What is Faith, and What Does it Look Like For You?

The word “faith” is something we’ve all heard before–from devout religionists, dedicated sports fans, and diligent drama-watchers alike. When applied in so many different contexts, though, pinning down a meaningful definition is difficult.

A quick Wikipedia search told me that within the context of different religions, faith could mean: a prerequisite to knowledge, an effect of knowledge, a commitment to the divine, the choice to serve others, a cause for change, something that can be measured, something that can’t be measured, blind trust without evidence, love for a higher power, complete submission to the will of God, and accepting impossible odds.

It’s no surprise that I have a difficult time assigning faith an all-encompassing, single definition. Some use the phrase, “I have faith,” but I don’t love to see it that way. In my opinion, faith is a web of experiences, ideas, and personal truths making up what you want to believe–not something you have or possess, but something you feel and express.

How can faith help you?

Throughout time, a great theological debate has been whether faith is evidence-based or not. Is seeing believing, or is believing seeing? Personally, I don’t believe it’s a very worthwhile debate because faith is individual. It looks and feels different to everyone.

People choose faith because they believe it will make their life better. Ask yourself, How do I want my life to be better? It can be a drastic change, like overcoming a consuming addiction, or something small, like waking up a bit earlier. Without this basic beginning, it may be tough to recognize faith inside of you.

For me, faith looks a lot like trusting something. It’s a quiet confidence that penetrates day-to-day stresses. Sometimes, I feel a lot of confidence in myself: in my inherent goodness and worthiness. Other times, I trust that other people are kind and trying their best. And sometimes, I feel positive about a God who is aware of me and who will nurture the world. The end goal of my faith is to connect deeper to my truest self and to have a more beautiful life that way.

What does faith look like in your life?

Sometimes I make the mistake of expecting some fairy godmother to materialize and bippity-boppity-boo my faith to perfection. However, in my experience, it grows gradually. (Think of a sunrise, not a light switch.) Being patient offers a more realistic view of what faith looks like in my life.

If you’re wondering where to start, take a personal inventory of your core beliefs. What do you believe about yourself? About others? About a higher power? Then, visualize what you would like to believe about yourself, others, and a higher power. With these clear intentions as a guiding light, you can develop your faith practice. If you want to love yourself more, focus on developing confidence. If you’d like to have better thoughts towards others, start to foster positive relationships. If you desire to recognize the divine more in your life, try prayer.

When you cultivate spiritual practices in your daily life, you edge your perceptions closer to where you would like them to be. This strengthens the faith that you feel. Maybe it feels like a warm hug in your chest, and maybe it feels like walking a tightrope. It’s okay that it changes from time to time. But you can know it’s faith when you can clearly connect it to your core beliefs about yourself, others, and God.

Faith doesn’t make the jump from where you are now to where you want to be–you do. And it happens one day at a time.