The average woman is born with two million eggs, a staggering number when you consider each one has the potential to become a human being with freckles and eyelashes, elbows and knee caps. A fertilized egg is the thickness of a strand of hair, an infinitely fragile wisp that will mysteriously multiply and grow into a life.
For almost a decade I hoped and prayed that one of those two million eggs would become a son or daughter. But month after month I saw single lines on pregnancy tests, not much thicker than a strand of hair. Well-meaning people tried to comfort me. They did so with hugs and kindness, with the occasional card or even casserole. Most had the grace simply to wait patiently with me. Others, in their desire to help, tried to suggest there was something I must do in order to make this miracle happen. Some implied that perhaps I needed more faith.
This subtle assertion always stung. In my head I knew that “faith equals baby” wasn’t an equation that made any sense. But on the hardest days my anxious heart felt tempted to believe it because doing so might mean I could at least have some control over the outcome of my infertility.
I found myself understanding the apostles when they asked, “Why couldn’t we . . . ?” about a particular miracle they wanted but could not make happen (Matthew 17:19). Jesus responds, “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20).
Mustard seeds are tiny too, like little grains of sand. Some people interpret this passage to mean our Savior is telling us, “You need to grow your faith!” But if this is so, why not use something big as the metaphor? Why not tell us to have faith as big as the ocean, as high as the sky? When Jesus says the apostles only need faith like a mustard seed, the tiniest of all, it seems clear to me He’s expressing, “Size is not the problem.”
I think the point Jesus is trying to help us understand is that we can never have enough faith to make anything happen. As Leigh Sain writes, “The size of our faith isn’t what makes the mountain move. The size of our God is.” To tell anyone their faith is the controlling factor in a situation is to put them in the place of God.
Having faith also doesn’t mean things will turn out the way we want. Jesus Himself prayed for the cup of suffering to pass from Him but still went to the cross. His mother prayed one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture and watched her beloved son die. I never did have a physical child.
But God also resurrected Jesus. He sustained Mary. In my story, He made me a woman who births books. He unexpectedly brought a daughter into our lives when she was twenty years old, and now I’m also a Nana of two. He created a family for me that is tied together not by human blood but by His. He healed my heart in ways I never thought possible. This happened over many years. It included aching and anger, loss and tears. It also led me to believe, deep into my bones, that faith isn’t ever about a result; it’s always about a relationship.
Let’s never allow anyone to convince us our faith isn’t big enough, that if we can only increase it then all we want will be ours. Instead, let’s wholly put our faith in a God who is bigger, stronger, and more loving than we could ever imagine or measure. As Stephanie Bryant says, “No matter how ugly it gets or if your faith grows tinier than a mustard seed, He is right there with you. Jesus is holding your right hand. He’s holding you up. Carrying you through this hard time.”
God, it can be tempting to believe that somehow having enough faith will mean our desires are going to be granted. But You never tell us this is true. What You do assure us of is that we can always put our faith, trust, and hope fully in You. We do. Amen.
What have you been taught about faith? What’s a truth you’ll remember from today’s post next time a prayer isn’t answered the way you want?