Faith Like a Child
Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught that to enter the kingdom of heaven one must become like a child (Matthew 18:3)? Jesus clearly loved children and even admired their simple way of understanding him. But why? Why doesn’t Jesus call us to come to him like a great hero of faith? What is so necessary about having faith like a child?
There are many answers to these questions, I’m sure. But I’m just going to give you one simple one. A child’s faith is simple and sure. That’s what makes it so beautiful.
My four-year-old daughter, Addie, has had a best friend for most of her life. He’s a little gray hippo, a stuffed animal puppet. This hippo has had many adventures. He was left behind in restaurants. He was dropped in the street and found days later in the rain and muck. He was forgotten in a restroom in Disneyland…in a friend’s closet…in cupboards. But he was always found again.
He Was Lost
Until one day. He went missing again, and this time we had no idea when or where. We looked everywhere and asked everyone. To no avail. Hippo was gone.
But Addie didn’t believe it. She has grown up hearing about God’s great love and care for us. She was certain that God knew where Hippo was and that he would bring him back.
Her certainty made for some uncertain teaching moments for her mother. I wrestled with how to show her honest reality – Hippo was lost and wasn’t coming home – but without damaging her sweet, complete trust in the Lord. Six months and countless conversations later, Hippo was still missing, and yet her faith had not wavered. She was certain that God would bring Hippo home.
A Faith Lesson
One Sunday morning, I came to church prepared to teach Addie’s Sunday School class. Our lesson was from Hebrews 11, about the heroes of faith. Kids listen better when there are puppets involved, so I was searching the supply room for just the right one. And I kid you not, there was Hippo. First, I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then I connected the dots – the lesson that week was on faith…my daughter had faith in God for Hippo’s return…here was Hippo, in the church building I had searched numerous times…found on that particular day!
I’m not going to lie, there were tears. I could not believe the Lord’s tender care in this marvelous act of grace. Because you know what? Though I told the kids the Hippo story and it was a super object lesson, the lesson was really for me.
I often make God so small. I don’t think of him as being someone who orchestrates a child losing a beloved stuffed animal - to on just the right day, just the right person would find it. I don’t expect the Lord to act so personally, or to honor so silly of a request. I think of him in many ways – Creator and Sustainer of the universe, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior of the world, the list goes on. But I don’t imagine him to be a God who delights in surprises, or who loves to use deeply personal and significant ways of communicating, or who cares about a child’s lost hippo.
But my daughter expects all of these things. That is childlike faith. She believes that God is for her. She never doubts that he cares about what matters to her. She expects that he loves her in the same way that she loves – personally, sweetly, tenderly. And she is right.
God is For Us
Scripture affirms this. Even when life brings suffering, trials and loss, God is for us (Romans 8:31). He gives us everything we need for this life and for our future hope (Romans 8:32). He gives us himself, and he promises that nothing can take us away from him (Romans 8:35-39). We can trust him for everything. This is faith.
Simple but Complex
Childlike faith is both simple and complex. It is simple because it simply believes that God is for us and is taking care of everything. Just like my daughter, I can rest in knowing that He cares about every detail of my life (Matthew 10:30).
It is complex because it trusts God even when things do not turn out how we expect or hope. It is complex because it believes what it cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). It is complex because it requires action – stepping out in faith when God asks this of us. Faith accomplishes astounding things, even when we do not see or understand.
Faith hopes and trusts because faith is anchored in Jesus. He has proved himself to be worthy. And so, we fix our eyes on him, and on the future hope found only in him.
Certain but Wavering
Faith is both certain and wavering (I believe, help my unbelief). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Real faith is sure that God is who he says he is, that his promises are true, and that his plans will prevail.
God desires to grow and encourage our faith in Him. This is why he works sometimes in the most crazy, unexpected ways – like bringing a dearly loved hippo back to a little girl on the perfect Sunday morning. Does your faith, like mine, waver? Look for God’s personal, beautiful loving-kindness. And choose to believe that he is for you, knowing he loves our simple and sure faith.