Faith, trust, and the total solar eclipse
Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.
Hebrews 11:1, Common English Bible
On Monday, August 21, 2017, “everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse” (NASA). For those nearest the path of the total solar eclipse, it will appear as though the sun is disappearing in the middle of the day.
Those who have experienced a total solar eclipse in the past, tell us the event can be confusing to animals and insects. Many of them will begin their evening routines as the skies grow dark and the air cools ever so slightly. Crickets may start chirping. Birds may find their nests and settle in as if for the night. Our dogs may circle and curl into those tight balls they lie in when they sleep.
Of course, it would be weird if the people living in Idaho Falls, Idaho—one of the cities in the path of the total solar eclipse—brushed their teeth and changed into their pajamas at 11:00 a.m. as the eclipse nears totality. We know the darkness won’t last very long, so we do not react to it. We instead act on what we know.
A solar eclipse occurs when Earth’s moon lines up between us and the sun, hiding the sun from view. It is a spectacular sight, but be sure to have special solar eclipse sunglasses that allow you to look directly into the sun safely.
The whole thing will last less than 3 hours from start to finish, and the darkest times of total eclipse only 2 minutes. It would be silly for us to act on what our senses tell us and get ready for bed. Instead, we trust what we cannot see but know to be true.
Faith is comfort and call
In the book of Hebrews, the author talks about faith as “the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see” (Hebrews 11:1 CEB). As people of faith, we find comfort in knowing there is more to life than what we perceive with our senses.
Hebrews 11 recounts the stories of many from the Old Testament who learned by faith of God’s presences in their lives. Noah knew God would save him and his family through the flood. Abraham and Sarah believed that God would make a great nation from them, even though they were old and childless.
The passage also mentions the faith of others like Rahab, David, Samuel, and the prophets. All of these believed in the promises of God, even when life appeared dark.
Their faith in God comforted them, but it was also a call. Each acted on God’s promises before they had come to fruition.
Noah built the ark before it started raining. Abraham and Sarah trusted God and moved before they knew the final destination, and (eventually) trusted that God would provide them with a son.
After listing people of faith from the past in Hebrews 11, the twelfth chapter begins with a call for each of us to live by faith. “So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us,” the scriptures continue, “since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.”
A spiritual eclipse
There are times when many of us experience what we might call a spiritual eclipse. Something gets in the way and we struggle to see the light of Christ we know is always there.
During those times, it can be easy to be fooled into reacting to the darkness of our circumstances, like the animals getting ready for the night during the solar eclipse. Our faith in Jesus calls us to live differently, beyond our senses.
Even during the darkest times, we know by faith that God puts a path before us and calls us to follow. By faith, we also know that we do not go alone. We are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” that includes those named in the faith hall of fame of Hebrews 11 and the saints who have influenced our spiritual formation.
As we experience the solar eclipse on August 21, or whenever we experience a spiritual eclipse, let us remember to act not only on what we experience with our senses, but at all times and in all circumstances to live by faith.