Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces the topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Last week in letter #1, I wrote about the importance of getting to know God and his perspective, which is so different from our own. This week I conclude the letter beginning with the last paragraph of last week’s post:
With God, it’s a lot like getting to know a new friend except you can’t see him and it’s not as easy to hear what he’s saying – but it starts out the same way. Kind of awkward, at first, and then, gradually, the more you spend time with him and put some effort into getting to know him – and telling him about yourself – the more at ease you become being with him. You’ll find that, soon, you’re past the point of wondering if you can believe in God and you’ll look back on that and wonder why you thought it was so hard.
Here’s a good way to feel more at ease with God: thank him. Don’t think about this too much, just make a point throughout the day to stop what you’re doing or thinking and say (in your head or out loud), “thank you.” At first it will be a bit of an effort. But like any new friendship you’ve got to put in the time and effort. Soon the day will come when you just naturally talk to God and you feel comfortable conversing with him at all times of the day.
Just to give you some ideas of how to thank God and build a relationship with him, I’ll share the kinds of things for which I thank God: When I’m walking our dog, Daisy, in the morning I’ll look up at the sky and thank God for its beauty. Sometimes, the sky is cloudless and endlessly blue. At other times, it has billowy clouds or it’s rather dark with a hint of rain or snow. No matter the weather, I look around for something beautiful, or dramatic, (and there’s always something) and give God thanks for his creation and for sharing it with me. I’ll say things like, “Wow, God, that’s an awesome sunrise.” Or, “You’ve outdone Yourself today; the leaves on the trees are outstanding!”
At first this was hard to do simply because I was not in the habit of looking around me and giving God the credit. I used to take such things for granted, or I didn’t even notice them at all. But now, I’m always thanking God – and I have fun with him. Like when I say, “God, I bet you’re just so pleased with Yourself about that awesome rainbow!”
Now I talk with him throughout the day. For instance, as I’m writing this, I pause every few minutes just to remind myself that I’m not alone. I’ll say, “Thank you God, for being with me at the computer. Please look over my shoulder and let me know what you think!” When something pleasant occurs in the day, I thank him for it. When something unpleasant occurs, I thank him for sticking with me through it. If I’m worried about something, I tell him about it and add, that no matter what happens, I know he’ll work for good in it.
This last thought is actually a verse from the Bible:
“In all things God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
It’s in the New Testament, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28. This brings me to tell you about another step in getting to know God: reading the Bible and learning by heart verses that mean a lot to you.
When you read your Bible regularly, you find out more and more about God: How mighty and powerful he is (Isaiah 40:28-31), all the incredible acts he’s done (Nehemiah 9:5-25, Chronicles 20:15-30, Job 38:4-41), and how much he loves you, Caleb (Psalm 139:1-18). Try looking up these passages in your Bible; they are all from the Old Testament. As you read you’re likely to come across a verse, or maybe even an entire chapter, that really inspires you. Underline it, maybe even make a note in your Bible about it, and then write it down on one of the spiral-bound note-card books I gave you. Soon, you’ll have a whole collection of favorite verses. And, God will bring them to mind when you need comfort, or encouragement, or guidance.
Years ago, when you were having bad dreams at night, I underlined a verse in your Bible that I thought would give you comfort. Do you remember it? It’s a favorite of mine because it reminds me that God is our constant Companion and Protector. It’s found in the New Testament, in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 5:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
I’ve written it down, along with many others, in a spiral-bound note-card book I keep for myself. In fact, that one is filled with favorite Bible verses and I’ve started on another. I take one with me in my purse and read from it when I’m waiting to pick you up from school. On the day when I’m cleaning the house or doing our laundry I leave it on the kitchen table, so that as I walk by the table I read aloud a verse and then mull it over as I continue with my work.
This is God’s way of talking back to us. He’ll speak to you through the Bible stories you’ve read and the verses you’ve memorized. In fact, if you make a habit of reading the Bible every day you’ll begin to sense that certain stories or chapters or verses are printed there just for your benefit! It will seem, at times, as if they were written with you in mind. (And they were – but more about that later, when we talk about the Bible in greater detail.)
So, it’s possible to get to know God better. The process is similar to making a new friend in school or in the neighborhood. You’ve got to do your part in building the relationship because, as with any friendship, it doesn’t happen automatically. You have to put effort into finding out about God, just like you would do with a new friend. You have to spend time with him. Keep in mind that God doesn’t want to force himself on anyone. That’s why it’s up to us to take some initiative. In a sense, we have to start walking forward in faith despite our doubts. Yet, when we do, he’ll be right there to join in with us. In fact, he’s by your side even now, just waiting for a signal from you.
To sum up, here are my five suggestions for exploring your faith in God:
- Begin with a mind that isn’t already made up against him.
- Try to understand God’s point of view by seeking to get to know him better.
- Make a point of noticing God’s handiwork in the world around you and in your life. Thank him. Praise him. Talk to him about what you’re seeing and feeling. Share with him your concerns. Give thanks for what you see he’s done.
- Read his word to us in the Bible and with some of those words, try to commit them to memory. This helps to form the basis for a trusting relationship with God.
- And when you have questions or doubts, don’t hide them from God. Also, talk about them with Dad and me, Mr. Sutton, your school chaplain, or with Mr. Solomon, your church youth director. You will learn a lot from how we worked through our own uncertainties (and we all have had them at one time or another). Your confidence in God will grow from hearing about our struggles and how we worked through them.
Finally, here’s a Bible passage for you to let you know how much God wants you to get to know him – and what a great blessing it is to be such good friends with God. It’s a prayer that the apostle, Paul, prayed for his friends in Ephesus. I pray this for you often:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19
- Is there anything about God you find easy to believe? If so, what?
- What doubts do you have about God?
- Why do “pre-conditions” get in the way of exploring faith in God? Have you, or any of your friends, set up any? (See the first installment for three examples of pre-conditions.)
- Ask someone you trust, whom you know has already started walking forward in faith, how they were able to do so. (Parents, this is an opportunity to talk about your own faith journey.)
- What did you learn from this letter? Has it made you think about God in a new way? Please explain.
Next week: Letter #2: How to Pray