Faith, Hope and Love
There are a lot of interesting and mysterious verses in the Bible, but there's one that has always intrigued me more than most, and it's found in Hebrews chapter 11:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (NKJV)
I underlined all those words to place emphasis on them and to also draw them into contrast with one another. Because when you do this, you start to see that this verse doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.
I've seen other translations try to parse the words "substance" and "evidence" in an attempt to soften the paradox that the author of Hebrews puts forth here.
You see, there's not really any substance for things that you are hoping for. Hoped for things are intangible, ephemeral, and otherwise difficult to grasp. To say that these things have substance borders on the ridiculous.
And then there's the "evidence of things not seen," which absolutely makes no sense at all. If you can't perceive something, it's difficult if not impossible to provide any tangible evidence for it.
Listen, I am sure that some of us could sit around all day debating that last point, but in the end, the author of Hebrews is making a pretty difficult ask for us to define faith in these terms, don't you think?
The late Rachel Held Evans wrote about this very thing in her posthumously published book Wholehearted Faith, and I'd like to share this line which really spoke to me:
At its best, faith teaches us to live without certainty and to hope without guarantee... to live and to love like this is to live and to love in holy danger.
Rachel Held Evans is so right---there are no guarantees about tomorrow, and putting our faith in trust in God is an act that requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability, which is frightening to most of us.
This is why I love the words that Evans uses at the end of this quote: holy danger. Holy danger is the perfect phrase to describe what transpires when in faith we choose to surrender our outcomes to God, and to trust that [God's] love will win in the end.
The idea of holy danger isn't a new concept for us.
We know the risks that come with love. To love means to risk getting your heart broken. To love means letting your armor down, which also means that you can be wounded. To love is an act of vulnerability that is filled with uncertainty.
And hope... come on. We've all had our hopes dashed before, and more than a few times in conjunction with a moment of heart-forward vulnerability. Also, in times of uncertainty, hope is difficult to muster and requires an act of defiance on our part.
Defiant hope is the kind of hope that rises within us when our circumstances point toward hopelessness. That kind of hope is the constant companion of the holy danger we open ourselves up to when we lean into faith.
And it is when we embrace them both that we open ourselves up to the never-ending, unconditional love of God---the kind of love that heals, restores, and resurrects us when all seems lost.
Could this be why the Apostle Paul once wrote: And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love?
May you hold fast to faith, and embrace the holy danger of surrender... May you be willed with defiant hope that God's love will win the day, every day... May you experience this love fully and completely...
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.