“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness…And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more.” (1) Anne Frank
Writing the above, Anne Frank was, of course, speaking of war and senseless slaughter rather than pestilence, but her attitude of hope amidst the very worst is something that we could all benefit from adopting. In fact, we are encouraged not merely to feel hope, but to feel joy. Dom Delatte wrote in 1902:
“It is a duty for each one of us to be joyful. It is a remarkable religion [Christianity] in which joy is a precept, in which the command is to be happy, in which cheerfulness is a duty.” (2)
Further, in the letter of James Chapter 1, verses 2 and 3 he writes
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
We were all made differently, and for some the adoption of a joyful attitude is more difficult. This may be down to disposition or it may be that some of us are in circumstances which are objectively more demanding. Nonetheless, it is something to be striven for in every situation.
To take such an outlook on life requires faith. But what is faith all about? It helps to consider faith in historical perspective. Before the advent of science, nearly everyone had faith. You were practically born with it. The opposite of faith in that period was heresy—mad, bad heresy. A threat to society. And heresy was to be defeated and vanquished by inquisition or crusade. (3)
By the 19th century, after the advent of science and so called modernity, faith came for many to be seen as implausible. People began to doubt the scriptures, doubt the creeds, doubt the teachings on hell, and doubt eternal life. As I have said elsewhere, many people of this period began to see God as a being who established natural laws, set the world running and stepped back, not becoming involved in our affairs.
But we are all post-modernists now. We understand that most people regard everything as relative. If we have any sort of faith we will have to have chosen it and chosen it from a wide range of so called “options.” Ironically, if anything, the opposite of faith as it is now understood is certitude. But if we could scientifically prove all the aspects of our faith, it wouldn’t be faith. (4)
As Paul Evdokimov writes:
“Every compelling proof violates the human conscience and changes faith into simple knowledge. That is why (on the cross) God limits his almighty power, encloses himself in the silence of his suffering love, withdraws all signs, suspends every miracle [and] casts a shadow over the brightness of his face…It is because a [person] can say no that a yes can attain a full resonance.” (5)
But that is not to say that faith doesn’t make sense. We see meaning in the universe because the universe is fundamentally meaningful. (6) And closer to home– nature is beautiful and meaningful and reveals the glory of God. We know of ourselves and each other that the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ is the truth embedded in the universe. That is why we can have faith, and this faith produces hope, and hope makes joy possible. So no matter what your circumstances—try to practice joy.
1. Anne Frank quoted in Bywater, Lyndall,(2019), An unfair fight, in Prayer: Bible Reflections, edited by Andrew Roberts. Abingdon: The Bible Reading Fellowship. p. 31
2. Delatte, Dom (2016), Commentary on Psalm 1 cited in The Spirit of Solesmes, ed Sister Mary David Totah. Found in Sister Mary David Totah, (2019) The Joy of God, London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. xvii.
3. Smith, Martin, (1995), Faith in Nativities and Passions. U.S.A.: Cowley Publications. Pp 177-178.
4. Smith, Martin, (1995), Faith in Nativities and Passions. U.S.A.: Cowley Publications. P. 180.
5. Evdokimov, Paul, (1966), The Struggle with God. Glenrock, New Jersey: Paulist Press. P. 34. Found in Smith, Martin (1995), Faith in Nativities and Passions. U.S.A.: Cowley Publications. P. 181.
6. Smith, Martin, (1995), Faith in Nativities and Passions. U.S. A.: Cowley Publications. P. 180