Fanning the Flames of Faith

I saw a homeless man pushing his cart full of junk today. The cart contained everything he owned. His scraggly beard was as dirty as his matted, stringy hair. It was evident he had not bathed in a while. The rags he wore hung loosely from his gaunt frame. What I remembered the most about him was his eyes. They were serious, dark, empty eyes that had lost all hope. Adversity had overcome his ability to believe in his dreams.

Hope often hides in adversity’s shadow. Adversity tries to convince us that it will destroy us as it taunts us and tells us there’s no reason to keep going. It wants us to give up and accept our condition.

A young couple enters marriage with grandiose plans and dreams, anticipating the glorious future they will build together. They soon discover that adversity walks alongside their hope. He loses his job, she miscarries their first child, and they move in with his parents in a house shrouded in conflict. The question, “Why?” hangs in the air. And eventually hope turns into anger, bitterness, and defeat.

In the beginning, there is an abundance of hope. Christopher Columbus left Spain because he had hope. The Pilgrims experienced untold suffering just for the promise of freedom to worship their God. They spent two months on the Mayflower enduring taunting by the crew, sickness, storms, and death before finally landing at Plymouth Rock. They continued, however, and produced the greatest nation on earth.

The early American settlers traveled in wagon trains, thousands of miles across the dangerous, unfamiliar terrain, just for the hope of a better life. Women buried their husbands along the wagon trail, yet they persevered and continued their long journey west. Hope was their only consolation. Adversity was the constant companion of those heroes who struggled for a better way of life. Hope was always close by, eager to nurture and strengthen their battered faith.

A misguided pastor once preached a message titled; There is No Such Thing as Hope. His theory was that we must have faith. “Faith is to be sought after with everything in us. Hope is futile. It is faith that moves mountains,” he blustered, “not hope.” While it is true, faith is the drive that ultimately fuels our endeavors; hope is the spark that ignites faith’s flames. How can we remain assured that we will receive our desires without the seed of hope from which to build?

Before every great work of art can begin, before laying the foundation of a nation, before building a magnificent cathedral, before bringing a new life into the world, there is hope. Hope is the underpinning of every great enterprise. Our dreams cannot exist without hope. Adversity challenges every endeavor, every dream, and plan. We invest our finances, our time, our strength, commitment, and honor while adversity laughs at us, mocks us, and calls us foolish. Sadness grows into a lump in our throat, choking the life out of us while we look to heaven and ask, “Why?”

As we wipe our tears we peer across the horizon. Is that a cloud moving toward us? What can it be? How can we endure another disappointment? The cloud moves closer, and we can makeout the towering red “H” on its chest against the blue backdrop of his suit. The crimson cape of promise ripples in the wind. Hope has arrived. Adversity must step aside as hope wraps its powerful arms around us, soothing us with words of promise. Hope fuels our faith, and we can move forward once again.

Our dreams, desires, and promises are there for the taking. We can change things. We can make a better world. Although adversity stands by, longing to destroy us, hope steps up, ready to carry us back once again to our faith. For those who will allow it, hope fans the flames of faith with the promise of a better tomorrow.

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