Sometimes it’s hard to have faith. Even for the Christian, who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there are moments when our faith flickers low. Oftentimes, those moments have a lot to do with our circumstances.
Wavering Faith in Scripture
Characters in the New Testament who seem to lose their faith or see it waver were usually in dangerous or even painful circumstances. Peter, in a courageous moment of faith, stepped out of a boat and began walking on the water toward Jesus. However, when he suddenly saw the waves crashing around him, his faith drained away. He began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:22-23)
The same point – that is, that circumstances of danger and fear can weaken our faith — is true for people who physically and emotionally suffer. You see this illustrated frequently in Gospel stories of people who ask for healing, like the father of the possessed boy who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, but please help my unbelief!” (see Mark 9:24) I’ve seen the same sort of thing in talking with others.
People who are hurting, whether physically or emotionally, often find their faith is weak. I have felt the same thing myself — when my personal circumstances turned bad and I desperately wanted the Lord to act, to help. In those moments it was hard to believe and trust.
As we gather with family and friends or travel to “go home” for Thanksgiving, I’m well aware that not every home is a happy place. A simple Google search of “when family” autocompletes with phrases that reflect the state of our culture and our relationships:
- When family betrays you
- When family ignores you
- When family lets you down
- When family takes advantage of you
- When family hurts you
- When family asks for money
- When family is toxic
- When family steals from you
I’m sure a thorough search would reveal even more pain surrounding friends, physical and emotional health, finances, and more. For some students, home might be a place of bad memories and broken relationships. For some there may be old wounds that get revived or old patterns of behavior that get re-introduced. Circumstances do matter. Circumstances often weaken our faith. In times of pain, uncertainty, broken relationships, hardship, or seeing a loved one suffer, it can be hard to believe.
Giving thanks is an act of trust.
That’s where giving thanks can come in. Instead of trying to “work up” your faith, or urging yourself inwardly to “just believe,” try saying inwardly a word of thanks, or, even better, out loud. But in some fashion, breathe a word of thanks.
The giving of thanks is itself an act of trust. It’s an act of humility that in effect says “God, you are God, and I am not.” Giving thanks is a way of expressing trust in the One who is the maker and sustainer of all things. Giving thanks concedes that we are debtors to God, and that we depend upon Him. Try saying something like the following — out loud if you can, but at least inwardly when around others –
“Lord, even though I don’t understand everything that’s going on, I’m going to give you thanks for your kindness, your mercies, and all the blessings I have received. Lord, I love you, and I entrust myself to you.”
The Scriptures tell us to be thankful in all things. We’re not told to be thankful for all things, but that in each and every circumstance, especially in hardship, we can and should be thankful.
As you go home this Thanksgiving, as you perhaps re-enter circumstances and situations that remind you of painful times, or simply bring you back into the midst of old and broken relationships, remember to be thankful. Giving thanks is an act of trust and, when repeated, is an act of spiritual nourishment that can build our faith.
- Who deserves my thanks?
- The Thanksgiving Habit: Give Thanks Always
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Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas.
Edited by Joannah Buffington