Building An Authentic Faith
BY BENNETT ROLAN, DIGITAL EDITOR
David Swafford was out of answers. His wife, Susan, was pregnant with their first child, and as a graduate student, David wondered how he would provide for his growing family. Without a clear path forward, David and Susan also faced an appointment with a specialist for unknown pregnancy complications.
“I was in a total panic,” he said. “I added up the cost of what I thought we needed to have a baby, then I compared it to what we actually had. The columns didn’t come close to matching. I thought, ‘We can’t afford this child, and now there’s some sort of health problem. I don’t know what you’re doing, God.’”
Anticipating the upcoming doctor’s appointment, David laid his fears before the Lord. As he prayed, David remembered God’s faithfulness in the past and surrendered control of the present.
“I knew that wasn’t what faith looked like,” David shared. “I had to repent for my lack of faith. I prayed, ‘You are going to have to provide for this child, because I can’t.’ When we went to the doctor, they did an ultrasound, and we saw this tiny little gummy bear baby. The doctor said, ‘We were concerned it was possibly cancer, but everything looks great!’ Those health issues were totally resolved. That’s still my favorite ultrasound image.”
God was growing David’s faith, and the couple experienced His healing presence. But David’s trust was built on more than a moment. After years of testing in trials, God had established a firm foundation of faith.
The Swafford Family
Faith Built in Adversity
Two years earlier, David and Susan had clear plans for their future. As newlyweds, the couple moved to France, where David was earning his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering. While abroad, David and Susan received a phone call that changed their lives.
“It was about 11 a.m. for us, which meant it was 5 a.m. in the U.S.,” David said. “We knew immediately that whatever was on the other side of that phone call was not good.”
The couple learned that Susan’s mother had been in a traumatic car accident. The impact knocked her unconscious, and just before the car erupted into flames, a stranger pulled her from the vehicle. Her identification was locked in the trunk, so the paramedics transported her to the hospital as an unidentified woman.
Hours later, Susan’s father was notified, but her mother remained in a coma. For 11 days, her family waited, hoping for a full recovery.
“I don’t think I really understood the severity of it until I was back home and visiting the hospital,” Susan said. “When she woke up with severe brain damage, I didn’t realize how serious it was going to be.”
When doctors detailed the gravity of her mother’s condition, Susan volunteered to return to the U.S. to become her mother’s full-time caregiver. Months later, David joined her in Atlanta, Ga., where he continued his studies.
After years of testing in trials, God had established a firm foundation of faith.
“I don’t think I felt any bitterness over my mother’s situation,” Susan shared. “I think I just felt compassion toward my dad. His upcoming retirement was not going to be what they had planned. It was completely derailed. We were in the house for the transition with him, but I knew at some point we would be leaving.”
While caring for her mother, Susan was invited to a nearby BSF class. As a young adult, she had been a BSF member but had taken a break during her time in France.
“I was able to be a part of an evening class so I could stay with my mom during the day. BSF was God’s provision. It was my break from hospital duties,” Susan shared. “Later, when I was asked to be Children’s Leader for the first time, I didn’t have kids, I was a caregiver for my mom. The advice I would have gotten from my mom was taken away, but God replaced it with the training I got from BSF. Those women taught me so much. It provided a better foundation for parenting than I could have planned myself.”
David also joined a BSF class, along with Susan’s father, and the family grew in their commitment to God and His Word.
“I had been a Christian for 20 years at that point, but being in the Word of God, and actually studying it, was so important,” David shared. “BSF taught me how to do that. Not to just rely on man’s words, but to allow God’s Word to speak. Then He would confirm it with other sources. When we don’t learn to study on our own, it’s as if we’re missing the feast God has set before us.”
Building a strong scriptural foundation developed the Swaffords’ faith and helped them accept the reality that Susan’s mother would never fully recover.
Faith Tested in Trials
Four years after the accident, and two years after his daughter’s birth, David finished graduate school. With a Ph.D. from a renowned program, David’s future seemed secure. But job prospects were limited and, once again, David and Susan’s faith was tested.
“I remember having one interview in California as we finished the BSF year,” David said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the job and was facing months without the spiritual support of those BSF guys. I had to do something to provide for my family.”
In their darkest moments, as they prayed through their fears, David and Susan approached God with confidence. Clinging to His Word and remembering His provision gave them the faith to trust God with their family’s future.
“God doesn’t promise to take away hard times just because you’re a believer,” Susan shared. “He pretty much guarantees hard times. But God uses us and our stories. God uses broken people for His greater purpose, even with all of our faults.”
After months of struggling through financial insecurity, David accepted a position as a sales engineer, a significant departure from his original plan.
“God uses us and our stories. God uses broken people for His greater purpose, even with all of our faults.”
“God perfectly orchestrated each step,” David said. “I didn’t see what He was doing in the moment, but I can see now how much better His plan was than mine. If I hadn’t been in the Ph.D. program, we wouldn’t have relocated back to Atlanta. We were supposed to be here so Susan could care for her mother and we could both serve in BSF. It was never about earning a graduate degree; it was about learning to trust Him. God used it to accomplish His purpose.”
Faith Prepared for a Purpose
In studying Genesis this year, David read chapters 21 and 22 with a new perspective. Instead of solely focusing on Abraham’s remarkable faith, David saw God’s preparation from one chapter to the next.
“In Genesis 21:12, I noticed that God was telling Abraham, ‘You need to let Ishmael go, you need to send him away.’ And that would have been really difficult,” David shared. “He was sending Ishmael, a son he loved, into the wilderness with no indication he would ever see him again. Just a few verses later, in Genesis 21:20, it says, ‘God was with the boy as he grew up,’ proving that Abraham could trust God with his son.’
“Then you go to the very next chapter, and it’s the same request with Isaac, except this time, God is not only asking Abraham to surrender his son, He’s asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. It’s almost as if the Ishmael experience was a ramp to God’s request with Isaac. Once of the themes here is trust. I think you see God building Abraham up for that. Abraham learned that he can trust God to care for his children better and more fully than he ever could.”
Through Susan’s mother’s accident, God taught the Swaffords to hold their plans loosely. They learned to adjust their expectations and embrace God’s direction. When David’s career path took an unexpected turn, God had already laid a foundation of faith.
“It was never about earning a graduate degree; it was about learning to trust Him. God used it to accomplish His purpose.”
Today, David serves as a BSF Teaching Leader, and Susan is a Children’s Supervisor. They have three daughters, ages 8, 5 and 2. And while they no longer live with Susan’s parents, they regularly spend time with them. Their girls are learning how to care for their disabled grandmother, and the couple sees every step as preparation for God’s future plan.
Like He did with the Swaffords, God pushes our faith to its limits. And when our plans fail, He asks us to trust Him with confidence. Every challenge offers an opportunity to respond in faith. And as God meets us in our darkest moments, we learn He alone can be trusted with our greatest fears and uncertain futures. He is faithful to prepare His people for any situation.