by Erick Rommel
When you think about it, faith and trust go hand in hand. People believe in the power of prayer because they believe they see results. They pray for strength to get through a challenge, and then they find the strength to overcome that obstacle.
Did that strength come from prayer or from inner fortitude? Or did prayer create that inner fortitude? There’s no way to tell. That’s why it’s called faith.
Our most basic faith is formed at the earliest of ages, before we create lasting memories. It’s not religious faith but faith through family.
Watch young children when you encounter them. They are joyful with a happiness that comes from not knowing the dangers that surround them. When thrown in the air by an adult, the child doesn’t cry. She laughs with excitement. That’s true faith – or belief – that the adult will never let her fall.
As we grow older, we learn this is not always true. Sometimes the people we trust most aren’t always worthy. We believe they will catch us, but sometimes they hurt us emotionally. It hurts more than physically when they let us fall.
Each time this happens, our perception of the world changes. We no longer trust completely. Instead, we make mental lists of people we trust to catch us and those we don’t.
Hope Against Hope
Despite these fears, we still sometimes trust those who we think are not worthy. We hope against hope “this time will be different” because we want to recapture the innocence that comes from never having to question those in whom we have faith.
We pray for them to not let us down yet again.
When it comes to this reliance on other people, I’m more of a “God helps those who help themselves” type of a person. I’m hesitant to place faith in others because I fear disappointment. Despite this, I’ve learned that strength, encouragement and assistance often come more easily when you have the strength to seek encouragement and help.
Strength in Humility
This doesn’t mean prayer is ineffective. There’s nothing wrong with a prayer for strength, but sometimes the greatest strength is found through the humility to realize that some battles can’t be fought alone. Sometimes you need the support of others – even from those who have let you down in the past – in order to truly succeed.
This lesson is one taught many times throughout history. Back before Europeans came to North America, American Indians who inhabited the land had faith that was different but just as strong as the beliefs many hold today. It’s easy to look at these traditions through a modern eye and question their validity.
Today, we know how rain is formed. We know that a dance doesn’t create rain. Despite that, the American Indians found rain dances to be successful.
If a dance doesn’t cause rain, why did American Indians believe it did? They believed because they had faith – and because they had faith, they never stopped dancing until the rain began to fall.
That is the faith we should seek in life. We need faith to always believe in the outcomes we want to achieve, faith to always believe that the people we want to trust can be trusted and faith to believe others can help us, even as we pray for the strength to help ourselves.
Through these beliefs, we can rediscover within ourselves the faith of a young child, a faith that comes from knowing someone is always there to protect us, even though we now know we must also protect ourselves.
Through faith, we can become the people we were meant to be.[hr] Erick Rommel is a syndicated columnist for Catholic News Service.