Helen Keller once said, “By faith, I mean a vision of good one cherishes and enthusiasm that pushes one to seek its fulfillment, regardless of obstacles. … Faith reinvigorates the will, enriches the affections, and awakens a sense of creativeness. Active faith knows no fear, and it is a safeguard to me against cynicism and despair” [Helen Keller, “The Light of a Brighter Day,” in This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, eds. Jay Allison and Dan Gediman (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007), p. 138].
As an infant, a fever left Helen deaf and blind. But with the assistance of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she learned to communicate through the eyes and ears of others. In time, she graduated from Radcliffe College, and became a renowned author and activist.
Faith is a verb! When we lose ourselves in service to others, it is an expression of faith and a form of participation in the Way of Jesus. As C. S. Lewis once said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”
Helen Keller admits how troubled her heart was when she learned of all those who “must labor all their days for food and shelter, bear the most crushing burdens, and die without having known the joy of living.” Likewise, you and I know people who struggle to get by in this economy, who battle addictions, who experience lingering illness, or who do not have a place to call home. We too are affected by the world’s pain because of our shared humanity.
However, it does little good to lose heart. The apostle Paul writes, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). The external material of life as we know it deteriorates and changes. But there is something more than this outer nature we see. There is an inner nature that is being renewed by Christ each and every day!
As disciples of the resurrected Christ, we already live in the dawning of God’s coming reign. We “look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (4:18).
We do not lose heart because we don’t think this physical, material world is all there is. There is an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure (4:17) waiting for us! We trust that in the age to come both our bodies and the body of Christ will be transformed.
So when life gets us down, we look up! We look at the promise of hope in the risen Christ! We look beyond the transiency of earthly life to the eternal presence of God! We look past the slight momentary afflictions we suffer to the eternal weight of glory seen from the perspective of faith!
Despite her handicaps, Helen Keller was not only grateful; she devoted her life to assisting others who were deaf and blind. She said, “For three things I thank God every day of my life. Thanks that He has given me knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to – a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”
Rachel Hackenberg, a United Church of Christ pastor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has written a beautiful poem called “Hold On.” Here’s an excerpt, but the whole poem is found at faithandwater.blogspot.com.
When all else fails you, hold on to a song:
one that stirs your soul and pulls you with it
on a high soaring ride….
If it is love that fails you, as love does,
hold on to a flower: see how its true beauty
is revealed in blessing the work of bees.
If it is the mind that fails you,
hold on to a toddler’s hand
and discover the world again….
If it is time that fails you, hold on to your path:
you have only the Where and the When
of the Present; God meets you there.
But again, dear friends: when all else fails you,
hold on to a song that sings you to heaven
and do not be afraid.
Words (c) 2012 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c) 2012 Dallis Day Richardson