Faith in Life – Faith in God
And the LORD said unto satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still, he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movest me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (Job 2:3)
I recently read the short story (in translation) “Zadig the Babylonian” by Voltaire. It is a fictional story of the life of a brilliant, humble, and good kindly man, Zadig, whose existence is a series of successes and disappointments. The ‘disappointments’ are almost universally attributable to others’ jealousies of Zadig. Part of Zadig’s story reads like the story of Job, whose faith in God was tried to unimaginable extremes, but remained. However, there is one key difference: Zadig’s ‘faith’ was in life itself, while Job’s faith was in God.
Voltaire’s story has left me questioning what the differences are between ‘faith in life’ and ‘faith in God’? I know of many people who embrace life – people who, in Freud’s terms, operate through Eros (the instinct to life) rather than through Thanatos (the instinct to death). I would like to say that these people are a joy to be around and that their ‘positive attitude’ is at once right and moral, but I don’t always feel that way about them. Similarly, I would like to say that any instinct toward death is morally wrong, and indeed I believe this to be generally true, but I know of people who struggle horribly in this world from whom I do feel love and joy. It is clear that, ‘faith in life’, while ostensibly good in itself, isn’t enough. Not only is ‘faith in life’ not sufficient, it is a deceptive substitute for ‘faith in God’.
I feel this to be the case because faith in life – at least in the individuals in which I observe this trait – can be only about this life. These people hold to a belief that our world is everything, and what is to be embraced is material and present. Faith in life sometimes also seems a lot like faith in the world that ‘is’, rather than faith in the world that ‘ought’. It manifests itself in the worldly successful, whose energies are more directed towards each individual advancing their own life than ‘life’ in general. And even the most altruistic and seemingly upright and good among these people are not necessarily spiritual.
I cannot deny that faith in life is also a component of faith in God and in His gifts of abundance. A component – yes — but not the same however. To have faith in God is to believe in the victory of the righteous over evil. To have faith in God is to believe that, despite our failings – including our sometimes Thanatos – we are loved by God, and forgiven for our sins by embracing Him. Indeed, the very essence of Jesus’s saving grace is not that we are the very best we can be in the natural world, but rather that, despite the fact we are definitely not our best in the natural world, we can still find the solace in the spiritual peace of God’s grace. For no matter what, we deceive ourselves it we think that by putting faith wholly in life itself, that we can avoid being worldly failures. We are destined to fall short of our best intentions, to fail to fulfil our appetites, to fall short of our ambitions whether selfless or not. To keep faith in worldly life only, despite our failures in life – as did Voltaire’s Zadig – may be to live admirably as a ‘fellow well-met and hail-hearty’, but is also to be delusional. But to keep faith in God, in His divine presence in all things, and in His saving grace despite worldly failure – as did Job – is to experience real Truth.
For faith in God IS faith in the eternal light, whereas faith in life is at best temporal and worldly. Moreover, faith in God, such as that held by Job, always prevails over the tortuous evils of natural physicality and leads to spiritual elevation, goodness, and peace. Faith in life offers no such guarantee.
Job’s story makes sense only if we realize that his faith was in something far more important than life itself. His faith was in God. Job sought what was good for his spirit over and above all else, entrusting God’s grace to rectify all the things he suffered in his earthly life. And as we know from reading about Job in the Bible, his faith was rewarded