The falling night once again sends me on a spiritual journey. I’m holding a red rosary in my hands, one I bought last summer on the Czestochowa pilgrimage, within sight of Jasna Góra and the shrine of St Luke’s Black Madonna of Czestochowa. My mind wanders off to conversations I’ve had about faith and the struggle of people to believe. Many of my friends want to believe, but can’t. Others believe but don’t really know why. Some grew up without God and found Him through the years – others grew with an infant understanding of an omnipotent man with a white beard and couldn’t find anything to replace that childhood image of God, losing their faith. All of them, however, that went through the trouble of talking to me about God and the world, expressed an inner sense of discomfort with their situation. Whether they claimed to believe or not, none of them came out straight saying “Yes, this is it. I’ve found the enlightenment, the truth, this is how it is.” Surprise?
Not at all. If you’ve personally dealt with faith, you know what I’m talking about. There’s no mountain in your mind that you have to climb in order to look down on the universe of your reality. There won’t be a day where a lightbulb flashes above your head and you’ve found the ultimate answer, untouchable, unchangeable, unfailable to the tests of your own mind and the quotidien of the world. Even the strongest believers have doubts, and even the strongest doubters have their moments of belief. How’s that possible?
“Faith is never just there. so that at a given point in time, I could say: I’ve got it, others haven’t. We already talked about this. Faith is something that lives, that includes the entire human being – mind, will, feelings – in all of its dimensions. Faith can root deep in the life of a person, becoming more and more identical with it, but it’s never just a possession. A human being always remains possible to just go the other way.
Faith remains a path. We’re on a journey as long as we live, which means faith will be threatened and besieged over and over again. And it is healing that it won’t become an easy-top-handle ideology. That it won’t harden and make it impossible to feel with the doubting and questioning brother.” Benedictus XVI, God and the World
The fact that even a Cardinal, even a Pope can be doubting and struggling at times reminds us all of the imperfection of the human mind. I have yet to find an atheist that doesn’t wince after he’s caught himself crying “Thank God” whenever something turned out well the last minute. And I’ve yet to find a believer that can give a complete and satisfactory answer to the question why innocent children are dying of starvation every day while we’re feasting on the tables of our industrialized lives. It’s just too much for us to understand.
“Augustinus and others say God gives us what’s best for us – even if we can’t recognize it in advance. Often, we perceive the exact opposite of what he does as what’s best for us. One should learn to accept this way, that hurts us from experience and pain, and to see guidance in it. A lot of times, God’s way is an immense way of conversion, the remelting of our lives, in which we’re really changed and bent right.” Benedictus XVI, God and the World
It’s easy to see that accepting something that feels wrong doesn’t comply with human nature… who wouldn’t want to give up on faith if faith ment accepting the bad and the ugly? How can we believe in a God that makes us do things we don’t want and gives us things we feel we don’t deserve? A question that is very alive. A question that I’ve answered for myself with two simple words – love and hope.
Love. The only way to descripe the sense and purpose of life in just one word. The greatest gift a person can give – a sparkle of divinity in the sadness of the world, a hint of perfection on the face of mankind. The basic principle and final goal of life. And while pop music often asks the question: “What greater feeling than being loved?”, I’d like to answer by saying: “What greater feeling than to truly love?” In the relationship with friends and parents, I find the final argument pro faith, no matter how rough times are.
Hope. The grain of mustard seed that can grow to become a strong and mighty tree. A word that speaks for itself. A word that changes moods. A word that moralizes, gives strength, reminds us of the possibility that all ends well. And a concept that makes believing a lot easier: in the end, we don’t have to accept every situation of our lives by saying “God wants it to be this way”. It is okay to shout, cry and shake fists at the Lord, much like Hiob did and many of us still do in times of despair. What should never be forgotten is love God has for us… and the hope that we’ll manage to deal with it the right way. Even if we doubt. Understanding will come early enough.
Hoffnung means hope…