The Faith Muscle

Written by: Jody Mugford

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

Can I be honest?  I never liked this verse.  It used to stress me greatly.  I didn’t want to face trials, let alone be joyful in them!  And I didn’t like how James said “WHENEVER you face trials”…not “IF you face trials”.  I was very content living my days with as few hiccups as possible.

My life has certainly not been trial free, no matter how much I had hoped, and these last 23 months have been the hardest of my life.  Many of you already know our story but, if you don’t, I will summarize.  Our youngest daughter had an unexpected cardiac arrest at 2 weeks of age.  This led to an onslaught of consequences and a fight for her life for many weeks.  She suffered significant brain hemorrhages, multi-organ failure, a blood clot resulting in the amputation of her foot, and MUCH more.  I can promise you that during this time, I was not “joyful” about my trials.  Our daughter is almost two years old now, and, against all odds, she is thriving.  She is meeting her developmental milestones, and is now walking and running, despite us being told she could be paralyzed!!!  Praise the Lord!!!  But, even after the hospital stay was behind us, we have had numerous fights for her health.  She had unexpected brain surgery last year when fluid started accumulating excessively, and we are still in that battle.  We were told last month that the bones in her leg are not growing properly and she needs more surgery, which could involve arresting the growth of her leg below the knee altogether.  New trials…consider them pure joy…?

When I look back on how I handled my daughter’s initial crisis, then the subsequent battles in the hospital (dialysis, brain hemorrhages, amputation, etc.), the brain surgery and now her leg, I’ve realized something that has made all the difference for me.  Faith is like a muscle.  A muscle is useless if it doesn’t get put to work.  How does a muscle get stronger?  By exercising it.  I can stand in the gym and declare that I can lift that dumbbell, but if I never pick it up, I’ll never know…and I certainly won’t get any stronger.  In the same fashion, faith gets stronger as we walk through trials and choose to have faith in God.  I panicked when my daughter first had her cardiac arrest.  As I watched the medical team perform CPR and other heroic measures on her for hours, I clung to what faith I could muster, called people to pray, and watched, helpless and terrified.  As we endured haunting trauma and near death experiences in the hospital, my faith got a workout.  I began to exercise that muscle.  I learned to declare scripture over her.  I learned to pray with authority.  I began to understand what it meant to “live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  When she had brain surgery 11 months later, I handed her over to the surgeon and prayed with all the strength God had given me.  I knew I had promises from Him about her future so I refused to let fear of the unknown get the best of me.  And God met me there, in that hospital room, in an amazing way.  He lifted me into a place of supernatural peace as we waited for her return.  Now, another 10 months later, we’ve received very surprising news about her leg.  The potential ramifications are huge, but, by the grace of God, I don’t feel that same panic like before.  I certainly have moments where fear tries to grip me but I cling to the resolve that I have seen my God perform miracles and I know He will do it again.  Through the stretching of faith, we learn to leave these details with God…in His timing and in His way.  The situation is very scary and there are a lot of uncertainties.  I am aware of all the ways this could go badly.  But I’m also aware of all the ways God can show up and do something astonishing.

Abraham walked many tests of faith throughout his life.  He left his home to go to a new land, by faith, even though he didn’t know where God was leading him.  He had faith in God that Sarah would bear a child even though she was well past childbearing age.  And when Abraham was tested, he had faith to obey God’s command to sacrifice his only son, even though this was the son from whom his promised descendants would come.  Abraham reasoned, through faith, that God could even raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill His promise (Hebrews 11:8-19).  Each time he stepped out in trust, his faith was stretched.  Each time He saw God come through, His faith grew.

Faith is strengthened through trials.  This testing may leave us feeling stretched and broken but, just like a muscle, we heal and repair stronger than before.  When we hold firm to God’s promises, no matter how bleak the situation may appear, and we trust Him through the storm, we come out on the other side victorious.  Regardless of the circumstances, learning to put our faith in God, in His plans, and in His deliverances, will bring us into a life full of His peace and less fearful of trials.  Fear cripples so many of us and we want to avoid the storm.  But, I have found that it’s in the storms where we finally “sink our teeth” into our faith in God.  With that increase in faith, God can do more amazing things through our lives.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:16

Faith, to God, is paramount.  It is by grace we are saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  Without faith in the One who saves us, we have nothing.  And, since faith is so important to God, it is tested.  It must have opportunity to stretch and grow.  It must be refined and emerge purer and stronger.  This stronger faith enables us to walk through life without the grip of fear.  We know trials will come, but we also know that our God is greater than all of it.  We are His children and He will not abandon us!  He is working out so much good, for us and for His glory!

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  1 Peter 1:6-7

Sometimes the trials we endure are beyond what we can handle in our human strength.  God is so faithful to give us HIS strength and HIS grace, if we choose to look to Him as our source.  This stretching and strengthening of faith is so hard but it is so beautiful.  Be encouraged!  He has overcome with world (John 16:33)!

Love and blessings,

Jody