We are already 59 days into 2017. New Year’s resolutions have come and gone, diets and gym attendance are now a distant memory, and the new year has dulled like your car under its coat of winter grime.
In other words: I should have written this post several moons ago.
But have you ever had a dream or a goal or a whisper of a hope that was just too tender to put into words? It feels so delicate, and you’re afraid that if you bring it out into the harsh winds of reality, it will get blown over or stepped on unceremoniously. It seems safer to keep it inside the glass case of your own heart.
But here’s the hard truth about keeping dreams enclosed in a glass case: While they may not get trampled that way, eventually the oxygen will get squeezed out, and the dream will shrivel.
As this year approached, I searched for a word to focus on in the year ahead. The truth is, I’m terrible at resolutions, so I figured if I only had to remember one word, maybe I’d be able to hang on to it—or at least remember it come April.
After a great deal of mulling and re-mulling, one word kept haunting me: believe. I balked at first. After all, I’ve believed in God for a long time . . . for as long as I can remember, in fact, though in varying degrees.
But the implication for this year seemed more personal. We weren’t just talking about “Do I believe in God?” It hit closer to the jugular than that.
Do I believe God is who he says he is in my life?
Do I believe his promises are true for me?
Do I believe he still does miracles?
Do I believe that he is for me . . . that he loves me, personally?
And will I keep on believing in him—whether he says yes or not?
Somewhere along the way, when it came to the deepest desires of my heart, I’d started hedging my bets with God. I wasn’t sure if he’d give me the thing I longed for, so I stopped talking to him about it in a real way. When he and I did talk, I’d hit him up with platitudes along the lines of “Thy will be done,” with my emotions safely checked at the door.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that prayer—it was modeled by Jesus, after all. But I’d forgotten the first part of his prayer—the part where he cried out his desire before his Father so earnestly that his sweat came out as drops of blood.
I wasn’t being pious by holding my request in check; instead, I was showing a lack of belief. Whether God decided to grant my desire or not, I needed to be real with him about what I was asking him for, what I was believing for.
And so, as this year has launched, I’ve begun taking some baby steps toward believing. It feels vulnerable and scary, because when you put yourself and your big ask out there, you’re setting yourself up to get hurt. But there’s an important part of this puzzle I’ve been overlooking: belief isn’t really about the strength of my faith; it’s about the object of my faith.
The God I believe in is a good Father; he is infinitely tender with us. So if he doesn’t give us what we’re asking him for, I have to believe it’s because he has something better than our finite minds can conceive. Better to ask and allow him to say no (or yes) than to always wonder what might have happened if we’d had the courage to really ask.
So what does it look like to believe? I’m still young at this, but so far, this is what I’m trying:
1. Writing my big, audacious request in my journal.
I have a journal with this quote from Alice in Wonderland on the front: “I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast.” That’s a big goal for a girl who tends to hedge her bets, but I’m giving it a shot.
2. Allowing friends to believe on my behalf.
I’ve shared my big request with some people I love and trust, and it is a gift to know they are hoping and praying for me when I don’t have it in me to muster up much belief on my own.
3. Believing on behalf of other people.
I’ve asked other people what I can believe this year for them. Somehow it feels easier to have faith for their big request than for my own, and there’s something beautiful that happens when we share our tender hopes and beliefs with each other.
What are believing for this year? If you’re willing to share, let me know, and I’d be honored to believe with you and pray for you. And do you have any tips for holding on to belief in a tangible way?
Trusting and BELIEVING with you, Stephanie! Thank you for the many, many ways you have poured into my life.
Thanks for believing with me, Maggie! So grateful for you.
“belief isn’t really about the strength of my faith; it’s about the object of my faith.”
I love this. Thank you for this post. I would love prayer for believing and trusting that God really does love my children more than I do.
Oh Sally, what a wonderful thing to believe for your children. I’m trusting that for your beloved children too.
Brittany Bergman says
I resonate with every word of this, Stephanie. I appreciate your courage in sharing these beautiful words with us and your courage in believing the Lord . Believing and trusting with you, friend!
Thanks for walking this journey with me, Brittany!
Lory Harris says
I love this! Thank you for the perspective! I also choose a work for the year. Then, just to make sure I remember, I base my multitude of passwords around it. Everytime I log into something, I am reminded again.
Ooh, I love that idea of using passwords to remind you! Genius!
Beautiful post. I am always reminding myself to know- and remember- He is a GOOD father. A good father to me and to my family– trusting this…
Yes! Your family is precious to Him! Believing with you that God will take care of them.
Kristen Joy Wilks says
Well put, Stephanie. Thank you. I know that some of the prayers that have boosted my faith the most are the ones that God said “no” to … because I would have never made up a “no” from Him and there He was all big and bold and real in my life, saying “no.” Those times are beautiful and shocking although not perhaps as eagerly greeted as the “yes” moments. It makes me laugh to think about when I was pregnant with my third and last child. A friend of mine told me she had bought a baby gift “on faith” meaning that it was pink. But I remembered praying for that baby and asking for just the right member of our family if we were to be blessed again and when I held that third baby boy and he was the fiercest feistiest child we could imagine, I laughed again and realized that God had chosen us to parent this spitfire of a boy. He needed us and we needed him. This year … oh how I would love to write something that is just right, something lovely and funny and beautiful and real. Something that works and is ready and has a place. Then again, perhaps these 16 years of writing have prepared me for when my 98 (99 next month) year old Grandfather gave me his 132,000 word life story and asked if I could edit it a bit and get it up on Amazon so that he could give it to friends and family when their 75th anniversary rolls around this year. To be able to get all that organized so that he can hold his story in his hands … that is worth 16 years of writing isn’t it? I have hopes and dreams, but there are also things that I am doing with the skills that I’ve worked on. Important things, that no one else in our family could do in exactly the way I am able to, that is a prayer answered in itself. Thank you, Stephanie and I will pray for you and covet any prayers sent on my behalf.
Kristen, what a beautiful reminder that the noes from God are just as precious as the yeses. And what a gift to your grandfather that you are using your gifts so he can hold his story in his hands. I’m believing with you that God will give your words a home this year!
Kristen, That is beautiful. What a wonderful way to honor your grandfather. My brother wrote a small memoir with my grandfather. That was in the days before Amazon, but it is a treasure!
Julie Fornelli says
Belief seems to often be about not leaning on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Praying with you and for you! I am so blessed to call you my friend!
You’re so right…I want to lean on something stronger than my own understanding! Thanks for praying with and for me!
Susie Crosby says
I am kind of in awe of how you put into words my exact emotions about big prayer requests. Like you, I find myself hesitating to give those really tender, vulnerable hopes and dreams to God… just in case He doesn’t answer the way I want Him to. What would that mean? What would I do? Would I still trust Him? I truly believe that God answers prayer, that He is a loving father, that He can do more than we ask or imagine…and that He wants to give good gifts to His children. But I get scared of the no’s and the not yet’s. Thank you for writing about this struggle so beautifully and honestly. I read your post over and over, and l learned something new and encouraging each time. You did not say what your big prayer request is, but somehow I think I might know. I have been praying for something for you since the day I met you. I am excited to see what God is going to do as you take this step of faith to believe in a bigger way. He loves you so much!
Susie, it is such an encouragement to know that we aren’t alone in this journey of faith! Even if some of the details are different, we all know what it’s like to hope and wrestle and wait. What a gift!