Inoculated with Faith/Hope/Love
by Shawn McEvoy, Director of Editorial
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I remember the morning following the 2012 presidential election, I found myself musing peacefully about what's important in life. I was finding out, through realizing how little the outcome affected me, how little stock I'd had in the result personally. I was neither dancing in the streets nor cursing the fates like several friends and acquaintances. How was that? Apathy? Ignorance? Internal focus? Eternal security? Just a really easy morning sending the kids off to school?
Then it hit me. It was the theological virtues. I began to compose what became a Facebook status:
"...I do find Faith and Hope such interesting concepts. They're so powerful. They allow so many to get on with their lives. They inform our decisions and give us empathy for others. They point us towards purpose, toward wrongs to be righted and away from what would harm us. They seem to be in short supply sometimes, even among those who proclaim them while venting frustrations and fears they'd not utter to your face, but they shine brightest in tough times if you let them. And they're most famously tied to Love. They are still here this day, even if it doesn't sound like it, for they are the virtues that 'abide.'
"So I ask regardless of political persuasion: Do you have Faith to loan to the one today who has lost his, or placed it in something temporal and disappointing? Can you spare Hope for one who doesn't understand that Despair is the only place hope functions?
"These virtues are superior inoculations against whatever goes on around us, the very infusions that make possible a mission of bringing joy, mercy and laughter into the world every day, that elevate 'I can endure all things' above a mere platitude. They task one with a job that'll get you up in the morning, any morning. They bring to our eyes opportunity: chances for justice and charity, and the exercise of freedom. And, good news for me, Faith-Hope-Love is beautifying, for I can think of none who ever saw the application of these virtues - call it Grace - in action and said, 'Ugly.'"
It wasn't long before I was tasked with the charge I had just set before others. A forlorn friend messaged me.
"I honestly need prayer. I am sincerely requesting it. I do not feel love, I do not feel any desire to "get past it and heal and show love more now than ever." ...I am disheartened to the point of despair. ...I don't want to feel this way but I do. And it's been getting worse all day. Please pray for me. ...Considering your FB post earlier, I came to you with my request because I thought that at the least you'd understand."
After a moment of prayer I responded:
"I have already been praying for you ever since waking early and noting that you were 'heart sick.' It can start to feel like a lonely place but you are not alone. I won't try to talk you off the ledge politically because the timing's not right and there's no point in anyone else's opinion when what's killing you and eating at you so bad is how 'uninformed and wrong' all the opinions out there seem to you. I only hope you can get to the bottom of why it gets to you so bad.
"In microcosm, it reminds me of a HORRIBLE flight to Newark I shared with two of my co-workers back in April. I was convinced that nasty flight was going down. I even posted ugly things about it publicly. I was SO MAD that while I was holding on for dear life while the plane bounced (yes, bounced!) around the sky, none of the other passengers seemed to mind. At least not much. I wanted to scream, 'Come on, people! This isn't right! Why did they put us on this plane in these conditions, and why are you taking this jostling?'
"On the other hand, my friend [and Christianity.com editor] Alex really couldn't understand why I would fret at all. After all, what is the worst that can happen to the believer? Death has no victory, so it's not that. And fear? What is fear except that from which we've already been delivered (death, sin, destruction, loss)? And sovereignty - what does my angry fretting reveal about what I believe about the nature of God?
"Hey, I think it's quite possible, biblically speaking, and regardless of the results of this particular vote, that things will happen in this country that are 'undesirable.' But I also know that through them and despite them I will cherish every moment with my family, try not to hold too tightly to anything eaten by moth or rust, and look for opportunities to help, and to live out my faith, purpose, and morality individually.
"I have no doubt you will be out of this slump at some point. But it may take a while. I daresay you may even want to talk to a counselor about it (I say this as someone who's done it).
"In the meantime, the simplest (yes, I know that can mean 'most naive') thing is to consider experience a good teacher. Nothing yet political, economic or electorial has befallen you or this country that killed either of you. In your 40 years, you have amassed great blessings; do not forget them, or Job 3:25. If you could erase everything in your mind and wake up today to discover the life you have, would your sky be nearly so dark right now?
"Rejoice! Get out of town. Go for a drive in the country with the top down. Go ahead, tell God he'd better know what he's doing allowing for the kings and counselors of the earth which he has ordained. And then leave it alone for a while. Go the indirect route. Study/read/pray about something else. Help someone else, even by just sending a note or letter to someone you know.
"These are the things that help me when I'm down, when I start hating my own people.
"Speaking of which, I sent friend requests to both ______ and ______ today. I figure it's time I stopped damming what would flow from my own heart. So please let me encourage you not to start. Much love!"
Intersecting Faith and Life: These words helped my friend, a little. This letter gave me a chance to be the hope to one person I'd challenged others to be. This day of lost faith for some became an opportunity for so many others to talk about theirs. And you know what? Today is no different. The same needs and chances are there. Apply the theological virtues with Grace in a specific way (a mere note, gift, hand-on-shoulder can suffice) before you go to bed.
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