Every life has its ups and downs, and most of them don't test a person's faith. The things that do, tend to be matters of crisis. If you consider what kind of crisis is involved, something familiar emerges. Faith in God is tested when things you consider evil or cruel happen, or when an innocent person suffers greatly—then you say to yourself, "A kind, loving God wouldn't let this happen." For millions of people the Holocaust broke down their faith in a personal God who loves humanity and cares for it.
I wrote a book, The Future of God, to address the crisis of faith in the modern world, because there has been a steady erosion in Sunday church attendance and a rise in atheism for at least 50 years. The answer I offered is quite simple. Faith returns when it actually helps a person's life—when it's useful. This isn't blind faith; it's not faith you accept because you were raised in a certain religion. Quite the opposite—this is faith on the spiritual path, a quest to reach true knowledge about divine reality.
All the world's wisdom traditions teach that each seeker must find a path to the divine, and most of these traditions echo Jesus's words that the Kingdom of God is within, along with the Old Testament dictum, "Be still and know that I am God." These are clues to the action you can take, which is to go within every day, through meditation or other contemplative practices, and to experience the divine in stillness. This stillness is your silent mind. Your divine nature is the presence of awareness. According to this strategy, God becomes real as you come closer to your own source, pure consciousness.
I realise that this is a different approach because most people stick with the objectified conception of God they learned as children: a stern white male sitting on his throne in the sky. But even where a creed may uphold such an image, there is room for a different conception. The Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, makes clear that Heaven is a blessed state of the soul, not a physical place. The Bible depicts a humanised deity quite often (God the Father), but not always. Speaking from the burning bush to Moses, the terrified Moses asks him his name, and the reply is, "I am who I am... I am has sent me to you."
How to Maintain Faith
In other words, God is embedded in existence itself, including your existence. So you are to keep faith with consciousness containing divine qualities, and the place these qualities appear are the following:
- In ourselves
- In others if you see them in the light of awareness
- In everyday events
- In life itself
The qualities to look for are the following:
These qualities are not hard to detect; your goal is to notice them and then to value them as clues on the path to the divine. If you take them for granted and await a flash of light from the sky that will reveal God on his throne, that's a very, very long shot.
On the other hand, the process of spiritual unfoldment—which is the same as the growth of consciousness—is always with you and more intimate than breathing. Instead of waiting for God to pass a test every time you feel great fear, doubt, disappointment, or abandonment, I hope this new concept of faith leads you in a positive direction. Faith is an open door, and once you cross the threshold, real spiritual knowledge will reveal itself.