Now I have expressed many times and in many ways the faith which sustains me, both in good times and in bad, but I will recapitulate those affirmations for they bear repeating:
“I am confident in this at least: That the life of my flesh will persevere so long as I am able to accomplish the good acts which God has designed for me, and which He commands me to do according to the mystery of His Will. But when these things are at last accomplished, I may pass away. Therefore, I care little for whether I am sick or well; whether I am happy or sad; whether I am weak or strong. For in these, through these, and with these I will do what is in my power and in my call for the greater glory of God.”
How fully I believe this! But its articulation and its implementation are two different things. I am often inspired to return to this articulation of my faith as a reminder of what I have, and where I am going. But the power of fear in my life is remarkable; it sustains itself on creating absolutes out of limited truths. I am convinced, momentarily, that fear has good reason to hold sway for it is grounded in an undeniable truth which threatens my control, my happiness, my health, my existence. I believe somehow that the loss of this thing or that, the sickness which keeps me from work–even death–will be my ultimate end.
But this is so obviously counter to the faith which I profess. I was reminded of this today in church–a time and space when I am able to mentally confront my fears and recognize their truly weak and evanescent nature. What if I fall ill? What then? Will the proclamation of my faith change? How less sure will I be in the call of God and the sureness of salvation? Or if I come close to death? Or if I am cast out, rejected, despised? Christ endured all these things, and for the sake of us: that through his concomitant humanity and divinity we need not fear an end though the temporal, material essences we cling to are violated and abused.
Now it is one thing to accept this when in good health, when well off, when surrounded by good friends. It is another to hold it up as true when all the world falls out from under our feet–when the sureties of our material world are no longer sure and the sensual comforts that are so integral to our lives are suddenly done away with.
Here is the comfort that remains: Christ understands, even if not a single human soul can. Will that sustain us? It can indeed. But it won’t make the endurance of suffering and fear any easier either; God does not recognize our good faith and by its virtue, relieve us of our troubles. Quite to the contrary, as I’m sure you’ve seen. Sometimes the best people in our lives are the ones who suffer the most. And there is no explanation for it–not, at least, according to the script of human fairness. But what makes them good people anyway? Surely it is their loyalty, their love, their care of the other. And if suffering befalls them–even a cataclysm–why should a truly good person fail to be good then? It is proof to us of the presence of God, and a powerful hope in what is not only possible, but what is already ours.
I will continue to fear because it is in my nature. But the truth of God is what draws me out of my petrified self to do the good work due me in this creation. I am no good to God, or anyone else for that matter, as a whimpering skeleton of a person, hiding from life. Which is why I must always remember that the physical and material are part of my life, but not its essence. Indeed, I care little for whether I am sick or well, but I will still suffer if I am sick. I will still whine and complain, I will still fear death and ostracization. But that is not the point. If I cling only to those things–because I have no control over them–then what faith can I say I have in God? But to accept myself as sick and suffering, continuing on to serve as God calls, is what I am apt and able to do. More than this, I find that it gives me ever more life; I am not useless and I am not without love to give.
Let death come to me, and sickness–as much as wealth and poverty, happiness and sadness–that I may truly, truly know what is of value in this life. More so, that I know whose mark is on me and the world in which I live. Truly: what do I have to fear? A temporary grief, a momentary pain? What is that compared to eternity in jubilation?
This is why faith sustains me: I am free to be happy as I suffer in sadness; to know the riches of God within me as I scrape for pennies; to celebrate in purity and fullness of all being even as my body racks from fever and disease.
And so, I carry on with the paradox forever at play, that I may do what is in my power and in my call for the greater glory of the Almighty God.