How do we go from a wavering trust in God to the kind of faith that is unshakable and sure?
I have thought a lot about the account in Exodus of the escape of the children of Israel from Egypt and their journey to the promised land. After each proof of God's power and care, they would praise Him and give thanks, but when faced with a new challenge, they would become fearful, as if they had no reason for hope. It seems both hard to understand and yet very familiar.
Though no great bodies of water have ever opened up before me, I have experienced many proofs of God's goodness and care. Yet I have also had what feel like Godless, hopeless moments.
To me the answer to the quest for an unshakable faith has to do with one's understanding of God.
As a child, I felt that the description of God as Love that I was taught in Sunday School was right on.
When I was 5, my hand got caught in the mechanism of a glider swing, and when the glider swung back, it cut deeply into my hand. I remember sobbing as I ran into the house. But more than this, I remember my mother's lack of fear and the hymns we sang as she washed my hand and bandaged my thumb.
I didn't doubt for a moment that all would be well. The sense of God's presence and love I felt as we sang those songs of praise to Him was more fundamental and true to me than anything else. Not long after, all trace of the accident was gone, and to this day I can't recall which hand was injured.
You would think that such a proof of God's love would have confirmed my faith for all time. But by the time I went to college, my eagerness to blend in with friends pushed this and other healings through prayer out of my thought.
Years later I began to rethink this loss of spirituality and to search for a way to have faith. That meant taking a hard look at my priorities.
After years in slavery to the Egyptians, the children of Israel had grown into the habit of belief in a power apart from God. After years of making myself worldly, I had come to accept fear, anger, and grief as unavoidable features of life.
Thinking that is based in materialism tends to recycle its own negative patterns of thought and limited expectations of good. The miracles witnessed during the Exodus, like the healings I'd had as a child, were proofs of spiritual good, but they were not, in themselves, enough to produce a complete conversion of heart and mind.
Only when God's goodness begins to become more real to us than the arguments against it do we gain a solid, understanding faith.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony. Truth will at length compel us all to exchange the pleasures and pains of sense for the joys of Soul" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 390).
As the years have gone by and I have become more consistent in honoring my desire to put God's good first, spiritual understanding has come more easily and shown itself to be more natural and normal.
The Exodus story belongs to all of us. It tells us how to grow up into the understanding that life is to be lived with and for God. When we do this, we, too, accept our identity as God's people.
In the place
where it was said unto them,
Ye are not my people;
there shall they be called
the children of the living God.