Sometimes believing is a little bit difficult and may even border on impossible – or so it seems. But, here comes practice. It is true that faith is a gift and that believing follows along with the gift, but it still requires some doing.
Faith is a supernatural gift, but that means it is sitting on what is natural. It can’t exist (excuse me, God, for putting it this way) unless it is in tandem with our nature. Faith is not something for angels, nor is it something bestowed on animals. Faith is for human beings and because of this it is subject to our frailty and failings. We need to practice believing, not because faith is imperfect, but because we are.
In fact, everything that is part of human existence needs practice. This is how we advance from the crib, the highchair, the car seat, kindergarten, peewee sports, and so forth. It is how we become world class dancers, Olympic athletes, movie icons, singing stars, high-ranking officers, CEOs, good parents, trusted assistants, valued employees, and so much more. All of our activities require practice. So it is with believing! No one is born anything but human. Even royalty have many, many things to practice before assuming what seems a rightful place.
So when it comes to believing we need to practice. Even before that we need to know what it is we are believing (in our case we are believing members of the Catholic Church). It is fairly useless to say to someone: “I had you baptized, but didn’t bother with any instruction. You can pick that up on your own if you’re interested.” That’s like saying to your child: “OK. I gave you birth, but if you want to know anything about walking, talking, eating, reading, writing, or anything else, you’ll have to pick it up on your own.” That would be nonsensical!
We practice believing so that we will be strong believers. If I feel a weakening in my spiritual muscles it means I need to give them practice in order to build them up. If, for example, I feel the very natural temptation of doubt, do I just fold up my faith and walk away? No, I do several strengthening exercises: I read something about what I doubt: something that will fill in my present gaps; I pray to God (even in darkness) to help my unbelief (this isn’t hypocrisy, but a strong human reaction to weakness); I do faithful deeds – for example: I volunteer at a faith-based charity, or I offer my presence at some church-sponsored event, or I speak to someone about the things of faith.
The traditional saying is that practice makes perfect, and that is true, but not automatic. It is a doggedly, natural process. It will be made perfect, but it will happen on a very normal human schedule, and that is because God so loves that human schedule. When he made the first humans, he saw that what he had done was good. When he redeemed all of humanity after the fall, he did it by becoming one of us (subject to the human schedule in all but sin). So let’s go with the program and practice what we believe!