Keeping the faith

We’ve heard this phrase—either it’s been told to us or we’ve said it to others to bring encouragement in the midst of a tough situation: ‘keep the faith’.

But what does it really mean—to keep the faith?

Maybe let’s start with the meaning of FAITH.

Merriam-Webster defines it as a “strong belief or trust in someone or something”.

In Islam, faith means “to believe in Allah, to affirm His truth, and to submit to His commands.”

In the Holy Bible, faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

The common denominator I see here is an active belief—a belief that comes with trust, affirmation, submission or being confident in something. My personal definition is all these plus believing something and/or someone I have not seen, yet.

Faith is not passive—the “Bahala na si Lord” attitude wherein you just leave it up to God and do nothing, but then you expect that what you want to happen will happen and blame God if it doesn’t. Faith is also not blind, meaning the herd mentality of a group who merely follows what its leader says without using one’s intellect, common sense or conscience. I also believe that faith is not dictated by a group, sect or denomination a person is a part of, religious or not. You can be a member of a group or religion but it does not automatically mean that you are in faith because you’re part of the group. Sure, religion can be a strong influence but I believe faith is something deeply more personal, stemming from a personal conviction, a personal enlightenment, a personal experience, a personal encounter brought about by a connection with something or someone bigger than you, whom you have not seen, yet fully trust and believe. Some call it the Universe or a higher being. For others, it’s God, or any other name they call him by. For our Muslim brothers and sisters, it’s Allah. For me, it’s Jesus Christ.

Faith is active, and it is actively evolving. It starts with that first ‘leap of faith’ when you surrender yourself, let go and fully trust that something or someone you believe in, in the midst of what you feel. Your will to make that choice and your feelings are separate. Then, that first encounter, first experience happens. It could be that what you believe would happen actually happened. The seemingly impossible, became possible. Or that someone whom you put your faith in made its presence known and experienced by you. Either way, that first connection undeniably changed your life forever. Your external circumstances may not have changed yet, but you know that there was an internal transformation that gave you peace, wholeness, mercy, joy, light, hope or love. Then, you take another leap of faith, then another encounter, another experience happens, then another, and so on.

In between those leaps and encounters, you will fall. Many times even. Sometimes very deep. Because that’s life, and we make mistakes. I too have made mistakes, and will still do. But no matter how deep you fall, or how many times you’ve fallen, just make sure to make that leap again—leap out of that pit. I believe the sin is when you choose to stay down, or worse, stay in that deep pit. Staying there will NOT do any good for you or the people around you. When you’re in need of courage or motivation to lift your feet off the ground, just think of WHAT you are fighting for, WHO you are fighting for, what you are living for. Just think of that dream or that person. Part of keeping the faith is also having faith in yourself. Our loved ones believe in us, usually even more than we do. So, think of them cheering you on! They are worth living for. That dream is also worth living for. That should give you the strength and energy to make that leap again, no matter how much your feelings try to drag you down.

Make sure to learn from all those times you’ve fallen, and hopefully, no longer fall into the same pit over and over again. Then, you take more leaps and the experiences multiply even more and become deeper, more meaningful, especially at those crossroads you face, until it becomes a cycle, a habit—something you cannot live without. It eventually becomes an essential part of your life; it becomes a lifestyle—a lifestyle of faith.

For me, it’s my faith in Jesus—a personal realization of what He did on the cross for me, my numerous personal encounters and experiences of his great love, grace and mercy that has changed (and still changing) my life as I put my trust in Him. My lifestyle of faith in Him is where I draw strength from in this battle. My personal strength can only go so far. The strength and support of my loved ones really help me a lot, but that can only go so far too because they have their own share of battles to face. My doctor’s expertise and the latest advancements in medicine and technology certainly has kept me alive, but that too has its limitations. Miracles have happened to numerous people that left the best doctors dumbfounded…  and how do you explain that? I believe the simple explanation is their faith.

We have heard of all those bible stories of Jesus healing the sick during his time. If you actually read the gospels, there’s a common thread among all those people he healed—it’s their faith that healed them. It’s not because of what Jesus said or did; that came afterwards. What came first was their faith in Him—they believed that He could heal them. Same goes with all those miracle stories we’ve heard of and read. They believed in the impossible first, then the miracle happened.

