When we lose faith, it seldom has much to do with mysterious doctrines like the Trinity or the hypostatic union. More often, we lose faith in people to whom we looked for guidance, or we judge life to have taken such a disastrous turn that not even God can remedy circumstances. We lose faith in human goodness or in divine providence. And who among us has not been so tempted?
Elijah the prophet had just witnessed God’s astounding victory on Mount Carmel, and yet he was cast down by the infidelity of his compatriots. He had had enough. He had lost faith. Some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with food, turned away when he explained the source of his mysterious power. They had had enough. Their response: I doubt it.
In some ways it is much easier to study the faith than to live by it. Perhaps this is because we are not expected to understand the mysteries to which we pledge allegiance, but we are expected to live righteously through the mysterious twists and turns of life. We have to live with disappointment and loss and failure, and not give up on other people or on God. We have to allow our expectations and perspectives to be challenged, and not turn our backs on the possibility of new insight.
Paul provides us with a plan of action. Do away with bitterness, fury and anger. Live lives of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. What has any of this to do with faith? It is faith that strengthens us to live in this way in a world filled with terror and violence, in a church marked by betrayal and disillusionment. Will we ever really understand our faith? I doubt it. Will we ever really learn to live by it? I hope so.