A question came up in the TLDC discussion group about faith. It’s an important question, especially as the pandemic wreaks havoc around the world. Not only are many people dying but deep economic hardships also threaten the well-being of countless others. It’s a frightening situation.
Naturally, this can be a time to question or be skeptical about the benevolence of God. How could a benevolent God allow this tragedy to happen? It’s a valid question. Perhaps surprisingly, however, in times of hardship many believers do not reject God but instead, turn to God in prayer and faith. They have faith in God. What could this mean?
In short, I think it means a whole person affirmation of God’s benevolence even in the face of personal or global trials. This is not just some cognitive assent. It is a deep conviction that whatever happens, God cares and is involved in every event. It is also a passionate conviction that there are things more important than personal wellbeing or goals. There is “something more” going on that is so important that one’s own well-being does not necessarily take precedence.
In theologian Paul Tillich’s “The Courage to Be” he talks about the courage of soldiers. They are willing to put their lives at risk for something more. That “more” may be about freedom, nation, or even just their brothers and sisters in the fight. As they face the gunfire, perhaps with great fear, their passionate commitments still push them onward into harm’s way. Today, we see this with the health care workers, doctors, police, first responders and so many ordinary people trying to make a difference in spite of their own personal risk. How can one not be brought to tears at this great courage and sacrifice?
But even without a global crisis, events in “normal” life can be devastating as well. Who has not faced hardships, loss, uncertainty, and pain? This is part of what it means to live. Faith says that we have within us a transcendent divine depth that will see us through, even unto death. It also says that our lives, no matter who we are or our situation are part of something profoundly important. Each life matters. Each struggle contributes to and affects the whole. We are part of the Divine Life Communion — a grand narrative created and lived by God. The meaning, both personally and globally, is profound.
It can be difficult to get beyond our own self-interest. The fear and pain are real. But just like the soldiers and healthcare workers, we can dig deep and find the divine within to become part of the “something more”. In that probing, we recognize our most profound self.
Then, even with the prospect of death, faith can sustain us. Who knows what happens after death? Is it just the end? Perhaps but perhaps not. If this reality is a creation in the Mind of God, then what we can be sure of is that who we are and how we lived will be eternal in the Mind of God. Perhaps we would like to continue living in some fashion. Perhaps we will. Faith would say that we are okay with whatever God chooses to do or not do with that memory.