I’m so, so grateful that my life partner, my best friend—my husband, Janssen—shares the same lifestyle of faith as I do. Because he believes in the same things I believe in, that makes us braver and stronger in the midst of obstacles and struggles. We both believe that because of Him, this storm will pass, just like all the other past storms we’ve faced individually and together. We both know that this illness was meant to steal our health, our joy and our sanity, and yet we believe that things can turn around for our good, that we have hope, that we have a bright future ahead of us, that I am already healed and cancer-free, just like the numerous times in the past when He rescued us from terrible situations, even those that we got ourselves into. We also have friends who have their own miracle stories that we’ve witnessed with our very own eyes—all because of their faith in Him, and that too is a source of motivation and inspiration for us.

When we first heard of the diagnosis and the doctor’s visit did not really go well, we were overwhelmed by the news, but it was our faith in Jesus—the one who has brought love and light in our lives—that centered our souls, that assured us that everything will be alright. Our access to Him through prayer and worship is our highway to peace, stability and answers. We believed in that access and used it. Then, the overwhelming feeling of fear and uncertainty was replaced by an overwhelming sense of love and peace; the tears of sadness and anxiety turned into tears of joy and gratitude. Prior to the surgery, the wave of fear and uncertainty came back, and again, we used that access. Then, the sense of loving assurance came. It never fails every single time we believe and access that highway. It starts with a belief that we do have this access (nothing has changed yet at this point, the feelings are still there), then, we actually tap into this access by praying with faith, aiming our words as we sing in worship (the feelings may still be there), but as we press on and continue, the atmosphere of our hearts changes. The heaviness is lifted off. The fear is replaced with renewed strength and courage to face the battle head on.

It’s this lifestyle of faith that keeps me from succumbing to depression whenever I physically feel helpless, because there are times I do especially when my hormones and/or electrolytes are going crazy and there’s nothing I can do until they eventually get in line naturally or through medication. It’s faith that keeps me fighting for my life a.k.a. following my doctor’s orders, taking my prescribed medications, going through the necessary treatments and procedures, not giving in to negative thoughts and feelings. It’s faith that assures me that I will not be without support, especially financially, and true enough, all hospital bills were covered, and we even had some surplus! (Part of it was having great friends and loved ones ready to provide support, who also share the same faith as I do.) It’s my faith that gives me real joy and makes me thankful for the littlest things—despite the circumstances (I found this very key in the major crossroads I’ve faced so far in my life). It’s my faith that tells me there is hope so life is worth living, and there are people in my life worth living for.

Without this faith, I would’ve been dead by now or just waiting until the cancer eats up the rest of my body. Without this faith, I would’ve let myself go the downward spiral of thinking all the negative thoughts and worst case scenarios—until that becomes my reality. [A brief side note here: if we can put effort into thinking of all the ‘what if’ scenarios, why not redirect that same effort towards thinking positive, uplifting things, right? Sometimes, we need to think objectively and separate ourselves from all that “drama”. Really. Seriously. That’s how powerful our minds and choices are.]

This kind of faith is something that cannot be imposed or forced on anyone; it’s a personal choice one has to make for himself.

If you need this faith and want to make that choice, that first leap, you can start by letting go, surrendering the fact that you can do this life thing on your own (because I’ve also tried and tried, but have proven many times that I can’t), then call out to whoever that higher being it is you want to have an encounter with, to whom you want to entrust your life or specific situation (what worked for me is Jesus, so you might want to try that out *wink*).

If you’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love, the part where Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) prays for the first time—I really loved that. Right there, as raw and as real as that—you could start with that. You don’t need formalities nor any memorized prayer. You don’t even have to enumerate and repent for every single sin you’ve committed. Come as you are, with all your flaws. Then, see what unfolds after. From that point forward, take more leaps of faith, see what happens; then, have more encounters and experiences, falls included, but just leap again, even higher this time if you want, and keep the faith—until it becomes a lifestyle of faith. As you keep on living that lifestyle, you’ll find yourself meeting others who share the same kind of faith, the same kind of lifestyle. Even more, you’ll find yourself attracting people who want that kind of lifestyle! So, go and keep the faith!

 

 

Photo credit for featured image: shelivesloved.wordpress.com
 

Copyright 2016 ❤ Trademarked By Love 

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