MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
It’s a tricky thing, is it not?
Simply put, faith is the act of believing in that which we cannot see. If we could see God in all his glory, right before our mortal eyes—faith would instantly become a superfluous virtue. A moot point. After all, when we see the sun rise, we don’t stand about debating whether it’s a “real” sun or simply a clever sham. We know beyond a doubt that it’s real. We’ve seen it.
But . . . we cannot see our God. And this uncomfortable fact leaves each and every human being on earth alone to face, in their own way, the following dilemma. Namely: is God real? Or is the concept of an all-knowing, all-loving God just another pleasant fiction; something we humans have fabricated over the centuries as a way of keeping ourselves sane?
I know I, for one, have certainly struggled with this dilemma over the years. It’s a tough one. Deep inside, I feel—I know—that there’s a real God out there. There has to be. I’ve talked to Him, for Pete’s sake. And yet, I still have doubts, every so often . . . doubts that run something like this: “What the heck am I doing, anyway—trusting my heart, my future, my whole life, to a Power that I cannot prove is even real?”
If I could see God, this would be a lot easier, wouldn’t it? But I can’t. For the past year or so, whenever I’m wrestling in my mind with this issue, there’s a certain quote that keeps coming back to me—over and over. I think it means something; something special. (It does to me, anyway.) Here it is: “I know how you think. But I have seen too much. I believe in prayer for the dead. I have seen too much.”
As you might surmise from the reference to “prayer for the dead,” this quote is in the context of a Catholic-Protestant debate. It’s taken from Willa Cather’s masterpiece My Antonia, from the scene in which a Bohemian friend of Antonia Shimerda’s family tries to explain to their Protestant neighbors, the Burdens, why the Shimerdas need a priest for their dead father. But it doesn’t only apply to the Catholic-Protestant divide. This quote, I think, ultimately speaks to the struggle of human faith as a whole. Why, in the end, do we choose to believe in God? More to the point, why do I believe in God?
It’s pretty simple, really, I guess. I believe in God because . . . I have seen too much.
No, I haven’t seen God. And I never will, until I die. But I have seen, over and over and over, so much that tells my soul there truly is a God in this universe—a real, living, all-powerful God. And it’s what I’ve seen that keeps me going; even in the face of repeated attacks on my faith from the outside, and continual doubts from the inside.
I’ve seen men and women who have dedicated their entire lives to God’s service—and who are some of the happiest people I know, in the bargain.
I’ve seen people I love facing death in peace, without fear—and all because of their complete confidence in what awaits them on the other side, in their Father’s house.
I’ve seen the breathtaking, otherworldly joy on a child’s face when he or she receives the Eucharist for the very first time.
I’ve seen friends and family who don’t believe in God, and are yet comforted in times of pain and grief and uncertainty by the mere mention of His name.
I’ve seen awe-inspiring summer storms and the delicate, shimmering rainbows that follow; and I’ve felt the certainty of knowing that the Artist Who created them must be a thousand times more awe-inspiring and beautiful.
More than anything, I’ve seen how God’s love and mercy has changed me, as a person, and continues to change me—every day.
To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, I still believe in Almighty God, and I always will, no matter how many doubts assail me; “not . . . because I see [Him], but because by [Him] I see everything else.”
Faith. It’s still a tricky thing. But it’s worthwhile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott is a former homeschool student and current graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in American history with a focus on immigration studies. In her (sadly limited) free time, she can usually be found listening to “Hamilton” or Celine Dion or Twenty One Pilots and dreaming up new ideas for historical fiction novels. Which, she hopes, will someday make her famous. Someday…