How to be steadfast.
A reader messaged me the other day and asked me to write about being steadfast.
I think steadfastness is a hard topic to write about sometimes. The only major references to the term are in Christianity. We don't walk around our daily lives saying to one another, "I'm just trying to stay steadfast." Well, maybe you do. I personally have only ever used that word when I am trying to sound extra holy.
Steadfast, at the root of the word, means to be loyal. Committed. Devoted. Solid. Constant. These are words we know and understand a lot better than this idea of "steadfastness."
In the bible, it says suffering produces steadfastness in us. Throughout the text, you see all these writers telling the recipients of these letters to be thankful when it gets rough. Be thankful when you are tested. Be thankful when it's hard to get out of bed and the depression is clinging to you. Be thankful when your heart is broken.
Admittedly, this has never been something that comes naturally to me. I hate the idea of being thankful for the bad stuff but I know what the authors like James are getting at. He's saying, "Be thankful when the bad stuff happens because that means your faith is about to get tested. And you know what? When your faith is tested then endurance shows up. And through endurance (your willingness to just do it like Nike) you will become steadfast." Committed. Devoted. Solid. Constant.
I think faith is like a muscle. We have to train it. We have to push it. We have to build it. As I train in the gym, I realize that I can only take on more weight when I've learned how to properly handle the weight in front of me. I think faith is the same way. You dig. You pray. You experience something. Your faith grows. More comes. More struggle. More hard stuff. And, as you stay in the fight, your capacity grows as well.
Wrestle with God.
I believe it's okay to fight it out with God. I think to myself if I am placing all my faith and all of my hope in God then why wouldn't there be wrestling implied? If I have learned anything about faith, it's this: flimsy faith won't last. It will break. The thin skin of that meager faith will tear and you will be faced with a question: do I fight to make my faith stronger or do I walk away?
I wish people talked more about that moment. I know of so many people who face that fork in the road between staying and leaving the fight for faith. I think if we talked about it then maybe the outcome would be better. Maybe more of us would fight. Maybe we would fight better.
When I went through my struggle with depression, my faith was the first thing to take a beating. I didn't know how to trust God. I didn't know that I even wanted God. I wrote this line that I still think about often: she craved a faith that would make her stay for the fight in it.
That's what I got. Once I peeled off all the layers of myself like heavy clothing soaked by the rain and sticking to your skin, I found God. Once I moved all the barriers out the way and just had my honesty hour, I found God. I went to him bruised and angry. I went to him tired and fearful. And there, I met him for the first time. I met this version of God that was never taught to me. I met this version of God who sighed with relief and welcomed me in, saying, "Good, the fight to be perfect is over now. That was never your fight. Come fight with me. Come wrestle for the life I have for you."
I met this version of God that was exciting and hopeful and beautiful. I couldn't understand God at certain points and I still don't always understand him. You know what? That's okay. That's really beautiful. He's God. He can handle it. Don't be afraid of having your faith rocked. Sometimes that's the best thing that can happen to you. When you get down to the bottom of yourself and figure out what you are truly working with then you can begin to build. Then the good stuff starts.
Don't be afraid of having your faith rocked. Sometimes that's the best thing that can happen to you. When you get down to the bottom of yourself and figure out what you are truly working with then you can begin to build. Then the good stuff starts.
In the midst of my depression in 2014, I decided to pack a suitcase and go home to Connecticut to fight for my life with my closest friends and family. Before I boarded my flight, my friend Lindsey took me to a tattoo parlor and I got the word "STAY" inked on my ribs. While I would later learn how to stay in one geographic location, I needed the reminder to push me to stay in the fight. I needed to stay in the struggle. Stay in the wrestling and tumbling with God.
I want to be really careful with this one. For years, my anthem has been "stay." Stay where you are. Stay rooted. Be right where your feet are. That's all well and beautiful but I don't want to put the message out there that we should stay in toxic situations or stay in places where our health, faith, and well-being get compromised. I like to imagine this message of "staying" is synced with this idea that we don't just walk away and call it quits when stuff gets hard. Life is hard. Life will deal you some tough blows. The hard stuff produces character and I know I could always stand to have more character. So I stay. I want to believe we are capable of staying when the world would otherwise be tempted to pack a suitcase and leave.
Don't let anyone minimize your faith.
No one should be allowed to tell you how big or little your faith is. No one gets to define the size of your faith. That is between you and God. I had someone tell me during the depression that if my faith was just stronger then I would be healed. If I could just grow more faith then my issues would no longer swallow me. I believed that person for .5 seconds and then I went back to wrestling. I forgot that lie they told me.
Your healing isn't contingent upon how big or little your faith is. Your circumstances are not balancing on how much faith you or do not have. I won't claim to know much but I will reject those statements. If I am looking to my faith and the size of it for assurance then I am cutting God out of the picture. And God, to me, is the whole point. He knows I struggle with faith sometimes. He knows I am the one who would be reluctant to step out of the boat and walk on the water. And he wants me still. He isn't ashamed by me. He isn't minimizing me. He isn't telling me that if I just grew my faith bigger then the problems would wash away.
God will be faithful to grow my faith but God won't dangle cheese in front of my face and tell me to get better if I ever want to claim it.
Embrace the struggle.
I hope I never forget the importance of showing up for the brokenhearted. I've been brokenhearted before and I will surely visit that land again. I get emails all the time from people who wish God would avoid the heartbreak stuff but I think that's just the parts of them that do not want to experience pain and discomfort. I get it. But I think to myself- man, I've gotten somewhere with God when my heart has been broken. I've gotten to have some really beautiful conversations with people when life hasn't gone my way.Hallelujah— heartbreak makes me relatable and not so puffed with my own pride that I miss the people who need me.
The thing is this: faith in God doesn't equal perfection. Perfection is not your goal, consistency is. Devotion is. Discipline is. All of life is the showing up to try to be steadfast towards what we love: God, people, causes. Again, you won't ever be perfect. Again, there is so much room for growth. Growth should stir excitement in your heart because the chance to grow is the chance to live and live better. You're still here. You're still breathing. Even when the heartbreak sits on your lungs, you're alive. You woke up today. There's still more time. Embrace the struggle cause struggles are what make us shine.
Welcome to the fight.
A PRAYER YOU CAN STEAL
God, sometimes I don't know what commitment looks like. Sometimes I want to quit and give up. But I want to believe in you. I want to believe my life is not an accident and my struggles are seen and understood. Help to stay in the fight. Grow endurance in me. Make me stronger, braver and wiser as I go. Show me others who are in the fight too. Make me golden. Please, make me gold.