When Faith Has Been Shaken

I find myself identifying with people in the scriptures. Who I identify with and what I see has changed as I have matured and grown. I was rereading a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland in the April 2013 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I was struck by the events in a new way.

In the New Testament story, the father had heard of the miracles that had been performed by Jesus and his disciples. He had watched his son suffer for years — unable to control his body, falling down and hurting himself (sometimes even falling into the fire), and other issues. Who knows how we would diagnose the condition today, but the boy was beyond the help of the physicians then. Perhaps as a last resort, he took his son to Jesus’ disciples.

I can only speculate why the disciples were unable to help. The account in Mark suggests that they had things to learn about healing the sick. It is also possible that, having been able to do other miracles, that a little bit of pride had crept into their hearts. Whatever the case, they disciples were unable to help the father, and he was heartbroken.

Jesus enters the scene at about this moment. The father turns to him for help. I don’t know whether he was doubting the power of the Savior, or if he was wondering if God really wanted his child healed. In any case, he hoped that his son could be healed, but he could not trust that idea with his whole heart.

It is at this point the Elder Holland gives a wonderful discourse on living life with faith, even when we don’t have all of the answers. I highly recommend a reading of his talk. The lessons I have taken away are a little different.

The Savior Still Loves Me, Even When Life Has Worn Me Down, and I am Weak

Jesus didn’t condemn the man for his faith being shaken. He knew what he had been through with his son, and the Savior understood how hard it must have been to come to his disciples and have them unable to help. Jesus didn’t lecture, he didn’t scold, and he didn’t turn him away. He did, however, put the father in a position to confront the doubts and fears that resided in his heart. It was at that point that he could ask for more faith and more strength to make up for what he lacked.

I have found this same principle at work in my life. I get tired, weak, and worn. I have asked that Heavenly Father would be merciful and change my life circumstances. I have been angry and accused God of things that should have never entered my heart, let alone cross my lips. Nevertheless, when I finally humbled myself and accepted that I still have things to learn, I could kneel and ask for more strength and more faith. Those prayers have always been answered with a yes. The rest has a way of working itself out, and I have become a better person in the process.

Despite my lack of faith, the moment I humble myself and admit that my strength has run out, I am blessed.

I Don’t Have to Have Perfect Faith to Experience the Power of God in my Life

It’s a back door way of doubting the divine. I profess that I know t hat Father in Heaven has all power. I bear testimony that He has given a fullness of that power to his Son. I will tell you that I believe that miracles happen on God’s time. Then, I turn around and doubt that I am receiving spiritual impressions correctly. I hesitate to ask for the things that I need and desire because I “don’t want to go against God’s plan.”  I find mistakes and weaknesses in my life and assume that they disqualify me from blessings.

I say that I trust God completely, but I doubt me. It makes my disbelief sound much more noble.

Like the father in the story, there are times when I can lay that doubt aside. I ask for spiritual confirmation of the impressions I receive. I step out in faith knowing that divine providence will make up for my inabilities and mistakes, as long as my heart and my intentions are pure. It is then that I see and feel the power of God realized in my life and I have the opportunities to lift and bless the people around me.

I Never Want to Live in a Way that Would Shake Someone Else’s Faith

Again, I still don’t know exactly why the disciples weren’t able to help the father, and the scriptures tell us that all was turned to good for the father, the son, and for the disciples (who had a learning moment). I seen the same principle happen when I have felt others have failed me and the lessons I’ve learned have become some of the most precious gifts I could have received. I hope it has been true for those I have let down and failed.

Even so, I think this story illustrates that  I have a duty to learn all I can and to apply that learning the best that I can. The scriptures tell me that I am to be the Savior’s hands and feet in ministering to those around me. The more I know, the more useful I can be.

On the flip side, if I am not living what I know, I can cause others to lose faith simply by my example. I will lose spiritual power, and I will be unable to assist when needed.

Faith is a Power that We Must Learn to Use

I don’t know that this one is evident in the New Testament story, but it is something I have learned in my life. I know that there are many people who are looking to quantify religion in a scientific manner, using chemicals and electrical impulses in the brain to explain all religious experiences away. To me, that is sad.

To understand religion, a leap of faith is required. Usually, we are brought to a crossroads where about the only path forward requires that leap. The neat thing is that the scriptures do not call us to “blind faith.” In fact, they use words like “experiment” to describe the process of testing out faith, and even encourage you to cast out a seed that doesn’t grow and give fruit (see Alma’s discourse).

In my personal experiences, faith has given me insights that I could never have gotten on my own. Faith has introduced me to a very real power that can’t be explained with words any better than the taste of salt, but I have experienced it, and I know it when I feel it. Faith has changed me and made me a better person than I could have ever been on my own. Faith gives me the courage to step out and act to help others, even when I’m not sure what the outcome will be. Faith is powerful.

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps it’s not coincidental that I chose to publish this post on Pioneer Day. For my non-LDS readers, Pioneer Day is a unique Mormon holiday where we commemorate Brigham Young’s arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. There are no prescribed celebratory traditions, and I’ll admit to missing it almost every year. Up until this year, I’ve been able to get the date as close as “sometime in July.”

If ever there were examples of faith, it is found in those stories of a people who had been abused by their countrymen, ignored by their government, impoverished and ravaged by mobs. In their humble faith that they were led by a prophet of God who knew the Savior and spoke for him, they took what belongings they could and traveled west. Their motivation was the desire to worship God as they desired and were commanded. They wanted to preserve the gospel that had been restored for their children, their grandchildren, and the rest of their posterity.

I may not share any blood relation with these people, but they are my spiritual ancestors. I am grateful for their faith, courage, and example.

Further Reading

The Mormon Interpreter Foundation has posted an excellent article concerning some of the most common “issues” brought up regarding the LDS faith. It is called “Finding Faith in the Midst of Doubt.”

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