Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. —Hebrews 11:1-3
Hebrews Chapter 11 is an astounding essay on faith. Using a device not unlike call and response preaching, the writer employs a total of 18 times the phrase “by faith…” and then proceeds to list actions and attributes of great people from the past. The bottom line seems to be that, when we are in despair—not uncommon either in the era in which the book was written or in our current time-–we can recall the faith of those who went before, who did not look back but looked forward. They trusted (the real sense of the Greek word pistis, or “faith”) God and so were able to focus on what was/is to come. Clearly the implication is that we can do the same.
But how? How do we get there when we feel lost? How do we stop the worry and self doubt? How do we gain a sense of ‘everything will be okay’ when it feels as though ‘everything is falling apart’? How do we get pulled back to faith (for faith, dearly beloved, is not a one way street) when we are feeling helpless?
The best tools I have found are confession (talking to another person about my fears and struggles, to which they always respond with something that gives me the perspective I need to turn around) and prayer—prayer that asks God to remove our fear and replace it with hope/faith. This beautiful prayer from Joyce Rupp is a brilliant reminder of the many ways God is present to us as consolation, hope, truth, compassion, light, comfort and peace.
be a source of serenity for me
when struggles and difficulties
threaten to overwhelm me.
God of hope,
assure me of your unconditional love
when I doubt myself
or question the worth of my life.
encourage me to embrace you
during those times when I get lost
in the lies of my weakness.
hold me to your heart
when I feel helpless
in the face of the world’s pain.
keep me ever close to you
during those moments
when bleakness surrounds my life.
shelter me under your wings
when I am engulfed in sadness
and overcome with distress.
God of peace.
you are the center of my life,
a strong refuge of peace
in the whirlwind of my pain.
I look to you for strength
and a constant assurance of hope.
When I pray this prayer I am always left with hope. May it be so for you.
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade