“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13
I was talking with Noa at the synagogue. She had asked me how I was, and I told her that I was struggling with recent events in my life.
She said to me, “You know, Frank, sometimes you just have to have faith.”
That was an interesting comment. Seeing as Noa is an Orthodox Jew, I doubt that she was referring to faith in Jesus. Her words did set some thoughts in motion.
I looked up the definition of faith. There were several available, and most of them had a strong religious connotation. One of the definitions simply stated that faith was “a complete trust in somebody or something”. I can work with that.
I think that humans are meant to have faith. I think that people have a burning need to believe in something. We require some sense of order and purpose. Carl Jung once commented that you could destroy a person if he or she thought that they were just actors “in a tale told by an idiot”. Faith doesn’t need to be religious in nature. It’s a matter of trust. For instance, I don’t know that the sun will rise tomorrow, however I have faith that it will.
John Lennon wrote a song called God. The lyrics of the song are essentially a laundry list of things which Lennon refuses to believe. It is his testimony to his lack of faith. However near the end of God, Lennon sings these words:” I just believe in me, Yoko and me, and that’s reality.” So, even at his most skeptical moment, Lennon still has faith in somebody. He can’t get away from it.
What kind of faith did Noa mean? I’m not sure. I suspect she was referring to some kind of faith in God, trusting that He has things in hand. I think the assumption here is that God is all-powerful and all-loving. Does the evidence indicate that God is in fact all-loving? Maybe, maybe not. There is an awful lot of suffering going on. On the other hand, who else is there? The problem with monotheism is the lack of alternatives. I trust in God because I see no other options.
I think that hope is hard-wired into humanity. People are irrationally and exuberantly hopeful even in times of deep crisis. Why is that?
The alternative to hope is death. I don’t necessarily mean immediate death, but it will come. I am aware that we all die anyway, but a lack of hope accelerates the process. No matter what the evidence says, we keep believing that things will work out. We have to do that in order to function. Hope is a virtue, and it’s also a survival technique.
Love is a word that is used in many ways, so that it often has no meaning at all. I define love as a type of self-sacrifice. It means giving up what I want so that somebody else can have what they need. Love is dynamic. It is an action. It is a verb. Love has very little to do with feelings. In my experience, the greatest acts of love have been accompanied by the most frightening or sorrowful feelings. Love is not for the timid.
I would like to think that love is also inherent in human nature. History is full of examples when love was absent, but that is partly because love is not very dramatic or exciting. Love mostly consists of small, personal acts of kindness. For some reason, those types of events don’t make the news.
Faith, hope, and love are all entwined. They cannot be separated. I have faith that, in the end, love prevails. I have hope that it will happen in my life, and in the lives of those I love. All three things are actually one.