I’ve felt a little discouraged lately. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s nothing earth-shattering, but when reality fails to meet expectations, discouragement isn’t far behind. My wife suggested I take a look in the Bible at the 11th Chapter of Hebrews. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this chapter, but as I began, I ran across four words that have never stood out to me before. They’ve been there all along. I’ve read them plenty of times, but today I really read them. They are found in verse 3:
By faith we understand…
If you’re like me, you long for answers to the problems of life. No clarity means no sleep. No answers means confusion and discouragement. And as I read these words, I wondered if perhaps they might hold the key.
The word that caught my eye was the word “understand.” That’s the real issue, isn’t it? Life bombards us with trials and challenges for reasons we don’t understand. We didn’t ask for trouble, but here it is anyway.
Here’s the general idea of this phrase in the original language: by faith, we can interpret life with our minds instead of our feelings. We don’t have to face our challenges wishing for something to happen. We don’t have to summon a certain level of positive thoughts or feelings or energy to deal with trials. Because of our faith, we can face our circumstances by understanding what’s true.
So the question becomes this: What can I understand by interpreting life through faith? Two things come to mind.
First, by faith we understand that our trials are rarely random, isolated events. They usually have a larger context. God has never had an accident. He’s never slipped or goofed up. And because He directs our lives, our circumstances are not random events. I know random things happen to us from time to time, like tripping over the rug or burning our fingers on the stove. I’m talking about the real challenges of life, like being rejected or hurt by people we love, or losing our jobs, or difficult circumstances that are beyond our control. How many times in the Bible do unexpected challenging circumstances happen to people, and in the background God is right in the middle of everything, dealing with multiple people in multiple ways all at the same time? A good example is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph’s life was a series of difficult circumstances, of which none turned out to be random. There was a larger context to the events of Joseph’s life that included his brothers, his fellow jail mates, his father, and the Egyptian people. By allowing faith into the circumstances of our lives, we begin to understand that although our feelings tell us our circumstances are random and without reason, our minds tell us that God is at work in multiple areas and multiple ways, and He knows what He’s doing.
Second, by faith we understand that God knows how to connect the dots. If it’s true that the trials of our lives have a larger context, then faith helps us understand that God knows how to bring everything to the perfect ending in the perfect timing in the perfect way. Joseph was taken prisoner and sold into slavery by his brothers at a young age, which began a dizzying chain of events spanning decades. But in the end, God connected every dot, brought together every detail, and worked out every detail to perfection. This is what Paul is talking about when he writes, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for good…” By faith we understand that not only are the circumstances of our lives not random, but God knows how to synthesize every detail and connect every dot so that all things work together for good.
By faith we understand. Those four words have changed the trajectory of my entire day. I hope they do the same for you.