God never will cease to amaze me in the ways that he is always teaching me. It's one of the ways I know that he is there, and that he loves me; he is always teaching me new things I thought I already knew. This week I learned a lot about Faith. I spent a lot of time studying it in an attempt to understand why I felt like I had lost some of my faith these past few months. As I looked and studied nothing seemed to answer my question about what faith really was until just the right words came along from Elder Oaks in his talk "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ" from the April 1994 conference.
"My beloved young sisters, each of you needs to build a reservoir of faith so you can draw upon it when someone you love or respect betrays you, when some scientific discovery seems to cast doubt on a gospel principle, or when someone makes light of sacred things, such as the name of God or the sacred ceremonies of the temple. You need to draw on your reservoir of faith when you are weak or when someone else calls on you to strengthen them. You also need to draw on your reservoir of faith when some requirement of Church membership or service interferes with your personal preferences."Reading this my perspective changed, I realized I was picturing faith like blocks built up upon each other and the decrease of those blocks represented my faith being destroyed. My perspective changed however and I now pictured Faith like an oil used to light a lamp. During the “day”, or good times of life, I use some oil to keep the lamp burning, but I am putting far more oil in reserve than I am using. But when “night” comes, and trials surround me, I draw heavily on that oil to keep my lamp lit for greater periods of time. I was still adding to my faith by studying the scriptures and praying for help, and that act of faith was still contributing to my faith and keeping my “reservoir” from running out. What I realized with that new perspective was that it was okay that I was drawing on that reservoir and that I was using more than what I was putting in. This is exactly why I build up a reservoir. It was to get me through this night and others like it until the sun would rise again and I would find my reservoir refilled and increased because of enduring the night by faith.
Armed with a new visual picture, Matthew 17:20 ("...verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.") took on new light for me. Using GreekBible.com (a tool my religion professor showed us in class) I was able to see what Greek words were used in the verse and what the words meant individually. I focused on the words that translated into "have faith", ΕΧΗΤΕ ΠΙΣΤΙΝ and this is what I learned. ΕΧΗΤΕ ("have") had a long list of possible meanings and associations, the ones that stood out most were "to have, maintain, possession of the mind, held fast." ΠΙΣΤΙΝ ("Faith"), also had a long list, but the key ones I noted were, " conviction of the truth, conviction or belief respecting a man's relationship to God and divine things. A conviction and belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah."
Looking at what the original Greek words meant validated how I now saw Faith. Faith is not just a stagnant possession, it is a living thing that requires maintenance and care, attention and ownership. Faith is more than just an attribute, but a very encompassing idea that includes our relationship with God and our conviction in Christ. No wonder faith is something that is difficult to understand, describe, and takes so much effort to maintain. Faith isn't just something we use just to connect with Heaven, it is the very definition of our relationship with Heaven right now. Sometimes that Faith is a little stronger, and sometimes we go through hard things and draw from our "reservoir" of Faith.
I think the greatest thing I came away from this understanding, and I hope you understand too, is how encompassing and fluid faith is. It is completely okay to feel like our faith isn't the same from day to day, because it isn't. Sometimes we are growing it, and sometimes we are drawing on it to get us through the hard times. The trick is to always be adding something to our reservoir; but I've realized it's okay to be adding to the reservoir and still find it lower than it was a few weeks or months ago. Faith isn't just a "collectors item" to put on a shelf, it's the oil we put in our lamp to light our way home. I hope you all recognize it's okay to have things be different day to day with how much Faith we feel we have. You may feel, as I often have, like I'm losing so much Faith going through trials. The thing I've realized is that it's okay I'm drawing on my faith, when the end of this trial comes I know I will discover that by using my oil of faith, I in fact increased it. None of us are perfect, and we changed day to day, so it makes sense our faith changes too!
I love you all and hope that you were able to get something from my thoughts. Maintain your Faith, use it and add to it every day, you can make it through, just like I know I will!