Finding and Renewing Faith
People sometimes ask me. ‘How do I find God?’ I recently attended a clergy gathering in Lincoln at which Bishop Victoria Matthews, a former Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, gave a talk about maintaining our faith when we are experiencing difficulty or when we are assailed by doubt. I think what she said applies to someone seeking faith as much as it applies to someone who finds their faith being challenged.
Bishop Victoria spoke first about the need to pray and to do so regularly. When we think of prayer we think of asking God for something either for ourselves or for others. For prayer to be sincere we need to have realized that we are not self-sufficient, that we are people very much in need of help. When people ask me about finding faith I believe they do so because they have come to realize they need help. I suspect that the road to faith for most of us, especially when we are adults, only begins when we have encountered something that blows our sense of self-sufficiency to smithereens. If, however, we seek God sincerely and regularly in prayer, God will help us. Prayerful communion with God has a way of calming us, of giving us peace, of strengthening us, and of giving us that great gift of hope. In prayer we can let down our guard and say whatever is on our mind to God, be it in joy, or perplexity, or anger. Whatever the case may be, God will understand us. From this understanding comes God’s blessing to us, which includes the blessing of faith, either a new faith or a deepening of an existing faith.
The bishop spoke next about engaging in loving action, be that action ever so small and ordinary. Whenever we seek to make this world a better place by doing something that will be to the benefit of others, we are acting in love and building God’s kingdom. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, or, in other words, to treat others as we would like them treat us. As we do something to help someone or simply to create some beauty, we are, often unconsciously, drawing closer to God, since any good action is one blessed by God.
She also spoke of the importance of being thankful, pointing out that thankfulness is not just for what we regard as the big things in life. She mentioned the importance of reflecting on the beauty and wonder of small, everyday things such as a flower growing in a crack in the pavement or the smile of a baby. It’s not just the grand things in nature such as spectacular sunsets for which we should give thanks. Any act of thanksgiving is ultimately an act of thanking God, since God is the creator of all that is. For this reason, giving thanks is another form of prayer.
Although loving acts and gratitude do not have to be rooted in prayer, I know that prayer can greatly help us as we seek both to love and to be thankful. Bishop Victoria also emphasized that prayer, loving actions, and giving thanks need to become habits, part of our daily life, if they are to lead us into or deepen our faith. We might view these three things as pathways that can lead us to what we might call ‘a closer walk with God.’ As we walk more closely with God, our faith in him will grow.
Yours in Christ,