On Faith ...
Living in Faith
When I awake each day I have a choice to make. I ask myself a simple question: "Shall I live in fear today or shall I live in faith?" It seems for me, fear is a default response that is part of my human programming. Faith on the other hand, is a affirmative and conscious choice -- I must decide that I want to live in faith. That affirmative decision then requires another action: Trust. I think of it as the Fear-Faith Continuum. At one end of the continuum is fear and the other is faith. What propels one from fear to faith is trust.
What is trust and why is it important? Trust is reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth, reliability, etc., of a person or thing; To me, It is active believe in truth. Since God is all truth -- it is an affirmation of my belief in God.
Faith does not guarantee freedom from fear -- you cannot be totally liberated from fear -- it seems to be part of our human DNA. But trust does empower us to defuse fear and free us to achieve all of what God wants for us. Trust requires a believe in a benevolent God. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
My sponsor used to tell me to repeat this simple affirmation: "No matter what, I'm going to be okay, because I'm in the loving care of God." Yes I am. Today I live in faith and I trust that I'm going to be okay.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Self-Confidence is a precious natural gift, a sign of health. But it is not the same thing as faith. Faith is much deeper, and it must be deep enough to subsist when we are weak, when we are sick, when our self confidence is gone, when our self respect is gone. I do not mean that faith only functions when we are otherwise in a state of collapse. But true faith must be able to go on even when everything else is taken away from us. Only a humble man is able to accept faith on these terms, so completely without reservation that he is glad of it in its pure state, and welcomes it happily even when nothing else comes with it, and when everything else is taken away. -- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
In getting the best of our secret attachments -- ones which we cannot see because they are principles of spiritual blindness -- our own initiative is almost always useless. We need to leave the initiative in the hands of God working in our souls either directly in the night of aridity and suffering, or through events and other men.
This is where so many holy people break down and go to pieces. As soon as they reach the point where they can no longer see the way and guide themselves by their own light, they refuse to go any further. They have no confidence in anyone except themselves. Their faith is largely an emotional illusion. It is rooted in their feelings, in their physique, in their temperament. It is a kind of natural optimism that is stimulated by moral activity and warmed by the approval of other men. If people oppose it, this kind of faith still finds refuge in self-complacency. But when the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing on our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light -- then we find out whether or not we live by faith. It is in the darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure. -- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
If we are not humble, we tend to demand that faith must also bring with it good health, peace of mind, good luck, success in business, popularity, world peace, and every other good thing we can imagine. And it is true that God can give us all these good things if He wants to. But they are of no importance compared with faith, which is essential. If we insist on other things as the price of our believing, we tend by that very fact to undermine our own belief. I do not think it would be an act of mercy on God's part simply to let us get away with this! -- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation