There are seasons in life when God seems overwhelmingly present and others when He seems far away. As our lives progress, so does our faith. We experience both peaks and valleys throughout our journeys. We can be ignited and on fire for the One who has shown Himself tangible in our lives, and then doubtfully contemplative of His existence when we cannot feel Him near.
When life gets hard, everyone responds differently. Some cry out to God in desperation, some turn their backs on Him in anger, and some worship with the full faith that He will redeem. It can be easy to praise God when life is comfortable, but it is in times of devastation when our faith is tested. We can be sharpened and refined, or defeated and crippled when we face seasons of suffering.
Do you know how you would respond in times of catastrophe? Maybe you have walked through a difficult season, and you felt spiritually ill-equipped to handle the burden. Before being diagnosed with cancer I would have said that I had strong faith, yet it wasn’t until I faced my own mortality, devastating loss, and overwhelming grief that my faith in God was fortified.
Suffering is the most powerful way of revealing the inner workings of our faith. Yet we shouldn’t wait until we face the storms of life to build our faith and equip ourselves for those seasons. Below are five life-changing strategies to grow your faith. My hope and prayer is that when struggles come, we would be equipped, ready, and full of unshakeable faith.
- Prayer. Think of your closest friendship. How was that relationship bolstered, created, and cared for? Communication! God wants to hear from us. Too often we are waiting for Him to speak and we forget that we can initiate the conversation. Prayer doesn’t have to be formal. You don’t have to brainstorm what you will say — God knows your heart, He asks that you share it with Him. Establish open communication with Jesus through prayer. Rather than using prayer as a way to ask for something, begin to thank God for all that He has done. Gratitude in prayer will transform your heart in suffering.
- Fellowship. “You are who you surround yourself with.” Did you parents tell you this growing up as well, or was I the only one? While I might have rolled my eyes in my adolescence, there is deep, resonating truth to this. Examine your relationships. Do you surround yourself with cynics full of sarcasm, gossip, and snark? Or are you around those who encourage, support, and speak life-giving words? Re-evaluate your company. Your friends are a direct reflection of who you are. Your faith will grow when you are in an atmosphere of positive, faith-filled believers.
- The Word (and Worship). I find my faith wavering when I become too enveloped with what is happening around me, rather than focused on what is happening within me. Through seasons of suffering, it’s easy to wonder where God is. Does He even care that I’m struggling right now? We lose sight of the work that He is doing within us. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of what we cannot see. Though we can’t always see God moving in our lives, we must believe that He is here among us. Closer than we can even fathom. Our faith is strengthened when we dive into the living, breathing word of God. It is a tangible tool to sharpen our faith. It is water in our deserts. Food in our hunger. It is life. Worship is also pivotal in transforming our view of who God is. I find that in moments I cannot pray, I simply worship — singing praises of gratitude for all that He has done. Worship is the outward expression for the work being done within us.
- Service. Nothing is more uplifting to our faith than serving someone else. Blessing others blesses us. When we step outside of our circumstance and step in to someone else’s, we not only grow our faith, but we encourage theirs. We are not called to be quiet believers. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Bold, brave, and benevolent. Serving others softens and molds our faith in not only God, but in humanity. Our faith is strengthened when we actively live a life of service. By loving others, we are loving God.
- Guard Your Heart. It is of utmost importance that we filter what we are allowing inside of our hearts. Everything we watch and listen to soaks into our spirit like a sponge. Though you may really enjoy that show on Netflix, is it feeding your soul? Are you allowing the wrong kind of media in your home? I get it. Believe me, I too am guilty. I say this to you as much as I say it to myself: We need to be mindful of what we watch. That show you watch that you think probably isn’t the best choice, probably isn’t. A great resource for family-friendly and wholesome entertainment is Pure Flix. It’s exactly what is sounds like. At Pure Flix (a subscription service similar to Netflix and Hulu), it is their mission to influence the culture of Christ through media and family-friendly content. When you subscribe to Pure Flix, you can be assured that every movie, documentary, and educational series is family-friendly and faith-centered. (Currently, they are offering a free month’s subscription!)
Hebrews 11:1 (MSG)
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”