3 things you need to know about survival-grade faith

Hebrews 12 Survival-grade faith walks by faith not by answered prayers. Faith chooses to survive what it can't explain in middle of trials, suffering, pain

What does a believer do when the prayers seem to go unanswered and you can’t make sense of the circumstances? 3 things to know when facing challenges in life.


“If I just knew why I was going through this, it wouldn’t hurt so bad.”
What does a believer do when prayers seem to go unanswered and you're facing challenges in life? Scriptures for strength, Encouragement from the Word of God, Bible verses on discouragement, Faith quotes, Trusting God's plan.

Have you ever said those words or heard them cross a hurting loved one’s lips? It’s a common thought process. I know. I’ve been there.

We somehow think if we could understand the greater purpose and grander plan for our pain, it would be easier to endure.

But there’s (at least) two things about that:

1-We aren’t promised answers.
2-It’s an illusion to think answers are the answer.

In the middle of the trial, explanations are actually little help. Although looking back and seeing God’s hand in your life along the way is comforting and affirming, when you’re in the middle of life-altering soul-piercing seasons and facing challenges in life, you don’t need answers, you need survival-grade faith.

You need faith that chooses to survive what it cannot explain.

Here’s a little of what I’ve learned about this kind of faith:

  • Survival-grade faith walks.
  • Survival-grade faith walks by faith.
  • Survival-grade faith walks by faith, not by answered prayers.

Survival-grade faith walks

“Sometimes the best you can do is to practice not quitting.”

I penned that quote months ago and every time I post, pin, or tweet it again, readers are all over it. That’s because we all identify with being at the end of ourselves — and yet having no other option except to keep going.

Survival-grade faith starts with a gritty determination that just.keeps.walking.

You can’t stop and try to analyze why you had to enter the valley or why it’s your time on the anvil. If you let your mind take over and start running cost analysis and ROI computations, you become focused on finding answers.

As you go searching for them, you veer off course and into enemy territory, becoming easy prey.
(See: 3 ways to resist the enemy and trust God’s timing)

Hebrews 12:1 offers us the ultimate “so what” application regarding faith after devoting a full chapter to those who entered the Hall of Survival-grade Faith after facing untold challenges in life.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight,
and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …”

John MacArthur says this about endurance in that verse:
“Endurance is the steady determination to keep going, regardless of the temptation to slow down or give up.”

So begin with sheer resolve to keep moving forward and practicing “not quitting,” even if it is with a limp. And if you’ve fallen, just get back up and begin again.
(See: 5 truths for when you’ve fallen and can’t get up)

Survival-grade faith walks by faith

This second point may seem obvious. Maybe it’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “By faith” indicates where your mind and heart are focused as you walk.

Look at the second verse in Hebrews 12:
“… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This is important because the other option is to fix your eyes on yourself. Although natural and necessary at times, concentrating on your situation can quickly get you off course.

If you are going to survive your trial, you have to focus on the bigger picture. And I’m not talking about the greater purpose for your pain. I’m talking about God’s grander plan for all believers.

You have to strike a balance between relishing how much God cares for you as an individual believer and grasping who He is as author of the universe and keeper of all creation.

He has a plan. A really big plan.
A plan that isn’t all about you or me.
If you can embrace all three of the following statements in full, you will have struck the right balance that survival-grade faith can stand on:

  • God is good.
  • God is good to me.
  • God is good at being God.
    (Lysa Terkeurst¹)

Walking by faith means
you believe God himself
is better than what life
can give you now
and better than
what death
can take from you later.

And what’s more, your life becomes a billboard proclaiming God’s sustaining grace.

With your continued commitment to not only persevere and walk (or limp), but to do so with your eyes FIXED on the author and perfecter of your faith, your very existence testifies to the power of the Gospel.

(See: 2 powerful questions for accepting God’s will when you want to ask why )

Survival-grade faith walks by faith, not by the experience of answered prayers

God can and does work miracles and provides, protects, and delivers His people. And He acts on the prayers of His people.

