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4 Reminders to Help Restore Your Faith

When disappointment seems to be a recurring plot in your story, it's hard to believe that there is ever a possibility for a happy ending. When every sign of hope in a situation eventually crumbles to an outcome that contradicts the one you've been praying for, it's difficult to declare by faith that you will see a breakthrough. When you only hear of miracles in the lives of others around you, but your own prayers seem to go unheard, it's hard to believe that God has an answer for you, too.

Anyone who has seemingly lost all hope is an aching sight for the soul. The light in their eyes seems to have gone completely dim and cynical responses seem to overshadow their vocabulary.

How much grimmer of sight is a Believer who has stopped doing just that - believing?

When the essence of our faith is supposed to be trusting God beyond what we can see, it's tough not to feel ashamed when we struggle to believe that God will really do what He says is possible in His word. But when our prayers seem to go unanswered for a while, or our circumstances seem grim, it's difficult to stay hopeful.

Not too long ago, I struggled with this in nearly every area of my life. I started to give up on the dreams and desires that were tucked in my heart for so long. Asking God to bring them to fruition and being met with silence began to take its toll on me emotionally. So, I figured if I let them go, I wouldn't have to deal with disappointment anymore.

Some of that was healthy. That process of release helped me see how much I was treating God like a genie - my faith in Him contingent upon His answer.

But the cynicism, bitterness, and envy that spread their roots in my heart were definitely unhealthy. The danger wasn't that I released my grip on my expectation of what God could do, it was that I replaced it with the expectation that God wouldn't do it for me.

I began to see God as a dad at my soccer game, crossing His arms with clenched fists and furrowing His brow until I scored a game-winning goal.

I started to busy myself with doing what I thought God wanted me to. When things still didn't change, I made a mental list of all of the reasons God was withholding His blessings from me. Shame from these shortcomings convinced me that God wouldn't let miracles be a part of my story because I didn't deserve them.

And so the revelation became clear:
It's not that I didn't believe God could do amazing things.
It was that I didn't think He wanted to.

My mindset for faith had become performance-based.

If I'm acting perfectly, God will do great things.

If I'm not, He won't want to.

Now, I do think that God will withhold things from us until we are truly ready for them, and that's out of love. But I also think that sometimes our unbelief is what's keeping us from receiving all that He has in store.

My word for 2023 is restore.

I'm tired of letting the bitterness in my heart keep me in unbelief. I'm tired of allowing brokenness to deter my hope. It's time to choose a different perspective and restore my faith in who God is.

I don't need to believe that God will definitely do x, y, and z in my life. I just need to believe that He's able to. And if He doesn't, it's because He has something better in the works.

In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus and his disciples were trying to get some peace and quiet.

Yet, they are interrupted by a large crowd.

As they see this large crowd, the disciples immediately tell Jesus to send the people away.

I don't know about you, but I am a lot like these disciple dudes. I can find myself telling God what to do in my prayers rather than remaining open to what He wants to do.

Jesus responds with an invitation for the disciples to do what was seemingly impossible. He asked them to give the crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children, something to eat.

In classic disciple form, they answer with an argument of limitation:

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish" (Matthew 14:17, NIV).

Am I alone in that when I ask God to do big things and He prompts me toward that thing, I respond with a limitation based on what I can currently see, as if I know better than Him? Just some more food for thought. No pun intended.

Jesus' response is so humbling and insightful. He doesn't argue with the disciples, or turn his back and roll his eyes. He doesn't quit on the miracle that's about to take place because the disciples aren't quite playing the part perfectly.

Instead, he tells them to bring the loaves and fish to him.

It is in their obedience to hand it over to Jesus in faith and without further argumentation that he performs the miracle of multiplying the food to feed the crowd. And it is in their willingness to obediently serve Jesus that they are able to be the ones to distribute that food, taking part in a huge display of God's glory.

Jesus didn't let their imperfect behavior keep them from seeing that glory.

And the disciples didn't let the shame of their initial doubt keep them from taking part in this miracle.

Here are 4 things I learned from the disciples in this story that have helped restore my faith this week:

I don't have to see the miracle to believe for it

The disciples had no idea what Jesus was going to do. They didn't ask him for the specific outcome of feeding all of the people there. They had no idea how God's glory would minister to so many. They eventually just trusted Jesus, even without an explanation of the outcome. When I can't see how my situation can turn around, or my ability to conjure up a possible happy ending is stifled, I can remember that I don't need to know what God is going to do to trust that He can do something great.

No matter how little I feel like I have right now, God can use it

When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the crowd, they complained that they didn't have the money to buy enough food for all of the people. Instead of providing them the funds they would need, Jesus instructs them to go look for what they already had (Mark 6:37-38). It is only after they seek to find what was already among them that they discover the very lunch Jesus would use for a miracle.

God's not waiting for me to do or get more, He's waiting for me to look around, find what is already there, and give it to Him. What I argue as a limitation, God is waiting for me to hand over in faith that He can do more than I could imagine with it. Instead of being disappointed in God for not giving me what I asked Him for, or waiting until I feel like I have everything He needs me to have to work through me, I need to look around and take inventory of what I do have. And then, I need to place it in His hands and trust Him with the outcome.

There is grace for my unbelief

When the disciples responded with doubt based on what they could see and the seemingly limited resource they did have, Jesus didn't push them away or refuse to allow them to see the miracle. He responded with grace and patience. God doesn't expect us to never waver in belief, but maybe He's simply waiting on us to stop arguing with Him and giving Him excuses, which is ultimately suggesting that we know more than God. When we doubt what God can do, or if He even wants to do it for us, we are limiting Him and contradicting His character. He is gracious, kind, loving, and patient. And if we say we believe that, but suggest that He wouldn't be that to us because we don't deserve it, we are missing the point of grace. Grace is a gift. And you don't earn gifts, you just simply receive them.

It's never solely about me

When I feel like I don't deserve to have a story that finally has joy instead of pain, or restoration instead of brokenness, I have to remember that it's ultimately not about me. The testimony that comes from an answered prayer is one that has the ability to shine the light of God's glory and testifies of Jesus' love for us. God loves us so much that He wants us to be part of that story, but we aren't the main subject. I am thankful that I get to play the smallest part, but anything that God does in or through my life is solely to point people to Him, and display how amazing, merciful, loving, and powerful He is. When I shift my focus to that, I am humbled and reminded that God wants to show me His glory not because I deserve it, but because He is demonstrating who He is through it.

So, if you have replaced bold faith with detrimental cynicism and are struggling to believe that God will come through for you, I strongly encourage you to study the character of Jesus this week. Read any of the miracles in any 4 of the Gospels. Note the specific places when Jesus finally performs the miracle. Was it one that the people expected? Did it happen at their preferred time? Was unbelief present? If there was, did Jesus still allow those people who struggled to believe to witness the miracle?

And lastly:

What was the outcome of the miracle?

I'll give you a hint on that one:

God's glory is revealed.

No matter what you're going through, hold on a little longer.

Restore your faith in His power, grace, unlikely timing, and kindness.

Start telling yourself that God's going to reveal Himself through this.

And you can believe that it's going to be greater than you can imagine.

Ephesians 3:20-21


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