What is faith, its benefits, and where to start with it?
Religions have been around for as long as mankind. For when mankind was unsure of their place, they would look to the skies and heavens for guidance. World religions seem to have developed between 1200bc and 700ad. This perhaps became a trend of conquering regions. A mark of the conquered region is that the people who were conquered would adopt the faith of the new head of state. Thus began a new race, a race where how far a religion would spread would reflect the size of an empire. Was there ever anything real in faith? Has it always been a tool for dominance or gain? Or is there true bliss to be found within ourselves and our connection to a higher power or god? Whatever the truth is, it seems as if faiths were shared by large groups of people and provided stability in cities. These religions were accepted by thousands of followers because they appealed to so many different people from all social backgrounds. If the texts of these faiths spoke to such a variety of people, surely there is something about each religion that is very real and speaks to the truth of our being. In this article, I will be discussing the fundamentals of faith across religions, the stages of developing faith, the benefits of it and how one can develop faith.
What is faith?
Faith is trust, assurance and confidence in God or a higher power of some sort. This varies from religion to religion. Some religions refer to God/higher power as their soul, and others refer to it as the maker of the universe, thus using the creator of the universe as the reference point for a higher power. In the context of religion, one can define faith as “belief in god” or the teachings of god. People who are more sceptical of religion and god tend to think of faith as simply belief without evidence. Faith is something that people turn to when answering some of their own deeper questions in life. E.g. Why are we here? Why did this happen to me? What am I meant to do with my life? It is a known comforter when facing serious problems or stressful situations. The Bible says “Faith is the substantiation of things hope for” and it “is also the conviction of things not seen. It convinces us of what we do not see.” Each religion describes faith a bit differently, however, they all say that dedication and commitment to the practices advised by the religion. This may have caused some people to become disillusioned with religion, as having faith is personal and it may seem impossible to follow all the doctrines of a particular religion. Buddhism, Hinduism and other eastern traditions say faith is a mere initial step on the path to wisdom and enlightenment. Other known spiritual masters state that as important as faith is, it is more important to start by having faith in yourself as that is seen as a prerequisite to having faith in god.
Developing a relationship with a higher power - what is it like?
Do some people just have an innate ability to have more faith than others? There are certain stages of faith that one goes through as one develops a relationship with a higher power. (See below)
State of confusion and highly impressionable through stories and rituals
Conforming to societal beliefs of religion:
A stage where provided information is accepted to conform to social norms
Seeing the faith and the community that you belong to as one:
Here faith is concentrated on the religion you followed growing up and authority figures in individuals. Faith groups can represent individuals' relationship with faith
In this stage, the individual sits down and critically analyses adopted and accepted faith systems. At this stage, the individual will either be disillusioned or strengthened in faith. - This is based on needs and experiences
Acceptance of the mystery:
In this stage, you begin realising the limits of logic and how it is created by the same minds who are unable to accept mystery in life. Thus there is acceptance of the phenomena we call life. Individuals at this stage, often return to reading the sacred stories and symbols of readopted faith or evolved faiths they are interested in.
Breaking through barriers of religion:
This stage is known as the enlightenment stage where the individual comes out of all existing faith and adopts universal principles of love, compassion and service to others. To uplift without dominance and gain.
Individuals are not subjected to all stages, there is a high chance for a person to be content and fixed in a particular stage for a lifetime without any desire to move stages.
Benefits of Faith
There are many reported benefits of faith. We can view these as reported changes in an individual's life after developing some level of faith. Here are a few benefits below.
In life, it is a known fact that loneliness kills. When people subscribe to faith, they are also knowingly or unknowingly subscribing to the community that faith has to offer.
This presents ample chance to connect with like-minded others, and talk about a common interest (in this case faith)
Through faith, one gains a community of friends and being part of a community is a known booster of oxytocin and dopamine. Through a lot of love and socialising.
Hope is something that can help us see the positive in life and be able to see past negative circumstances
Faith boosts hope as there tends to be a focus on the learnings offered by each situation, rather than constant disappointment
Hope allows individuals to reshape their perspectives and attitudes
Provide a source of healing
Healing takes place at a multitude of levels. If in the first instance there is someone who doesn’t have faith, they will turn to themselves when they are wounded.
There are times in life when you are going through severe physical ailments that medical professionals can’t resolve or emotional turmoil that you find difficult to deal with. With faith, someone can pass these worries and heavy emotions to a higher power.
This can help someone deal with the situation and process emotions. Allowing for more positive emotions such as; forgiveness and acceptance.
