“Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God” (John R. W. Stott).
A DISCUSSION OF “FAITH” COULD GO IN EITHER OF TWO DIRECTIONS. We could ponder the value of faith as a generic quality: the willingness to trust. That would be a profitable discussion, since all of us would lead more helpful lives if we demonstrated more of the courage that produces confidence in others. But, of course, there is the greater, and more specific, discussion we could have about faith in God, and that is the direction in which I would like to go.
There are two common misconceptions about faith in God. Both of these are extremely dangerous because they are perversions of faith.
(1) Faith is wishful thinking. There are those who see faith as a crutch, indicative of weakness — as if it meant no more than believing what one wishes to be true. But true faith goes a good bit deeper than that. It is, as John Stott suggests, “a reasoning trust.” Much more than blind faith, real trust in God is founded upon solid, credible evidence of His trustworthiness. If no such evidence exists, then faith in God ought to be dispensed with, no matter how much one may “need” it.
(2) Faith takes the difficulty out of life. This misconception is prevalent among believers themselves. The idea here is that if one has sufficient faith, he or she will live a life of happiness and ease. Painful emotions will be banished, and whatever difficulties life may present, faith will make these simple to surmount (and maybe even pleasant).
But surely, this is a perversion of faith also. Faith makes things possible — it does not make them easy. “True faith is never merely a source of spiritual comfort. It may indeed bring peace, but before it does so it must involve us in struggle. A ‘faith’ that avoids this struggle is really a temptation against true faith” (Thomas Merton).
Let me be frank: where there is no risk, no vulnerability, and no sacrifice, faith is a meaningless cipher. Because it knows there are good reasons to do so, faith leaves the safe harbor and sails into uncharted waters. It departs from the easy life to do what can’t be done except by those who know what trust is really about. It is a treasure, but it is not easy.
“To choose what is difficult all one’s days as if it were easy, that is faith” (W. H. Auden).