But God also chooses to sustain and strengthen His children through suffering instead of removing the pain. In both cases, His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect through weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

In today’s world of instant communication, there’s no shortage of ways believers can ask for prayer and report back in when God answers with a “deliverance answer.”
This is what most would call an “answered prayer.”
Either way, God answers. But for this point, let’s talk about the “Yes, I’ll remove the thorn answers.”

Those answered prayers are worthy of celebrating, but always with the awareness they cannot become the foundation for believing God is good.

A faith founded on answered prayers is unstable. An emphasis on current testimony and compelling evidence risks devaluing the unchanging truth recorded millennia ago.

Survival-grade faith builds conditioning through regular workouts in the gym of Scripture. Answered prayers are beautiful and precious, but they are not muscle-building training for survival-grade faith.

If you are in the middle of a season of trials with more questions than answers, you are not alone. God never did explain the trials to Job.

And if we back up two verses from where we have been in Hebrews 12, we see this summary recorded about those we hold up as members of the Hall of Faith:

“And all these, though commended through their faith,
did not receive what was promised,
since God had provided something better for us,
that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
(Hebrews 11:39-40)

The author of Hebrews points out these Old Testament saints were faithful, even though they never received the fulfillment of the ultimate promise in their lifetime: Christ.

On this side of the timeline, believers today have that promise fulfilled. And if that’s the only answer we ever get this side of eternity, it’s the only one that matters.

Because although that answer
does not guarantee

a present without
unanswered questions,
it does guarantee
an unquestionably
glorious future.

(See: 3 foundations to cling to when you think God is distant)

On a personal note

I write this now as someone who is on the other side of the ditch. I made it through the valley and can look back and understand more about how God sustained me. I’m a walking footprints poem.²

During that experience, God answered my “Why” questions not with more insight about my situation and myself but with a deeper understanding of who He is and all He has demonstrated about His working in His Word.

He didn’t “show off” with a full display of answered prayers and resolved questions; He “showed up” and said:

  • I am here for you.
  • I am here.
  • I am.

At the time, I didn’t think it was enough. I wrestled with the lack of answers as I watched that season’s set of goals and dreams disappear. But eventually, He broke through and got my attention. And here on the other side, I see He grew my faith in the process.

But growing is painful. Facing challenges in life is hard.

And so I offer these hard truths with a hefty side of empathy. If you are struggling with a season of trials, I am so sorry. But can I just encourage you that you can trust God and your faith can indeed survive what it cannot explain.

You need faith that chooses to survive what it cannot explain — or Survival-grade faith.Click To Tweet
Something that might help

If you need help reviving your heart and rebuilding your prayer life, check out my new book. You can read the opening on Amazon or download a sample chapter here.


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¹ My original source was a speech where I heard Lysa Terkeurst unpack this concept, but the quote is also found on her Facebook page here. (August 2016 update: This phrase later appeared in her newest book “Uninvited“)
² Footprints poem


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Christi

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Author | Occasional Speaker | Marketing professional ~ · ~ I write and speak so others know they aren't alone and are encouraged to grow in survival-grade faith. ~ · ~ Books: Behold: A Christmas Advent Journey and  Revival: 6 Steps to Reviving Your Heart and Rebuilding Your Prayer Life

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5 Comments on “3 things you need to know about survival-grade faith”

  1. I’m just now coming out of the fog and realizing all the ways God has covered me, held me and sustained me while I have been practicing not quitting. I thought I was not quitting only for my family, but now I see that it was another way God was and is helping to heal my heartache! You will never know how thankful I am for your words. Can’t wait to get your book.

    1. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. I’m humbled that you think anything I offer is of comfort. That’s testimony itself to how much it is NOT about me. Thank you for taking a moment to bless me with your words.

  2. Another powerful and encouraging post, Christi!

    I love this line, “But God also chooses to sustain and strengthen His children through suffering instead of removing the pain.”

    I am excited to share this post this week on social media! Pinning it and putting in on FB and Twitter.

    Believing that many will be inspired and uplifted by your words~
    Melanie

  3. Christi, I love reading what God impressed upon your heart when He was showing up (and not showing off). I heard the same message during my season in the wilderness, with one additional line: “I am enough.” It’s such a blessing see how you are using what you discovered and learned in your own dark times to encourage others in theirs! :-)

You have something worth saying!