11/04/2014 03:45 pm ET Updated Jan 04, 2015

Putting Faith in Perspective

Serg Myshkovsky via Getty Images

One of the joys of being over the age of 50 is having experienced some living. And it's that experience of life that teaches us the meaning of things like wisdom and faith. At age 50 -- and beyond -- we have learned a few things. We know what we know, and many of us even begin to recognize and appreciate what we don't know. People in their teen years tend to act as if they "know it all," while we middle-aged folks finally understand that we'll never know all of "it."

One of the mysteries of Life is the fact of Faith. Now in my 60th decade, I know that Faith is something very real.

I grew up in church. I know the Biblical definition of faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." What this used to say to me was that faith is a "wishful thinking" mechanism. You hope that something will come to pass, or hope that something will happen. The other half of that, the "conviction of things not seen," meant that you hoped for the thing to happen based on no evidence that it will. I've known some people who have literally wished that they would receive an amount of money and then sit around waiting for it to arrive.

Is this Faith? I don't think so.

Faith, I now believe, is something we hold to be true because Life experiences have demonstrated the truth of it.

Can I say that I have faith the sun will rise each morning? No. The sun rises each morning whether I believe it will or not. Nothing about the way I think or believe has any effect on the rising or setting of the sun.

Can I claim to have faith in another person? Can I assure someone in their life by saying I have faith in them? No. Each person will ultimately do what they will with or without our belief or hope. You can trust in another person. You can trust their word or have hope in their good intentions.

If I am sitting in a hospital bed being treated for a possible life-threatening condition, can I have faith that I will be restored to health? I have two thoughts on this one:

  1. I can have faith defined as trust that my doctor will use his knowledge to correctly diagnose my condition and correctly prescribe treatment/medication; I can then have faith and trust in myself to follow the outlined treatment plan to maximize its effectiveness.
  2. I can have faith that the God I believe in will intercede and bring me back to good health.

In one way, Faith can be defined in our lives as "trust." Trust is a belief that we hold that is usually based on experience. We often hear about trust being "built." Trust is having confidence that the actions of others towards us, or for us, will be to our benefit. In the case of the doctor, I don't so much have faith that he will do what's best for me, as I trust in his abilities... as he has previously demonstrated in other health situations. Here it's more a "knowing," rather than "hoping."

The second thought I had about Faith is much more on the spiritual plane. However it is no less based on experience and trust. For me, I do believe there is a God and I do believe that He cares about what happens to me. Do I base this on blind "faith without proof"? No. In my life I have actually experienced the hand of God acting in my life for my benefit. This is a knowing. I know, without doubt, that this higher power will do what is best for me -- will allow to happen -- what ultimately is best for me. I don't need to see God standing before me to have this faith. I have seen the evidence of His work in my life in previous situations.

This, to me, is the actual meaning behind the second half of the Biblical definition: "the conviction of things not seen." The "person" of God is not seen, but the evidence of His work certainly is.

Questions like "Why do bad things happen to good people?" are ones I can't answer. They are best left with philosophers and theologians. Rather we can define for ourselves the truth of what we believe. I can say that I am a "person of Faith" because I know faith to be a fact, something experienced and not a wish upon a star thing of no substance.