Until fairly recently, I thought I knew what it meant to have faith. If you'd asked me what I thought it meant, I likely would have responded by quoting the following to you:
"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." (Moroni 9:21)
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? As long as you believe in Christ, anything you ask Him will be given to you. That's the way I understood it, and it sounded to me like I had a ticket to anything I wanted, so long as I asked in faith.
This led to some confusion on my part when I asked for things in what I believed was faith recently. I've been searching for a job as a high school teacher lately, since I've just graduated from college. Getting a job is the next reasonable step. I did what I felt was my part. I searched through school districts. I filled out applications. I made phone calls. I networked with people in administration. I created attractive resumes. I felt like a pretty attractive candidate. Yet I never got any further than an interview. Six times I drove out to meet people for a job, and six times I was told to wait for a phone call in return. That phone call never came. I spent entire days staring forlornly at my phone, begging the display to light up with the glow of an incoming call. (Fun fact: it's difficult to hold a conversation when most of your brain power is spent training your ear for the cheerful ring of your phone.) Nothing ever came.
I couldn't understand it. I'd prayed for a job. I believed that the Lord could give me a job. Why wasn't it coming? Wasn't this a righteous desire on my part? Wasn't it a good thing I was trying to do? Why on earth would I not be rewarded? I found myself doing some pretty serious soul-searching, struggling desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. After my sixth interview and sixth rejection, another faith-related scripture came to mind, illuminating my problem somewhat. This comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are to be cast into the fiery furnace at the hands of King Nebuchanezzar for not worshiping him.
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not [italics added], be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)
But if not. In those three little words are found a treasure trove of faith. These three men has faith that the Lord could deliver them from the furnace. He could. He absolutely could. As an all-powerful being, he was in no way less than capable of doing so. The question lay in whether or not He saw fit to do so. But if not. Even if He chose not to, they would still be loyal and true to Him. Therein lay their faith. They did not believe in Him contingent on His providing them with a reward. That would be somewhat like a child agreeing to play a game so long as he or she was guaranteed to win. No, these men were God's men through and through.
I thought about this, and compared it to my own situation. I believed that God could give me a job, but I hadn't given any thought to what might happen if He, in His infinite wisdom, should choose not to. It's entirely possible that He, seeing as far as He does, knows that I don't need a job in education right now. Part of faith, then, is trust in a higher power. I may not know where my path leads or what lies ahead, but He does, and I simply need to trust in Him. Developing that trust, however, is something else altogether, but I think this episode in my life is helping me to cultivate that trust.
Now, if you were to ask me in five years if I thought I understood faith, I'm sure I'd have a lot more to tell you. For all my prattlings on about the subject, I'm sure I'll be wrapped back up in a blanket of false assumptions before too long.