Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
FAITH AND HOPE.
The greatest of the three abiding virtues may be love, but the other two deserve more than just honorable mention. We don’t think much about them, until they are lost. Then crisis hits. What, exactly, are faith and hope, anyway? And when we do lose them, can we get them back?
You may be thinking you know this one, have no need to read further. Maybe you’ve never lost faith and/or hope, so think this doesn’t apply to you. If you’ve never had a spiritual crisis, count your blessings. There’s a good chance you know someone who has, especially in light of current events. To be a blessing to them, read on.
First, we have to dispel the common usage of “faith” as meaning only something related to religion. Technically, it isn’t. Defined in the dictionary, faith is “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.”
An infant soon learns that when it indicates discomfort, someone will feed or change him. She develops faith that her needs will be met.
We have all learned that most family members will stick with us through thick and thin. We have faith in that community to love us unconditionally. If that fails, we attach ourselves to others, creating a more stable – or faithful – support unit.
And, yes, we may attach ourselves to a group of people that share our religious beliefs. We count on them to adhere to a certain code of ethics and values. We hold them accountable, as we are held. It can be said that this type of faith community shares a faith in a Higher Power.
Gang members count on each other to adhere to a certain code of ethics, also. Unfortunately, their value system creates crisis for many others. But they are a faith community, by literal definition.
The words in ancient Hebrew and Islam, from which our word “faith” is derived, literally mean “RESTING OF THE HEART”. Where there is faith, then, there is covenant, trust, confidence in others. The story of the Prodigal is one of faith, both on the part of the son and the father. It also shows a crisis of faith on the part of the Prodigal’s brother. Get the picture?
One Pastor illustrated faith to the Sunday School kids by having someone with long hair and bangs come to the front. Pastor fanned the young girl’s face, and her bangs and hair moved in the breeze. Pastor did it again, asking students to watch only the fan. Again, watching only the moving hair. Again, watching only the space between the fan and the hair. What did the students see there? Nothing, of course. Air is not visible to the eye. Did the students expect the hair to move every time the fan was moved? Yes, they all did. That was faith, they were told. You may not be able to see what you have faith in. But evidence shows that results could be depended upon when certain factors were in place. We cannot see love, trust, or God. But we have experience teaching us that all of those do exist, and affect us.
A person who has no faith is ungrounded, feels empty, perhaps even invalid. There is no Shalom for such a person. The heart has no resting place. Even an act of common courtesy is mistrusted. They usually feel a great amount of shame, but cannot tell you why, if they ever admitted to it.
A cynical person has belief in the dominance of negative results, but it is a faith system.
A person with no faith sees no point in anything. They appear depressed, flat lined. Left unchecked, this can lead to destructive behavior. School shootings. Cruelty. Rage. Abandoning a child at a hospital.
A crisis of faith can only happen to someone who has a belief system, but has the rug yanked out from under them. This comes with its own set of problems. What once was trusted and gave security, suddenly threatens their very existence. Bank failures. Job loss. Foreclosure or bankruptcy. Illness. Trauma. An unfaithful government.
A faith crisis isn’t just a period of feeling blue. It is devastating, overwhelming, crushing. The person in crisis is dumbstruck, seeing no way out. They are like the walking dead, merely going through the motions of every day. Or not.
Someone in the throws of a faith crisis needs the community to come forth. They need to be treated gently, fed and sheltered. They need some way to contribute, small at first, to restore their self confidence. Then they might be able to understand programs that may benefit. Only then can their thinking be clear enough to entertain possible solutions.
To the media’s credit, we are reading about massive food and clothing drives, donations to aid agencies, families taking in family members and friends. Stories from survivors of The Great Depression and The Holocaust are printed as examples to us all of the indestructible human spirit.
But it takes a Village. No one is doing well right now. But we must all keep our eyes and ears open for others struggling harder. One individual may not be able to reverse a national trend. But a small kindness can literally save a life. A small kindness can at least restore a person’s faith. A small kindness may prompt a person to “Bless your heart” in return.
Next week: Hope.