Faith, it is a very small word containing only five humble letters, yet it certainly is a mighty word. When everything is going right, and the road of life is quiet and well paved, it is really easy to say I have faith and think that you understand what that word really means. But how can you? What faith is required when life is at its best and want and fear have no place in your life.
What faith is required to walk on plush carpets and eat ice cream by the pool? What faith do you have to rely on when your life is like a romantic postcard or an add for a tropical resort? What exercise of heart and mind is called for when your life could be flashed up for the poster image of successful because your every want and need is met for years to come. When your beliefs line up with the crowd and are excepted at every turn as the only way to live, saying I have a measure of faith takes neither courage nor self-denial.
It is not until trial and adversity hunt your steps, when discouragement and disappointment hunt you down like a pack of hungry hound dogs that you really get a glimpse of the depths and power of faith. Because it is then that you have to chose to hold on to faith. It is then that you have to chose to grab hold and cling to faith, that it become more than words.
From our comfortable arm chairs it is easy to look back at the mighty men of faith and say, I would do the same. Or to look down at those who fell short of the mark and say, I would never do that. Nothing would make me lose my faith. I would never chose the comforts of this life over faith in Jesus. If I were in that garden, or if I had been King Saul, or if I had been so and so I would have done this and not done that.
But if your life has been quiet and calm, if almost everything that you want has been given you, how do you really know what you would do if in a moment your life was turned upside down like Job’s. Anyone can say that they have faith, but do words alone mean anything? If being a Christian is the popular thing to be, if going to church is excepted as the norm, what does it require of me to say I trust and believe.
But what about the day when life throws a few hard blows. When the enemy comes in and crushed all of your dreams, takes away your hopes, and you feel like there is just one disaster between you and homelessness? What about the day when Christianity looses its shine, and popular opinion declares the word of God to be guilty of wrong think and hate speech, will you still have the courage to say I believe then? Will you like Daniel and his three friends declare your loyalty even though it means the fiery furnace or the lion’s den?
As I sit here on a day when life has thrown such a curve ball that I almost wish that I were still a child concerned only with play and who for nearly any woe a kiss from Mom and Dad would wash the pain away, I cannot help but wonder, do I really understand what it means to have faith? Do I have the courage it took Joshua in the midst of a battle to say to the sun and moon stand still until the victory is won? Do I have the courage of Moses to follow God’s command to hit the rock with a stick and believe that He will send forth water like a living stream? Could I, like the apostle Paul, tell the captain not to worry about the stormy waters, like Elisha ignore the army of the enemy that has encamped around my home because I know that the unseen army of God has surrounded me, or leave my home to wander as a pilgrim like Abraham. Or am I more like the over confident Peter who declared my faith is strong enough to stand by you no matter what Lord, only to deny him thrice before a new day had dawned?
Right now the test is fierce. Almost every hope and dream that I have had has remained just that, a longed for dream. In spite of sacrifice and denial, rising early, studying through migraines and intense pain, and going 12 hours without food so I could go to school, my dream of becoming a doctor and even a nurse were cut down. Poor health has left me homebound, robbed me of a chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of life like friendship and finding love. Every dream that I have ever fought for, trying hard to ignore the pain that kept knocking me down, always was destroyed.
Finally, after years of fighting, I thought I found a dream that I could make a reality as I could work from home and even lay down on the sofa and work when my strength allowed. And for once in my life, it seemed like I had finally found something that was going to work. I was selling books, not many, and not enough to cover all the bills, but I was just starting out. And slowly I was learning and as the number of books increased, so were my sales. So that I was actually making enough to cover some of the expenses.
For the first time in my life I had reason to believe that with hard work and patience, I was going to see a day when I could enjoy the privilege of eating food that the sweat of my brow had provided. That one day my dream of taking care of my parents and sister would actually come true. O how wonderful it felt to think that for the firs time in my life, one of my hopes and dreams was going to stop being a haunting ghost, but instead become something wonderfully real.
But as usually, reality was not far away, and in quick succession and tore my dream to shreds. The first fatal blow came near the end of last year, when my father suddenly screamed out in pain. It was a sound I shall never forget because in that moment I knew life would never be the same. An hour later he was throwing up massive amounts of blood, three days later he was gone. Not only was he my financial support, but he was my sounding board, the critical ear that I needed as well as the voice of encouragment.
From that day on my dream was on life support. It was a hard blow, not only financially as without my father I had no way to pay most of the bills. But I had spent a life time imaging the day when I would be able to say to my Mother and Father, here are the keys to your new house and by the way I hope that you like your new car. And now that day would never come.
