Faith at the center of it all

By Rev. Mark McDonald

This month, 501 LIFE focuses on “Friends, Faith and Family.” When I heard that theme, my first thought was, “Faith is in the middle of our friends and our family, right where it belongs!”

Several words can be used to define faith: loyalty, fidelity, sincerity and belief. However, my favorite definition, drawn from both the dictionary and from scriptures, involves trust. My favorite definition is “belief and trust.” Faith is not just trusting or just believing, but a unique combination of both. To understand what faith is and why it is central to our family and friends, we want to consider both.

One of my brother’s favorite scriptures is Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief.” From that story of a father wanting to believe his child can be healed, we often assume that the opposite of belief is doubt. While doubt tests belief, it does not negate it. Some say that the opposite of faith, therefore, is not doubt but fear. Fear that our child will not be healed because it’s not medically possible. Fear of loss or fear of failure. Belief is challenged more by our lack of belief than any outside force.

There is a familiar saying, “Trust and verify.” A friend once challenged me: “You either trust or you verify. If you verify, you obviously don’t trust.” I struggled with that for years, especially when I began to realize my trust in God was not unwavering. Psalmists have cried the same cry, and even Jesus asked God why God had forsaken him on the cross. Surely the scriptures teach us that trust is not absolute, but grows and fades and then grows again with time.

Belief and trust work in balance with each other, so when we struggle with our belief, we can rely on trust. When we struggle with mistrust, we can lean on what we know to be true. When my toddler told me he would go clean his room, I trusted he was sincere, but I also believed he would be distracted before he did it. So, while my belief in his actions wavered, my trust in his sincerity balanced that lack of belief. We remain faithful, even with fear, doubt and mistrust in our midst.

If we can have faith in friends and family even when we struggle with doubt and mistrust, it only makes sense to have that same struggle in our relationship with God. Scriptures bear this out, and so does our world today.

In a world in which we often focus on fear, doubt, mistrust, suspicion and accusations, we also live in a world overflowing with faithful relationships and we should focus on those relationships. In the 501, there are people and organizations that are faithfully providing food, clothing, shelter, compassion, encouragement, support and so much more. We have wonderful faith communities. They are not always perfect, and we cannot believe or trust in them absolutely, but faith allows us to find a balance of belief and trust in every relationship we have.

Faith is at the center of every relationship … not just our relationship with God, who is always faithful to us (even when we are not faithful to God). It is the center of each and every relationship, and when we view it through the lens of belief and trust, it is unstoppable. It endures all things.

Let’s celebrate the faithfulness we see every day in the 501!

Mark McDonald
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