Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
When did you last put your faith in some one or something? It may have been getting on an aeroplane trusting that we would land safely. It may have been going to see a hospital consultant and awaiting a longed for diagnosis. It may have been visiting a friend hoping for a particular outcome or response. Think for a moment. How did we feel? How did we react? Perhaps slightly uncertain, anxious, troubled and even vulnerable.
Our readings today are all about putting our trust in God without always knowing what the outcome will be. Of having to trust despite what we are being told or what seems most likely to be a foregone conclusion. Abraham longed for Sarah, his wife, to bear a son and heir. It seemed impossible. Yet God brought him outside and said “Look toward heaven and count the stars. So shall your descendants be”.
Did you notice the word most repeated in our readings? “Faith”. It is repeated at least seven times in Hebrews. The other repeated words are “Do not be afraid”. Faith and anxiety seem to co-exist. They never quite disappear. There seems to be an ongoing tension and even struggle.
In the book entitled “Glimpses of the Divine” the German artist and catholic priest, Sieger Koder (1925-2015) captured something of the hidden God in the everydayness of life through his paintings. His brushstrokes allow us to see the struggle at the core of every relationship. In separation and reconciliation; in our wrestling with doubt, guilt, fear; in joyful recognition; in the choices we make; in the gifts that we receive; in moments of darkness or quiet fidelity. Above all in the face of a loved one, stranger or enemy we discover a glimpse of the God who hides and waits to be found - who understands our longings and our frustrations.
One commentator has written “Like Abraham, Christians are part of an ongoing story. They come in on a conversation that is already taking place; in which something of the character of the main speaker is already evident. And like Abraham, we are aware that our story too will have consequences for those who follow. Hebrews narrates that the patriarchs do not see the completion of God’s plan, though they see enough to be able to guess and be excited. And they understand enough to be able to live their lives in such a way that they can help generations to come to play their part in their turn. They like Abraham live with this mixture of knowing God through what he has already done and longing to see what is still unknown. Part of what they bequeath to generations to come is that discontent, that restless certainty that what you already know about God and his ways is never enough. Desire and discontent are strange qualities to value but apparently, they are what makes God willing to be identified with us”.
As we struggle at times with being afraid and anxious; of longing for that heavenly city which has still to be fully revealed; and of having faith in those things “hoped for but not yet seen” may we take confidence in the words of Richard Floyd:-
“In the end it is trust in God’s benevolence towards us that grounds our otherwise ungrounded existence. Grounded in that faith, grounded in the divine benevolence, we can live, not without anxiety, but with faithful courage in the midst of anxiety”.