The Bible teaches us the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1- Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Not to qualify the language of that verse, but I like to include in my mind the thought that I ought to be actively taking steps in my life that are congruent with my sure and certain faith. In other words I like to recall to my mind James' counsel on the subject:
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James' point was highlighted for me recently in an unexpected way.
My mom and I were in a cafe enjoying each other's company when she asked for a full update on all things concerning her eldest child. As I recounted for her all of the great need Dustin and I had, and all of the many trials we were facing my heart grew heavy. Her first response was, "Wow, that's alot!" She immediately followed up with, " I can't wait to see how God works through all of this!"
In that moment my conscience was pierced. Somehow, since those first weeks of stepping out in faith in pursuit of A*'s adoption I had allowed myself to feel sorry for our circumstances. And in my feeling sorry for myself I had allowed my faith to slip off track. It wasn't just that I didn't verbalized things in the same way my mom had, it was something deeper. I was no longer moving forward expectantly, actively looking for God's glory in the situation.
I wondered how my thoughts and emotions could translate into faithful deeds during this time of testing? For if they couldn't would my faith be genuine at all? I wondered even further: How could I go from telling anyone who would listen that Dustin and I were full of confidence in God's future grace for our family and His sustaining provision to wrestling hard with feelings of discouragement?
Talking the talk and walking the walk.... well, you know which is easier.
In that very moment I came to believe God was demanding some deeds out of my professed faith. I became very aware that there is a very fine line between lamenting and grumbling for me and I didn't want to cross it. I knew the Holy Spirit was pointing me toward being very careful about how I chose my words as I relay our current struggles in the future. Why? Because Matthew 12:34b says- Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
My mother's inadvertent statement of faith that God would work through all of our difficulties stood in cheerful contrast to the dim emotions I had been feeling deep inside and was convinced was bubbling up through my speech.
Since that lunch date with my mom I've worked hard to express my faith through deeds by tempering my thoughts and speech with thankfulness for blessed opportunities to walk this faith walk.
I'm not here to say that expressing anything other than a chipper expectancy that God will work all things together for a person's good is what is required of anyone facing trials. I'm simply saying that, for me, my faith expressing itself through deeds happens to require that I make constant deliberate decisions about how I will frame my circumstances in thought and verbalization. For, how can I say I'm confident in God's future grace out one side of my mouth and then say woe is me out the other side? Either God cares deeply about me or He doesn't.
I'm happy to tell you today that I am grateful for God's redirection of my attitude. He has shifted my focus off of our circumstances at present and on to Him. His gift to me in all of this is Himself and the comfort I find in knowing Him. I love that God is able to shepherd me even when my emotions wander off on a tangent. His faithfulness is so comforting!
Through these trials, while all the strings are still left dangling, and the questions are yet unanswered, God is refining mine and Dustin's faith and developing our perseverance. That's a good thing. And so, I'm still working hard to:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
*In an unrelated note I wanted to tell you that christianaudio.com is offering free downloads this entire month of John Piper's Desiring God audiobook. The coupon code is DG2009. (just enter the code at checkout)
I've just begun the book but can tell you that I already love it. There is a lot to process and pray through.