When confronted with misfortune we have three choices.
We can believe God is good and benevolent, we can believe he is indifferent, irrelevant, powerless or mean or we can deny his existence.
Believing God is good and benevolent comes easy when our ordeals are brief, infrequent and mild and our sense of fairness is never violated. However, believing the best about God can be problematic when our suffering is severe, continuous or unfair.
Remaining spiritually intact under these circumstances requires faith.
Faith is defined as believing that which cannot be seen or clearly understood. It is affirming the righteousness of God’s character when suffering obscures our perception of his attributes. It means presuming he loves us when our feelings and circumstances indicate otherwise.
Faith means believing he is wise and good even though our prayers go unanswered, at least from our current viewpoint.
Faith is an active reliance on God rather than the passive byproduct of intellectual assent.
Proclaiming a horse safe to ride is intellectual assent; climbing into the saddle is faith. Believing God exists is intellectual assent. Faith is obediently following him despite risk and uncertainty.
Faith means deeming his timing impeccable, his plans perfect, his provision sufficient and his judgment infallible even when we are afflicted, deprived or endangered.
Faith is accepting his answers to our questions even when they seem incomplete or are disheartening.
Faith is to Christians what finding second wind is to marathon runners.
Instead of quitting at the first sign of fatigue, marathoners keep running until new energy enables them to maintain the same pace with more comfort and less distress.
When misfortune sparks disbelief about God, faith sustains us through the doubts until life gets better and our feelings and circumstances once again reinforce the evidence of his goodness and benevolence.
Faith is not unique to Christianity. We frequently exercise faith in everyday life.
Most of us sit on chairs without first checking to see if they are structurally sound because we trust the expertise of the furniture designers and builders. That is faith.
We believe Boeing engineers understand aerodynamics so we fly in their airplanes. That is faith.
We see evidence that Bayer scientists make safe and effective aspirin so we use their products. That is faith.
Amid affliction we may not understand why God lets us suffer or why he seems distant and aloof, but we see evidence of his existence in the world, remember his previous faithfulness and recall that our difficulties evidence the universal freedom he gives everyone to become believers.
We then trust that he sees our plight, he cares for us, he has the resources to help and he will surely come to our aid in one way or another.
That is faith.