Meaningful Faith that Brings Peace and Joy

Meaningful faith brings peace and joy

I don’t see God standing before me in the shape of a man. I don’t hear His voice booming through the night, calling my name, or giving me exact directions. God, to me, is like the wind.

I don’t see the wind, but I do see what the wind can do. I see the trees bend and sway. I see a runaway napkin skipping across the parking lot, away from the ice cream stand. I see the ripples made in water. I feel the wind when my hair is whipping across my face and the spring breeze rushes over my bare arms.

I don’t see God, but I do see God. He’s in the laughter of my children and the wonder in their eyes at Christmas. He’s in the brand-new baby my friend just brought home. I see the young mother tenderly comforting her crying toddler, and an older gentleman buying flowers for his wife. I see friends laughing or crying over coffee at my kitchen table and rallying together in the best and worst moments of life. I see people in need and grieving deeply, and then I see people coming together to meet those needs and sit in the hurt. I see the sunset over the mountains and the morning mist over the river. I feel God in my heart and soul when life couldn’t possibly be more beautiful and when life hurts so deeply that I don’t know how to get out of bed in the morning.

Maybe [my son] Mareto knows Jesus is God because his heart can see and feel those things. Maybe Mareto knows Jesus is God because God visits and shows Himself to Mareto in a special way that I don’t understand. Whatever the reason, Mareto knows.

I grew up “in the church,” as the saying goes. Every week we attended Sunday school and the worship service. In the summers we went to VBS. We took our first communion classes and then two years of confirmation class. I was in the youth group in high school, and we said grace before meals. Faith was stitched into the fabric of our lives during my growing up years, and I don’t remember a time not knowing God and believing He was my Creator. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t know Jesus loves me.

But I do remember lying in bed in the dark of night and feeling overcome with fear. And I remember gathering all my stuffed animals around me and praying for God to be with me — hoping He would appear, then sit on the edge of my bed. That never happened, of course, but He did come to me in other ways. He was in the calm that swept over my body and allowed me to fall asleep, and the stars that twinkled above me as I looked out my window. He was in the peace that settled over me after nightmares.

As the years passed and I grew older, I had more questions — but never about whether God was real. I could see Him and feel Him everywhere and every day, and I could see His Son too. I saw the compassion of Jesus in teachers and friends and my parents. I saw His love and service in the way our community did life together. I wondered about evil — how it could exist, and why people can be so awful — but somehow I always understood that

God wins every time, even when we don’t see it right away.

I had a rough first year of college. I didn’t love the school I’d chosen, and I couldn’t wait to transfer out. I was in a relationship that wasn’t good for me, and my self-worth was taking a hit. At the close of my freshman year I ended that relationship and spent the summer a little bit lost. One evening I thought I’d reached the bottom. I didn’t like myself very much, and I knew I wasn’t making good choices. I sat down on my bed to make a list (because I love a good list) of all the ways I was going to fix my life. I don’t remember everything on that list, but I do remember the very first bullet point.

  • God

I had wandered off the path. I had stopped looking for God and seeking Him in everyday moments of life and the bigger ones too. I had become reliant on myself and others to give my life meaning, and it wasn’t working. I had several other bullet points, though, and I chose to focus on those first.

By the end of that summer I was still lost. Throughout the fall semester of my sophomore year I continued down a path of recklessness, making choices for myself that I knew I’d regret. By Thanksgiving break I was absolutely miserable, but you never would have known it. I’m pretty good at putting on a happy face in the midst of hard times.

Once again I sat on my bed in the little apartment I shared with three other girls. Once again I started to make a list. And once again I made that first bullet point.

  • God

This time, though, I didn’t keep writing. I just knew that was the answer. I didn’t know how, but I knew God was going to be the only thing to help me out of the trench I’d dug for myself. I prayed for the first time in a long time. The ceiling didn’t open up, and an angel didn’t come chat with me in my room. But I felt a little better.

I woke up the next morning, went to class, and did whatever was next on my schedule. Then I went home and thought a lot about my faith and what it meant to me. I prayed again. Then the next day I went to class, and the next day too — and my days went on, looking similar for a while. That spring I joined a Bible study on campus and made some really special friends. I started attending a church again and felt my heart grow a little lighter each day.

Life with God is better — not easier, not devoid of pain or tragedy or missteps — but it is better.

And so it has continued for me. My circumstances don’t always change, and we’ve known hard days, but I’ve changed and am aware of God’s presence in my life.

For me, that is the truth I can go back to when doubt creeps in. God must be real because I cannot deny His work in my life. God must be real because I see Him with my heart every single day. The evidence of God is all around me.

Most of us who grew up going to church can recite John 3:16 without thinking twice. It was ingrained in our minds as we sat in VBS and Sunday school, hearing:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

It’s the gospel in one sentence. God loves us so crazy much that He literally sent His son to die in our place. Anyone who believes this profoundly simple truth will live for eternity in God’s Kingdom. That’s it. That’s Christianity.

But we get caught up in the particulars, don’t we? We want to know the rules and the ways. We want to know who, what, where, and when… also the how and why. We aren’t content with the simple truth of God’s love, sacrifice, and redemption.

A couple thousand years ago, people struggled with this concept too. A man asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. He wanted to know what rules to follow, how to live, so that he could go to Heaven. He was sincere, and Jesus answered:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 22:37-40

It’s simple: Love God and love others. Everything hinges on these two things.

You can sum up all Ten Commandments and every prophecy in those words. Love God. Loving God means believing in Him. Love others. Loving others is done imperfectly at best, but we do it because God is love.

We don’t need a fancy degree to have meaningful faith that brings peace and joy. It doesn’t take a seminary education to understand the gospel and have faith in God. It’s okay to not understand all the ins and outs of the Creator of the universe. You don’t need to know the meaning of the word eschatology to see God.

We don’t have to understand everything to believe in something bigger than ourselves. In fact, that itself is the faith part — we haven’t seen Jesus literally, but we see Him with our hearts and souls. We might not have all the right words, but we have assurance. Mareto believes because he has faith, and it’s just that simple.

Jesus is God.

Excerpted with permission from It’s Okay About It by Lauren Casper, copyright Lauren Casper.

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Do you see and feel God in your heart? If you’ve gotten a little bit lost, today start with one bullet point. God. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog! We would love to hear from you about simple faith! ~ Devotionals Daily

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Lauren Casper
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Lauren Casper

Lauren Casper is the founder of the popular blog laurencasper.com, where she shares her thoughts on life, parenting, and faith. She is a top contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team and has had numerous articles syndicated by The Huffington Post, the TODAY show, Yahoo! News, and several other publications. She also has the joy of serving on the Created for Care team, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to serving foster and adoptive families. Lauren and her husband, John, have two beautiful children adopted from Ethiopia. They make their home in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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