Faith is the Belief in the Unseen

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The biggest impediment to our faith is ourselves. Not because we are weak, unworthy, or inherently bad, but because we trust too much in what we see, what we have learned, and what we think. Faith is a belief in the unseen. Our human instincts and our own senses can often drive us away from faith. If we cannot see, we think we cannot believe. From almost the day we are physically born our human senses seem to teach us what to trust and believe. Our very physical survival depends on this trust, but at the same time our human senses push us away from believing in the unseen. As we age, we learn to trust only in what we know, touch, feel, see, and surmise, creating a barrier that becomes harder each day for our faith to burst through.

Saint Augustine, one of the church’s early leaders, said, “Our hearts are unquiet until they rest in God.” A powerful statement from a man who in the first half of his life engaged in much debauchery. He was a great lawyer and orator in his early life. His fame was so widespread that he was recruited to go to Rome to teach aspiring students about oratory, reading, and philosophy. Augustine was one of the few in the 4th century, who could read and write at a very high level. During this period of his life he was in constant pursuit of the “truth,” while engaging in a life of sin. He relied on finding this “truth” through earthly means and his own intellect. If he could not use reason to understand what was real, then it was not real. Yet despite his great ability to reason, he kept slipping further away from finding the “truth.”

His mother, Monica, a deeply faithful woman spent a good deal of her life pushing her son to look to God for the “truth.” At each turn Augustine rebuffed her attempts, considering her efforts superstitious. Finally, after many failed attempts at finding the “truth,” and encouraged by his mother, he met with Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Through many meetings with the bishop, Augustine discovered that he had been on the wrong path to real truth. For Augustine, Bishop Ambrose showed that the “truth” resided in the unseen.

In a garden in Milan, sitting alone with his thoughts and in despair over his life’s journey, he heard a child’s voice. He was convinced this was the voice of Jesus, and in this moment, he knelt to accept Jesus as the “truth.” From this moment in his life he went on to become a bishop himself, and ultimately the key figure in firmly propelling the Christian church during the fourth century. After a lifetime of thinking about the “truth,” he discovered that real truth had not ever been that far away; it resided in his heart. A place that does not rationalize but believes. A place where both our joy and our pain reside. It is here our hearts are quieted and where we have faith in the unseen.

One of Jesus’ first acts was to deliver a powerful sermon revealing his mission on earth. This sermon is called the Sermon on the Mount. In it he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Jesus tells us in this verse to have a pure heart. A heart led to do good. One that avoids the temptation to give in to our fears, desires, and schemes. A heart that reaches outward to our neighbor. A heart that has faith in God. A heart that endures momentary losses and looks to the future. A heart of hope in the unseen. Jesus asks us to not give in to our personal power, but to our hearts and the existing human desire to do good as images of God. It is here we will see God and find our faith.

Augustine found his faith in his heart. He found it by looking not for the seen, but for the unseen. After what seemed to be a lifetime of unquiet, during the remainder of his life his heart became quieted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman