In his descriptions of the first century AD German tribesmen, the Roman general Tacitus wrote that it was a disgrace to throw away one’s shield. He was referring to deserting soldiers, who dropped their heavy shields and ran away from the battlefield in fear.
His observation has meaningful application to the realm of faith as well. In Ephesians chapter six, the apostle Paul describes faith as our shield. Throwing away faith is more than a disgrace, it is a tragedy. Faith is a shield that protects us in many ways.
What does faith protect us from?
In the immediate, faith protects us from fear. The idea that God is looking out for us is a powerful fear-killer. We are not nearly so vulnerable when God is standing between us and the thing that we fear. I have learned that turning and running, and exposing my back to the enemy is not such a smart move compared to standing safely behind my shield. Sometimes, though, it takes all the strength I have to stand firm.
In the interim, faith protects us from hopelessness. If we can see that God is on our side, we have reason to hope that things will get better. This trouble will not last forever. When biblical King Jehosophat was threatened by the vast army of his enemies, the prophet Jahaziel told him, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” ( 2 Chronicles 20:17 ). Sometimes we need to fight. Sometimes we just need to wait and trust in God.
God will right all wrongs
Faith brings us comfort in the face of injustice. We expect that someday, God will fix what is wrong with the universe, that evil will be destroyed and that good will triumph. This understanding goes a long way toward helping us to come to terms with the suffering and disappointments that we all experience in our lives.
In his Critique of Practical Reason, the philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that there must be such a thing as eternity, and that people must be immortal, since the justice that we expect doesn’t necessarily happen in our lifetimes. In eternity, Kant believes, all will be put to rights.
Faith tells us that “this too shall pass,” and that things will get better. There is hope for a better future.
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
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