pain, and taking up our crosses daily as we die to self and live for God. Positive thinking turns faith into a formula, leaving people with a watered-down truth devoid of rich fellowship with God and the power of living beyond ourselves.
The practical atheist pays homage to belief in God, but struggles with the dissonance we often encounter in life and within ourselves. Our actions and attitudes don’t always line up with what we say we believe. So the practical atheist lives out daily life as it God isn’t really intimately concerned with our lives, and as if everything in life is up to them. Such a view makes it possible to go through rote prayer and Bible reading in the morning while living in fear, disappointment and doubt as if God is not in the equation the rest of the day. Developing a fresh, firm foundation on the biblical view of God and who we are in Christ can free people from this truncated view of faith, leading to peace and joy.
God, I will have faith in you if you heal me (my mother, my brother). If my favorite candidate wins the election. If I win the gold medal. If you give me the woman/man of my dreams. I will have faith if . . . Faith is sometimes shipwrecked when expectations are not met. God help us. We need to remember that He is God and we are not.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-3)
A healthy faith looks at the world and the self through the lens of grace. When we understand the redemptive power of the Gospel through the sinless life of Jesus, His death on the cross for our sin, and his resurrection offering forgiveness and new life to all who believe, everything changes. The dissonance takes on a perspective of grace because His work in us was finished on the cross. We don’t have to earn our salvation. When the greatest story grips us, we live differently. We live by faith. And we view the world redemptively.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt. 11:28-29. (MSG)
“Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.” A. W. Tozer