This past Sabbath I spoke at GRAA's alumni weekend about antifragile faith. Antifragile faith is faith that deepens when it encounters adversity or doubts. The Apostle Paul had antifragile faith. Every suffering he experienced, he decided, was the work of Satan trying to stop him on his mission for God. Adversity became confirmation of his faith and action. That kind of faith is built on a personal relationship with Christ, and we can have it too. Here are three practices that I believe will help build your own antifragile faith:
- Pray reflexively. The saying "There are no atheists in foxholes" captures the antifragility of prayer. When terrible things happen, even those who don't believe in God start praying. The challenge is to pray during the mundane distractions of everyday life. Nehemiah had such a prayer life. The book named after him is filled with frequent small prayers, hardly longer than a breath. Nehemiah had learned to pray even when he wasn't necessarily in a mood of prayer or in the physical position of kneeling. Prayer was a reflex, and look at the strength of his faith! Nehemiah organized the reconstruction of the wall around Jerusalem, completing the work in 52 days while under military and political pressure to cease. He had a reflex to pray, a reflex we too can develop that will strengthen our faith when the world challenges it.
- Study the Bible with questions. It's easy to "do a Bible study" and have all the answers laid out beforehand with their proof texts. It's comforting to know what you're going to find. What's harder is opening the Bible with questions only, with no answers and no knowledge of what you may uncover. If we require answers before opening God's Word, then when doubts come, we will shy away from the Bible instead of diving into it looking for help. The practice of interrogating Scripture is form of play-acting doubt, putting on the cloak of a skeptic for a few moments to see how God provides answers to your questions and deepens the meaning of His Word. Studying the Bible with questions is like an inoculation, a dose of a weakened strain of doubt that trains us to have the right response when we're attacked by a stronger, faith-crippling doubt. We will have an immunity, a habitual response to go looking for answers in Holy Scripture.
- Take action. Throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts, from John the Baptist and Christ to Peter and Paul, the response to the good news of salvation is, "What must I do?" The Gospel demands action. Christ himself described taking action on what he taught as a foundation of rock that could withstand great storms (Matthew 7:24–25). Action is an antifragile practice, because the more we do, the more confidence we gain to do even greater things. Even when we fail, we learn and discover that failure is not so devastating. We can get up and try again. The world becomes less scary as we challenge ourselves to make a difference in it. Christian action is even more antifragile. As we undertake the mission God has set us on, we see how he acts to multiply our small efforts. Taking action, even when we fail or face obstacles, deeps our faith in Christ.
At its core, antifragile faith is based solely on God. Even when Abraham, Job, and Christ faced great crises of faith on Mount Moriah, on the ash heap, and in Gethsemane, what saw them safely through faith-ending cyclones was their tremendous personal relationships with God. They knew they could trust God even when everything else in life—what they believed, what they valued, even what they thought they knew about God—had all been stripped away. They clung to their relationship with their Father, and we can too.