Thanks to the stimulus checks and the mercy of God in granting me SSI, my dream did not completely die. It was on life support, but at least it still had a weak pulse and there was hope that one day it might awake out of its coma. Over the last few months it looked like it was reviving. My sales were slowly climbing and the ratio to adds to purchases was getting better. Instead of my Father spending 150 dollars for me to make only 20 dollars, I was spending 20 to make 50 in sales. Little by little, as I learned ways to speed up the process, I was increasing the number of books I could create and upload to Amazon. In the time it used to take me to make 1 book, I was now able to make 2 or 3 books. Increasing my chances of getting sales and reaching my life long goal of enjoying the pride of earning my own bread.
O how my heart rejoiced. O how I thanked God for the the wondrous thought that one day I would reach a point where I would sit back and realize that one of my dreams had become reality.
But that hope faded once more as rising gas and inflation turned my smile into lines of worry. Overnight my slowly increasing sales came to a near halt. Days went by without one sale. Books that had routinely sold 11 or 12 copies the year before were lucky to sell 1 copy. Shortages, long waits, and the rising cost were taking a toll. The signs were not looking good, and just when I thought that I had hit rock bottom, the hard drive of my laptop started disappearing and repapering. In the middle of doing something I would get an error message stating that my hard drive was gone. An hour or so latter it and all the information I needed would return. And worse yet, there would be times that I would press the power button and nothing would happen. Not a sound or a light would flicker for five or ten minutes as I pleaded with God to give my laptop more life. “I have no money to buy a new one.” I would plead, and then after several minutes it would turn on and I would thank God for the gift of another chance to make my dream real.
And so things went on until I knew that I had to try something. I could not ask my Mother because as the one who manages her budget, I know all too well that our purse is rather threadbare and how much we are shuffling things around to make it to the end of the month. Asking for a new computer, especially one that was not so slow that I would wish to commit computercide, was impossible.
There was one hope, maybe I could replace the hard drive and upgrade it to have more storage space. It was not the greatest solution, but if only it gave me another year or two things might be different then. It was worth a shot. If only I had tried that a six months to a year ago it might have been the answer. Unfortunately I received a call from Best Buy letting me know that my computer was beyond repair. The keyboard and mouse were no longer working and they could not save any of the data on my computer.
In that instance I knew the nail on this dream’s coffin had been set. Yes, I still have a desktop. And with it I can try a bit longer. But that laptop was my lifeline. I could work on it when my strength was so low that all I could do was lay down on the sofa. Many a day I worked until all I could do was curl up in a ball of pain and listen to the TV through half closed eyes. I really like working from my desktop, but I have to be feeling rather good to sit in the hard chair for more than five minutes. There are times when I feel like I am sitting on antlers making every move in my chair agony. Most days all I would mange would be to turn on my computer, check and see if I was blessed with a sale, and then limp to the sofa. How could I possibly hope to keep my dream alive that way? And for what reward? A handful of sales that might cover one or 2 of the bills?
My eyes have been full of tears as I ponder what this means for me and the one small dream I really believed was going to make it. In the last couple of hours since I found out my laptop, the main tool I use to connect with the outside world, was no more, I have repeatedly asked God why? Why must all of my dreams fall apart? Why must all of my efforts be met with failure? Why o Lord can I not enjoy even one of the humblest privilege’s of a normal life?
As I lifted my heart up in prayer, my thoughts were guided to the question of faith. And I was impressed as never before with the magnitude of that 5 letter word. Faith was easy when I had a computer, when I had a chance at making my way and reaching my goal. But what about now when my last dream for this life was crushed, when it seems like to every eye that all hope is dead, and the devil is whispering words of discouragement? Do I still have faith? Can I like Joseph declare that I will remain true to God even though I am looking at a lifetime without parole in an Egyptian prison? Can I like the paralytic who had been let down from the roof, who had not yet heard the words, “rise and walk” let my heart glory in the knowledge that my sins had been forgiven? Can I say like one of the prophets, that even if the sky above should turn to brass and the harvest fail, I will rejoice in the Lord?
Faith is not so hard to hold unto when I thought my dreams had a chance of success, but now, when it seems like all hope is dead, it will take every ounce of strength to maintain. Now, in a moment of strong crisis, when it seems like every earthly support is being kicked out from under me, holding fast will mean far more than lip service for anyone can speak cheery words when the sun is shining, but real faith still trust when the hurricanes of trial and tribulation have blown off the roof and the flood of disappointment is trying to sweep the home off of its foundation.
Right now I have a choice to make. I can let discouragement and heartbreak have control, or I can shed some tears and place my burdens in the hands of Jesus and trust that He knows why He is allowing this challenge. He knows how, if I let Him, this day of disappointment will in the long run workout for my good. If my faith is real, if it has any substances to it, this setback will be the means of making my faith to flourish. For I will have to place my whole weight upon the Lord and let Him carry me over this swirling river. And by this flexing of the muscles my strength to hold on will grow and as I see the way that He holds my hand and leads me safely to the still waters, my love for Him will exponentially grow.