“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
When I am worrying about my future and trying to get some kind of hint at what it holds, this is usually the verse that He patiently whispers to me. Call me blasphemous, sacrilegious, whatever, but sometimes this verse…well frankly, sometimes it’s annoying, like I’m being taunted that God knows what I want to know and cannot know. He staunchly refuses to tell me anything more. God will not let me know everything because He is asking that it be enough that He knows everything. Essentially, He is asking for faith, faith in Him and faith in His promises.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of we do not see.” Hebrews 11:11 I am sure we are all familiar enough with that verse. But what does this really mean? Is faith truly blind? Are we merely groping around in the dark, trying to muster up belief out of thin air? I would say no. What I am learning is that faith is not merely walking down a path and blindly hoping that it takes us somewhere good. Faith is not ungrounded hope. Faith does not leap without knowing anything at all. Rather, faith is firmly grounded in what has been revealed so far. Faith leaps with a backward glance at what God has already done.
What I am getting at is that a key part of faith is remembrance. The reason we struggle with faith is because we have the memory of a gold fish. Like the Israelites, all we can focus on is the here and now. We step into the uncharted territory of the desert, immediately forget that God just miraculously led us through the Red Sea on dry ground, and begin to wonder if perhaps, it would not have been better if we had just stayed slaves and died in Egypt.
I am, too often, like the Israelites. Essentially, I doubt because I forget. I think that’s why throughout the Old testament, before He spoke to the Israelites, He would often remind them first, “I am the LORD, the God of Israel,” second, “who brought you up out of Egypt.” God’s call to faith, the opposite of doubt, is a call to remember who He is and what He has done.
So, when I find myself in moments of doubt or worry, I have found it helpful to recount His faithfulness thus far, to revisit times in my life which are clearly marked by His goodness. During many of those times, God’s goodness was not quite so evident as it is now. I could not see clearly at all, but now, I can see and very clearly. When I remember these things, my doubt falls away and my faith becomes grounded. I know that God will continue to be faithful because He always has been in the past.
I have been thinking that faith is like a tree. It does not merely blindly stretch up to the vast and unknown expanse of the sky. It also puts down roots. It finds nourishment in the soil so that it can grow higher and bear more fruit. Similarly, we must, as we take forward steps of faith into the unknown, simultaneously put down the roots of our faith into the known, into the rich and tangible soil of what God has already done. If we do that, our faith will not wither and die for lack of nourishment, but rather, being “rooted and established,” it will drink deep of the evidence of His love, flourish, and bear much fruit.
So, I would encourage you, if you find yourself struggling with faith and trust in God, to learn the art of recounting His faithfulness, for this is the food of faith. Before you look forward, look back. Take careful stock of who you have known Him to be and what you know He has done in your life. Tear your gaze from the stark, blank pages of the future and glance back at those pages that have already been filled. Mark the ones that commemorate His goodness and faithfulness and reread them often.
Oswald Chambers said that “faith does not know where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who leads.” Basically, we do not know where God is taking us, but we do know Him. We know the sound of His voice when He calls and we follow. We don’t know our whole story, but we know that it begins with a cross, an empty grave, and a risen Savior. We don’t know what will be engraved on our final pages, but we do know that He has lovingly and sacrificially “engraved us on the palms of His hands” Isaiah 49:16 We do not see what lies ahead, but we do see what lies behind. And by looking back on the marvelous tales of our lives, so indelibly marked by grace, mercy and love, we really do find assurance of our hope and certainty of what we do not see. We know Him and He knows the plans. And that truly is enough.