It is also known that faith can help someone feel safe, this is especially important during adversity. To trust that you are being looked after, almost makes the trouble fade in your mind.
Provide inner strength
Faith helps provide inner strength, through moral support. If you trust in a higher power, you are likely to turn to it in moments of weakness and thus providing you with an opportunity to be selfless and to be helpful to others.
Life is filled with highs and lows, and when we are going through tough times it can sometimes feel hard to move forward in life. Faith is known to aid people in finding the strength to overcome and push past adversity.
Faith helps you overcome stress, anxiety and fear
Through faith, you begin to feel more peaceful and at ease with your faults and good parts
This allows acceptance or more acceptance of yourself, and thus you can overcome stressful situations by just allowing the emotions to rise
This further strengthens your emotional regulation as you are less prone to resist tough emotions knowing you have a higher power in your corner.
How to start applying faith?
Applying faith may sound strange to a lot of people however, you have to start somewhere. There are many ways one can develop faith, and like with any belief it is a gradual process. Here are a few methods to try out.
Hearing the parables of old masters from any religious text or spiritual individual
Our lives are full of things demanding our attention and draining our time. Now although everything you are doing is important to you - sometimes it is difficult to have the right attitude.
A key way mentioned in most religious texts to build faith is to start listening to spiritual masters (pastors, imams, monks & yogis) and reading spiritual texts.
This methodology of building faith is simple as you allow your mind to take in the information given to you, and normally the information given by these masters or texts is regarding how we should approach situations.
This allows you to sit and apply a few of the things you have read, and thus see if it was useful or not.
As you see the benefits of it, you may find yourself setting time to listen and read every week.
Another key indicator of this method is to see how you feel when you read or listen to spiritual information - as if it calms and relaxes you, you may find immediate benefits in this information.
Ask for help in a particular situation you are finding tricky to handle
When we make a conscious effort to trust god, we are almost trying to build evidence within ourselves.
The idea is to ask for help when faced with a need or going through a difficult time in your life.
Then you watch and wait.
Your attitude here is key, as it is easy to give in to doubt and assume nothing will happen. Whereas if you focus on the leap of faith you have taken, then you are more likely to be open-minded.
Once you have a breakthrough with your need or difficult situation, you will have something to hold on to (evidence!).
This will make it easier to trust a higher power, in the future, when you are faced with a difficult situation.
Surrendering to a higher power
There are often situations in life which are quite frankly overwhelming. This could be an issue with a relationship, career, health etc…
When we are faced with these situations, it is easy to feel numb and apathetic. When you cannot see past a situation like this, you may feel like there is no real point to anything.
This is seen as a great time to test and perhaps build faith if the feeling is there.
Try understanding how the situation is making you feel. For example, is the situation; making your body tired? Are you feeling like you cannot concentrate? Do you simply lack the energy to do anything?
Ask a higher power to aid you with these feelings, by admitting to the higher power that you simply cannot get through this by yourself. This may conflict with your pride and if that happens, simply say explain how you are testing faith to yourself to resolve the potential conflict. (This is the process of surrendering)
Now you watch and wait, and see if there is any intervention for a higher power. At times like this it may be hard for you to be hopeful, so simply just be patient.
If you find yourself feeling better, you will know that you can return to this technique at any time you find yourself faced with an overwhelming situation.
Developing faith is something people consider inherent, however, this is not the case for everyone. Perhaps enforced religious dogmas of traditions made individuals disillusioned with the idea you must follow all the principles to enter the gateways of heaven. At the core of it, it is just a conversation with something bigger than you, and whether you believe it or not perhaps does not matter. These conversations will be able to provide you an insight of how you are feeling and give you more clarity on yourself. Faith seems as if it depends on whether you have an intervention in your life which is boosted your belief in god. This seems to be may the main way to begin to have faith, and this is probably enhanced when you begin to see the benefits of faith. As we have seen above, there are stages to building faith. You may have been put off by a ray of things, that resulted in you turning away from the faith. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and develop your own unique connection with a higher power. Ultimately, you have nothing to lose when it comes to trying. At the worst case, when connecting with a higher power, you would’ve tried talking to yourself which in itself can help give you comfort. At best case, you would’ve found something bigger than yourself to confide in. In this article you have seen 3 different ways that you can develop faith out of countless methods. If you are interested in healing through faith, why not give them a go and see if they are suited for you or not?
Have you ever thought about developing faith, but were unsure?
What held you back?
Click here to find out more about Self Love Clinic’s coaching and counselling sessions, for more ways you can be supported on a journey of self-love!