Built to Last: How to Keep Your Faith Strong
Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. – Mary McLeod Bethune
My son Brandon and I took in a baseball game recently. Like always, a night at the ballpark recharged my batteries and allowed me to relax and shift my attention from the challenges that are ahead of my family right now and to simply relax and do nothing for three hours.
The pace of the game is soothing for me. The chess-like strategy between opposing managers along with the smell of bratwurst and peppers simmering on the grill appeal to my senses and lead me to appreciate the faith-challenging paradox of a game where the chance of success is less than 50%.
A very good player, an all-star caliber player, may get just three base hits out of ten attempts. This means most players fail between 70 and 80 percent of the time. However, time after time, they walk up to home plate with confidence. They have faith. These players believe this time will be the time they will get the base hit. Baseball players are built to last.
Most major league baseball players have been playing since they were young and, over time, learned to understand the game was about averages and attempts. The more attempts they had to hit, the better their batting average would become. Other players learned the importance of faith. The players who are members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame understood the importance of both.
It takes courage to walk-up to home plate and believe, really believe, this will be the time for success especially if the last three attempts resulted in striking out. It also takes courage for you and for me to walk up to a challenge or opportunity in our lives and have the faith we can be successful too, especially if we have been striking out lately.
To keep our faith strong, we need to understand that it’s about attempts as well. Not everything we touch turns out according to our plan and just because we pray doesn’t mean we will see immediate relief. But if we keep believing, and never give up, then on His time we will get to where He wants us to go.
All of us, baseball players and non-baseball players alike, are built to last because that is how we were made. From time-to-time we just need to review the owner’s manual to remember how to keep our faith strong during the times it isn’t.
The following is from my owner’s manual and helps to keep my faith strong. These instructions may also work for you.
- Allow yourself to grieve for what you have lost.
Losing our faith happens. It doesn’t mean we are broken – it just means our faith is not particularly strong at the moment. Acknowledge this and permit yourself to feel the sadness and pain the loss may bring. In order to change our condition, we must first acknowledge our reality. Name it, call out for it, or weep for it. Your cries will be heard.
- Be patient with the uncertainty.
Sometimes when we lose our patience, our emotions get in the way of our common sense and we begin to think the situation is larger than it actually is. When you are struggling with your faith, stay in the moment as long as you need. Your loss of faith may last for a few days or even a few weeks, but you will not be abandoned. Use this time to build your faith around the certainty there is a purpose created just for you.
- Watch how you rebound and fill in the gaps.
Above all, be true to yourself. When you feel your faith returning make certain it is your faith and not a need to begin feeling something, anything, even it is something that is not aligned with your core beliefs and values.
When we fill the gaps with things we really don’t believe, our foundation begins to shift. We may stumble on this shakier ground because it doesn’t hold our weight as well. To take a step forward in life, we need a solid foundation to step from under our footing. The things deep in our hearts we know to be true give us that support, even when we are not feeling particularly strong.
Somewhere deep in my heart I know my greatest work is still ahead of me. I know my wife will always be by my side and my children will love me forever. I know there is plan for me that is still being written. I know all of these things to be true and I call on them to provide a resurgence for my faith when I feel my soul begin to grow tired and falter.
- Faith is resistible; learn not to resist, but to receive more.
Our faith is never taken from us – we may just resist it from time-to-time. Our faith is a gift of grace and we get to choose if we want to receive it, or not.
Often times we have a difficult time receiving good things. Either we don’t think we are worthy or we don’t believe in the gift’s authenticity. Receiving the gift of faith is no different. Faith lifts our hearts and gives us the energy to pursue our relationships and goals. It can be a scary deal to feel it’s power at times.
We may even want to resist faith because we don’t trust how long it will stay with us. But when we learn to surrender to it, and allow ourselves to open up and receive its abundance, then faith will only multiple and manifest itself in our lives more, not less.
- Get involved.
Practicing faith takes action. Faith requires us to think, feel and believe. When we stand on the sidelines and expect our faith to arrive without any deliberate intent on our part, then we run the risk of missing the chance to jump into life.
Get involved with the people and causes that touch your heart the most. Spend more time with your children, volunteer in your community, or get behind a group or organization you believe is able to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Your action, your involvement, will create tangible results that will allow you see that your faith is alive and is indeed growing. Like everything else we do, we get better at something the more we do it. Practicing and using our faith is no different.
- Focus on the positive.
If you find yourself coming back from a difficult situation where your faith has been tested, begin to look for the small, but positive things happening around you. Every good thought or encouraging experience is not an accident – these are signs to remind you of your purpose and the hope for what else is waiting for you.
Sometimes I get discouraged and lose my faith, too. It may seem hypocritical that someone who writes about faith, inspiration and self awareness struggles with his faith. But I’m just being human when I do struggle.
My faith strengthens when I receive an email or comment from a reader who tells me how something I wrote restored some measure of faith for them. By focusing on one positive remark, I can feel my dwindling faith begin to surge and grow again.
- Have deep water faith in the shallow end.
When I was in high school I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. Most of the new swimmers I taught were young children whose parents wanted them to be safe and confident around the swimming pool.
When my students entered the pool they looked a little apprehensive, but they went ahead and took the first step anyway because they knew their feet would touch in the shallow end. As I moved them further away from the shallow end and into deeper waters, their confidence, and faith, began to wane.
We can be a lot like new swimmers too. Our faith can be strong when we know what to expect. To do more in life, to take the chance our hearts are asking us to take, we need to have the faith to jump in without knowing the depth of the water. What we will find is our feet will touch and the water will not be over our heads.
After the baseball game ended and as Brandon and I were making our way out of the stadium, the reality of Mary Beth’s upcoming surgery was front and center on my mind again. I enjoyed the relief the game provided, but now it was time to get back to figuring out how I was going to get her, our children and me through the next couple of weeks.
With the game still fresh on my mind, the answer was made clearer. Taking a leap of faith is about having the courage to do so. We have the ability to keep our faith strong when we stride up confidently to our problem and with the belief everything will turn out to plan. Our faith, just like our spirit, is built to last.
In less than two weeks when I let go of Mary Beth’s hand and leave her in the pre-op room to begin the five-hour wait, I know He will pick up where I left off and hold on to her tightly.
My faith tells me I don’t need to figure out anything – I just need to surrender what I can’t see. And believe Mary Beth is built to last.