finding faith

Dec 2, 2019

“When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him. ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this.'”

Without a doubt one of the greatest highlights of the year for me has been finding faith in the most unexpected of places and in people who say they have no faith or very weak faith.

Our problem is that we usually misunderstand faith, reducing the adventure and beauty of Christian life to religious practice and moral virtue. It’s inspiring to be astonished like Jesus when finding faith in unlikely people and places.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising religion or virtue and in no way am I downplaying them since these provide essential environments of growth for those who are serious about living more abundantly in relationship with Jesus Christ and in community with others.

Religious practice and moral virtue are reliable evidence of integrity, showing that our faith is not isolated from what our bodies are doing.

My experience in my own life and learning from others has convinced me that faith is not something we have in degrees, and therefore there is not strong faith and weak faith. There is simply faith, and we either have it or we don’t have it.

Difficulties and doubts are not a sign that we are without faith or that our faith is weak.

American novelist Anne Lamott puts it well:

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns”.

I often think that Christian faith is a bit like breathing. Everyone in the room is breathing, but some might be struggling a bit because of asthma or as a result of breathlessness.

To continue the breathing analogy a bit, I can do a lot to help my breathing. I can exercise. I might find a place where the air is cleaner and less toxic. I find my breathing is easier and deeper after a decent sleep or when drinking less and eating healthier. There are also good exercises which can help my breathing.

In the same way maturing faith also requires exercise. Taking time to remember and to savour the fact that in the ups and especially the downs of life I am not alone, Jesus is with me, is a great way to shift perspective beyond my own little world to the sustaining presence of God present and active in my life.

Faith is a reality that is certain (ref. Catechism below), because God gives the certainty. Faith is not a human achievement, it is a divine gift, given and received in Baptism. Faith is lived whenever we sense that God is present and real, interested and loving. 

When we take time to notice we realise that there is a lot more faith around than we might have thought.

Thanks be to God!


An Invitation

  • Live today accepting that you are a person of faith. The simple fact that you have read this FFF reflection this far is but one proof that you are wanting to live in deeper relationship with Jesus.
  • Make a decision to look for evidence of faith in every person you meet today. Enjoy being astonished whenever you unexpectedly find evidence of faith.
  • Take a moment today when you are stopped at the lights or stuck in traffic to savour the gift of faith that Jesus has given to you. Enjoy the certainty that this knowledge gives.
  • The FFF Advent reflections began yesterday with some great comments from readers. Thank you to those who take a moment or two to share a thought. You have little idea how much others will be encouraged by your reflections.



– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”. (St. Thomas Aquinas, cf. Dei Filius 3:DS 3008).

157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.” “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia pro vita sua 239.)


  1. This is such an important reflection.. We can confuse “Belief” and “Faith” which is a bit like confusing maps with the journey. They are connected but are not the same. As you say, John, we greatly value the maps we have been given. But we don’t sit on the road and worship the maps. They help us on the life-long journey of finding God in all our experience., however we have viewed it at the time. Knowing and trusting that, for me, is what faith is all about.

  2. Hi Father,
    Your analogy of breathing makes real sense to me. At our church in Durban, Father Brett is encouraging us this Advent to build the Kingdom of God by inviting those whom we know to come back to something at the church – Carols, Christmas Mass, whatever. These are family and friends where there is breathing, but maybe not as strong as it could be. Not the easiest challenge, but we all need the exercise! God bless and thank you.

  3. Advent is exciting as we build up to the great family time (and our faith keeps us looking forward – it’s not the gifts it’s the excitement we share) yet is over so quickly after so much preparation and anticipation. Faith keeps us believing when it doesn’t make sense to – it’s contradictory and reassuring a time of renewal

  4. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
    Hebrews 11:1 nrsv

  5. Advent “coming” – I love that with the anticipation of something there sits uncertainty. I love that God puts it front and centre during advent, especially because I spend my whole life trying to be in control and to avoid unpredictability. You’ve got to love God’s sense of humour!! Uncertainty means we can’t rely just on ourselves, it demands that we leave space for something/someone else. It feels at times dangerous and exciting to sit in the darkness of the unknown, and I am delighted that God has the wisdom to allow us to discovery faith and the beauty of an intimate relationship through such a journey of reality. God of surprises, I will sit in anticipation …

  6. Great words today – thank you very much ! This is a real revelation to me as someone who had always thought you “knew” that you had faith or you didn’t… It is most reassuring to think that the doubts and worries is actually part of having faith..

  7. This comes at a really “ ADVENTageous” time, thank you Father John. I am struggling with pain and this in turn has caused me to feel very disconnected to my Faith, but I have kept on going with the doubts and questions piling up. But now I have the reassurance that this is part of Faith, and my prayer is that I will continue to grow in Faith.

  8. Yesterday, I began reading a chapter of St Luke, for each day of Advent. Maybe other FFF followers are doing this also. I thought your post fitted nicely with this, Fr John.

    ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible’ Followed by Mary’s amazing response of faith. ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word’ (Luke 1, verse 37-38)

    It amazes me how God can break into our reality, give us just the right amount of understanding, leaving room for faith to reach out into the unknown, as we desire to grow closer to God.

    Enjoying the comments.


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