Faith, Big Hands, and Preachers

As a parent of 4, I have learned that crossing the street with little ones can be tricky. Young children fidget and love to run while being completely unaware of danger. My grandmother taught me that I could not hold my children by the hand when crossing a busy street, but I needed to grab them securely by the wrist. That way, they couldn’t wiggle themselves away, even if they tried.

Many years ago, Gabriel (my autistic son), then a toddler, took off running while I was inside a store by a busy highway. He saw an open door and made a run for it. My daughter, Lizette, just 2 years older than him, caught up to him a lot quicker than I did, because I was 8 months pregnant with my third child. She latched on to his hand and tried to stop him, but he continued running, dragging not only himself but his sister into what would have ended up in their deaths, had it not been for a man who appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Gabriel firmly, stopping him from running. Yes, that was one of the scariest days of my life, but that’s not the point of this story.

The real point of the illustration is that when in danger, it matters greatly who we’re holding on to. My daughter, Lizette, was not strong enough to protect Gabriel. He needed a big enough set of hands to pick him off the ground into safe arms. So it’s not the act of holding someone’s hand, of reaching out, that saves. What matters is who we’re holding on to.

So much talk about faith, positive attitude, and good energy going around. My Facebook news feed continually shows messages from inspirational leaders, including some who claim to be Christian, whose main message is that we must have faith. But faith in what? In our plans? In our good wishes? In mysterious energy that travels where needed? Do we need faith so that “everything works out”? While the Bible talks about, or demonstrates, faith in just about every page of Scripture, it does not isolate nor exalts the exercise of faith over the object of our faith. According to Scripture, the only faith that is legitimate and real, is the one that believes God. God: Not what He does, not what He gives, but HIM. Biblical faith is directly linked to the object of our faith. But faith without an object is empty; And faith with a weak object is ineffective and trivial, just like holding on to another kid while crossing a busy highway.

Sometimes we tend to over-spiritualize faith, as if it were our faith that achieved results. The more faith we have, the better things turn out. If we are living a “blessed” life (it’s all relative, by the way), then that must mean we have great faith. Obviously the opposite would also be truth. Those who lack faith suffer of bad fortune. But faith for faith’s sake cannot possibly explain the state of our lives. Granted, if you have a positive outlook on life, you might be a happier person, in general, but other than optimism, faith without an object of faith, basically does nothing.

Who or what do we trust? Do we put our lives in the hands of a God who cares and loves and directs our lives with wisdom, justice, and grace? Or do we believe that we can change things, according to our own understanding, by the sheer power of our faith? When we pray, do we trust God enough to not give us what we ask? Do we truly trust that His love for us will often times deny us what we long for? Or do we plan our lives according to what we believe is good for us and demand, by “faith” that he conforms to our will?

If we trust and believe that there are bigger and stronger hands that can hold us, protect us, and provide for us, then that is good and legitimate faith. Whether things go our way or they don’t, our faith won’t change, because it will not be based on an outcome, but on our God. Even when things seem to fall apart, our faith in God can be strong and alive, because He doesn’t vacillate.

“It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.” –Tim Keller–

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