From Times Online
February 5, 2010

Credo: We all have faith, whether or not we recognise it

How can we have faith in God when so much goes wrong and the world is so imperfect?

John Shepherd


There are lots of things in this life that are hard to understand. The hardest of all is God. How can we have faith in God when so much goes wrong in our lives, and the world is so imperfect?In Jesus, God has come into our life, yet God has not fixed up our life, so why have faith? If there is a God, why is there evil? Tragedy? Sadness? Disappointment? Why are there accidents? Why is there illness? Why do people die too young? Why doesn’t God miraculously intervene, and take things over? Dictate how everything should go, and what we do, and how we live our lives? 

But then, of course, we would have a world of fixed laws. Our lives would be totally regulated and controlled. We couldn’t decide anything for ourselves. We would not be allowed any choices, or any freedom of action.

So our lives would become non-lives. There would be no highs or lows. No modulations. No striving or hoping. No passion. We would have nothing that actually makes life worth living. We would have nothing to celebrate, for we would have achieved nothing ourselves.

Exclude the possibility of darkness in life, and we exclude the possibility of celebrating life. Exclude darkness, and the light is no longer special. If everything is light, there’s no light to strive for. There’d be nothing to try to do.

If God takes away the potential for us to fail, our bowlers would never get anyone out, and Australia would never win back the Ashes.

Knowing everything will be all right because God will make it so is no longer to have life.

No one, of course, is saying that the darkness is a good thing. But we do say that the darkness is a part of everything that makes up our lives, and that it’s there for us to overcome, and we overcome it by having faith in the light, the Son of God, the Christ.

And this is faith — trusting in God without specifying what will happen. God has let the darkness be, so we may have life. But as well, God has given us Jesus, so we may have faith that the darkness will not destroy us.

For some, of course, the idea of faith in God is fanciful. “Look at me,” we hear it said. “I’m self-sufficient. In charge of my own destiny. Having faith is for weaklings. Having faith is for people who haven’t got what it takes to cut it in the real world. Faith is just superstition with fancy clothes on.”

But before we demean the value of faith, let us think. No matter how much we say: “I’m a fully fledged human being. I’m an intelligent, reasonable, thinking person, so I have no need for faith,” we all actually do have faith.

We all need someone to believe in. And we all need someone who’ll believe in us. Think of the number of times we’ve told someone we have faith in them — that we know they can do it, that they’ll achieve their goal, pass that exam, get that job, survive that relationship, recover from that bereavement. We tell people we have faith in them all the time. “You can do it,” we say.

“I believe in you.”

And it happens to us as well. Think of the people who have told us they believe in us. They gave us confidence. They told us they had faith in us, and they believed we could do it.

We know how important faith is, because we’ve known what it’s like for people to have faith in us. And we all have this faith, consciously or unconsciously. We’ve all given it, and we’ve all received it. We know what it is and how it works. Having faith in others, and others having faith in us, isn’t a sign of weakness or mental deficiency. It’s reasonable and logical.

And it’s also reasonable and logical for us to have faith in the promise of a person in whom is found all that there is to be found of God.

And this promise is that, amid the darkness of our lives, there will always be that critical pinprick of light that will take away our fear.

We’ll still have disappointment, and rejection. We’ll still have to face failure, possibly tragedy. Let’s hope not, but the darkness will still be there.

Faith in God won’t take away the darkness. But what faith in God will do is to free us from the fear that the darkness will destroy the value and meaning of our lives.

The Very Rev Dr John Shepherd is Dean of Perth, Australia


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