What Happens to Faith as Life Unfolds?
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have
been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being
much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may
be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6,7
All but the most cynical would agree that the innocent eagerness of young faith is a part of its beauty. This spirit is a part of the childlikeness that Jesus said we must recover if we are to enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). But as life unfolds, experience can cruelly test our confidence in the greatness and goodness of God. What then? Is faith to be given up as a relic of our immaturity, or is there a greater thing that can happen?
It should be noted that some people do live for long periods without meeting any serious test of their faith. It would be unfair (and also condescending) to charge every such person with having a faith that is naive or ill-informed. Faith in the heart of a human being can be the "real thing" whether it has been "proven" or not.
But in the case of most of us, hardships eventually do test the genuineness of our faith, sometimes sorely. What happens to a well-founded faith as the years go by?
Consider that faith is more than a feeling and more than a mood. It is a conviction, a choice to commit ourselves to the truth that God is indeed the Creator revealed to us in the Scriptures. And like any decision to trust, the commitment of ourselves to the truth about God is likely to be tested. But mere testing doesn't mean that our faith was foolish. To the contrary, it may well demonstrate just how wise our choice was. Truths that we grasped in the noonday sun don't have to be thrown away during the hours of darkness. That's when their value is most apparent.
Ultimately, faith is akin to friendship, and there's a big difference between a friend who would help us and one who has helped us. As life lengthens, the well-placed confidence of our youth can become a fixed friendship with God, tried and true. Such a trust is the mainstay of our maturity, as Paul well knew: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" (2 Timothy 1:12).
Faith is that which is woven of conviction
and set with the sharp mordant of experience.
James Russell Lowell