Faith for me is trust in God.
I used to view giving over my life as an act of faith or trust, and taking back control as an act of unfaithfulness or distrust.
I am daily stuck in a cycle of giving over my life, then taking it back. In the past shame rolled over me in waves every time I did this."Why couldn't I consistently trust God?" I concluded it was a problem of faith, and mine needed strengthening.
This next tiny shift was a humbling lesson in how not to strengthen your faith.
The first stop was an attempt to strengthen it on my own. I spent so much energy on gratitude journals and all the bible studies and podcasts I could handle. Still the cycle and shame continued with little change.
The next stop turned me directly to God, I really thought this was the answer. For a full year I focused my energy on this one prayer: God, help me strengthen my faith. This resulted in zero growth and growing frustration.
Finally, God showed me faith isn't mine to strengthen, it comes through the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift God give us, I had spent so much energy muster up my own faith and make it stronger. Lots of wasted energy.
Tiny Shift #3
Gratitude journals, bible studies, etc. are all good things. They just weren't the right things for me at this moment. Since they did not stop the cycle I was seeking to get out of, I went for a more direct approach: "God I am so sorry I took back control of my life. I am tired of this cycle of giving my life over to you and yanking it back out of fear. Help me strengthen my faith in you. Help me trust in your plan for my life."
This was my prayer for a full year before God brought me to Luke 11:9-10 "And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened"
I continued to read the full paragraph which ends with:
"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13
I love that Luke clearly spells it out: ask for the Holy Spirit!
It hit me, I was asking God to help me do the work.
Luke is saying: ask God for the Holy Spirit to work within me.
Then, God led me to the King James Version of Galatians 5: 22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
As I read this God quietly whispered "let go of your own faith and take mine."
I changed my prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to give me his faith.
"God I have asked you for help for a whole year with no result. I keep taking back control and shaming myself for not trusting you. I can't seem to stop, even though I know how good you are and that your plans are much better than my own. So I'm giving over my faith to you. I'm asking the Holy Spirit to give me his faith. Fill me with your faith and trust in your plan. Maybe I was wasting my energy doing it on my own when all I needed was your faith. Amen."
I don't know how God does this, but right after I prayed I felt immense peace.
I still mess up. I am constantly turning back to God and giving him back control of my life. But now there is no longer a shame spiral attached to this cycle. I am freed from wasting my energy on my faith, it is no longer mine. The faith I experience comes through the Holy Spirit working within me, a perfect gift from God.
No matter what turns you away from God (taking back control, worry, fear etc.) continue to give it over to the Lord. Ask him to change your heart and give you courage.
Ask for the Holy Spirit to give you his faith, his trust in God's plan for your life.
Take note of any change. Continue asking the Holy Spirit for his faith.
In summary, stop wasting your energy trying to do it on your own. Stop asking God to help you do it on your own. Start asking the Holy Spirit to give you his faith!