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Do idealists exercise faith more easily?

I am an idea guy, but I often have to struggle to find faith. I tend to look at reality. I want to know the odds and hedge my bets if I can. All of which makes my faith walk a more difficult one. I tend to move toward comfort rather than uncertainty. While I’ve been on vacation this week,…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I am an idea guy, but I often have to struggle to find faith. I tend to look at reality. I want to know the odds and hedge my bets if I can. All of which makes my faith walk a more difficult one. I tend to move toward comfort rather than uncertainty.
While I’ve been on vacation this week, I’ve been pondering the subject of “where does faith come from?” In many respects, it’s a gift, but is a part of that gift hard-wired? Watching my five children, I see that they were born quite different from one another. One is very practical, one is action-oriented, another is more optimistic, and so on. We’ve watched the hard-wiring in them develop since year one, showing us how personality types are a God-given part of the DNA.
So, the question is: do idealists have an advantage over the rest of us in this struggle to find  faith? You could make the case that they do. They tend to see the world in terms of how it ought to look rather than how it looks at present.
When the gap between what is and what should be grows, the realist or the pessimist can’t help but ask questions about where this thing is headed. But the idealist is more comfortable with uncertainty. The idealist knows that change is born in uncertainty – she has lived in that gap enough times before that they’re OK there.
How does your personality type impact your ability to exercise faith? What else has grown your faith over the years?

Comments (6)

  • Interesting theory, but it presumes that idealism or pessimism are root states of being that have no cause themselves. Idealism does not just spawn out of nowhere, it typically, I think, is rooted itself in a belief in something or someone else.

    It is the object of ones trust or comfort that makes one an idealist. For the Christian that source of idealism (which in the Christian faith is really just a component of faith) is a knowledge of the character and nature of God. For other idealists their positive idea of the world and how things will turn out stems from other things such as security in finances, a belief in the invincibility of youth, trust that government will take care of you, or a whole host of other factors that cause them to not we worried or look at things negatively.

    Our ideas of God ultimately shape whether we will trust Him or not. It is when we let temporal factors effect us and less Jesus that we are swayed towards either an irrational and unsecure idealism which can crumble before us, or a pessimism that keeps us gripped with fear and caution day in and day out.

  • Mark 10

    13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

    Ever since Phily ’97, God is constantly reminding me to have faith like a child. With my analytical brain that tends to see things in black and white, it is easy to lose hope. But when we look to the scriptures to see how big our God is we realize our Abba can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Then it is difficult not to be an optimist. As Romans 10:17 says “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

  • As an NF, I’d have to say that faith is a fairly easy thing for me. I don’t know how it’s all going to work out, but I can imagine 10 different ways that it might work out – and that gives me a lot of hope. It’s easy to believe that God will make something happen, even if I see no evidence of it.

    It also means I don’t have many of the rational answers about why we should have faith. Andy can make great arguments based on reason and intellect about why a faith in Christ is so pivotal. All I can do it stand there and go “stuff just happens and I think it’s awesome.”

  • I am definitely an idealist and an optimist, but I wouldn’t equate those two as analogous. Being an idealist, I know how I want the situation to work out and what should happen…ideally. And the optimist at work in me believes that it will happen because, well because I’m somewhat of a “Pollyanna” in that regard. My wife is the opposite. She is what I would call a pessimist (she calls herself a “realist” which is probably the opposite of an idealist). BTW, she calls me a “dreamer!”

    I think that the formulation of faith in anyone comes from 2 sources: 1) analytical faith, through the prism of your worldview and your experiences, and; 2) spiritual faith, which is a gift and defies reason. When we fly by airplane, the first dozen or so trips can be nerve-wracking but you realize that there hasn’t been a domestic crash of a non-shuttle plane since 911 and your analytical faith kicks in.

    Then something like stage 4 colon cancer (spread to the liver) hits your wife and the doctors and Google tell you that her chances for a complete recovery are less than 10%. My analytical faith would have not served me well. But praise God for his healing powers and the God-given faith that he gave my wife, Karen, and I. She just had her 5-year checkup and she’s still completely cancer free and walks like 6 miles every day. PRAISE GOD!

    In that case, the idealist and the realist were both proven wrong by the God who loves us enough to give us the faith to trust in Him.

    “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24

  • It is an interesting question. I find myself contemplating my level of faith from time to time and I’ve never come to an anwer yet.

    It seems that in some ways I have great faith and can effortly move myself into a place of dependence on God. Mostly from the bigger perspective, I trust that He’s got it all under control and He’s gonna work everything out so I don’t have to fret about the overall direction of my life.

    However, it seems to be the details that get my head spinning. I’m at complete peace with “Okay God, I know you have a plan for my life and you are in control and I know that you will take me to places I could never imagine.”

    I’m even okay with “Okay God, I feel you leading me to this place. I don’t understand it or particularly like the idea, but I trust you so I’ll go. This isn’t easy, but I know you’ll get me through it and it will be for my good.”

    Where I struggle with faith is “Okay God, I’m here. You’ve given me some ideas and some opportunities. Which way do I go? Where do I place my foot on this next step. Am I supposed to sit, walk or stand? Am I supposed to take more initiative and look for/create opportunities, or wait on you? What am I supposed to be doing right now?”

    It’s like I’m perfectly willing to jump off the cliff, but I worry about exactly where to jump from and whether to dive or plunge.

    So while on one hand I feel like my faith can be very strong, on the other hand it can be very weak.

  • At the start of college classes for whom I was the professor there would be a short presentation of the theme “Don’t be afraid of freedom or ambiguity”. A predictable number of wide eyed freshman would gather round the lectern and basically say–“Tell me exactly what I have to do to make an A”. Freedom tormented them. Their faith was not in a journey of learning but in memorizing rote facts and spewing them back. Many people approach life the same way. A new phrase I like is “Don’t waste your sorrows”. We can learn powerful lessons from our debacles if we listen and grow.

    Faith fuels the journey. Love and forgiveness seal the lessons.

    Thanks Seth.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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