Most Christians have heard the verse from the Bible “Faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is recited in wedding services and parts of it are used by others on a daily basis – “I hope…” “I have faith in you…” “ I love you!” How do we learn this and how do we sustain all of these feelings?
Faith is a tenet of most religions. It represents a belief in God’s existence and the belief that we can survive life’s many trials with his strength and power. Faith is also a temporal belief in something or someone, a belief in their general goodness. Hope is the belief in the expectation of a positive outcome for some desire. However, the distinction between faith and hope is often blurred and the words mean different things to different people.
We can learn about our beliefs in faith and hope through reading the Bible, the Torah and other religious books. However, other types of books can introduce us to stories that help us understand the role that faith and hope can play in our lives. We can learn more about humanity and empathy for other people who we may never meet. Reading about people who maintain their faith and hope in the most trying of times can help us hold on to our own faith and hope and can help us learn to love one another.
Here are a selection of books that can help you in your search for meaning with the support of faith and hope.
1. “Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close’’ by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow
In this non-fiction book about friendship, Friedman and Sow help us understand the stages of a close, personal friendship. Best friends forever? Can “forever” really happen? What do we need to do to help a friendship survive, and how do we deal with the painful decision to get out of a toxic relationship? In marriage you get a divorce, but what about with your BFF? Can our love in relationships help sustain our faith in ourselves and others? These two authors share their journey through the years of such a friendship, never wanting to get to the point where they say to others, “We just grew apart.”
2. “The Stranger in the Lifeboat’’ by Mitch Albom
Imagine you are in a shipwreck and along with nine others, struggling to survive, and hoping you will be rescued. Without much food or water and barely any hope, you cry to God for help. You spot a man floating near your life raft and bring him aboard. As you thank the Lord, this man claims to be “the Lord” and says he is your only chance of survival. Do you believe him? Known for his inspirational stories, “Tuesdays with Morrie’’ and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,’’ Albom has written a new one that will challenge your faith and help sustain hope.
3. “I am the Messenger’’ by Markus Zusak
Best known for his book “The Book Thief,’’ this lesser-known book by Zusak tells the story of Ed Kennedy, an unambitious, underage cab driver who inadvertently thwarts a bank robbery. His life is suddenly changed as he begins to receive messages about people he needs to help (a little like the TV show “God Friended Me.’’) Does he take up the challenge? As he searches for these people and helps them, Ed learns a simple message that we all need to know - you don’t have to be great to help others. You just have to try.
4. “The Book of Lost Friends’’ by Lisa Wingate
At the close of the Civil War, amid the ruin of Southern life and the end of the wretched practice of slavery, “Lost Friends” advertisements began to appear in Southern newspapers. They are placed by men and women, now free, searching for families and loved ones. In “The Book of Lost Friends,’’ Wingate brings new life to a few of these gripping stories, inspired by real Lost Friends advertisements. Can these brave souls maintain their hope while searching amidst the ruins of a country still at war with itself over slavery? Their faith truly sustains their hope and keeps them continuing their quest.
5. “On Writing’’ by Stephen King
We all know King for his science-fiction and crime novels (as well as other scary books). This book may seem like a treatise on how to write, but actually, it’s much more. It is also a memoir with King sharing his thoughts about his childhood to his emergence as a writer. He shares his struggles after a near-fatal accident and how he used his desire for writing to help sustain him through his recovery. King presents advice on writing as well as the importance of faith in yourself to sustain you through the many trials of life.
6. “Miracle in the Cave’’ by Liam Cochrane
If trapped in a cave, would you be saved by faith, or by hope and calmness of the mind? In June of 2018, the biggest human interest news story in years emerged from Thailand, where 12 young soccer players and their coach were trapped in an underground cave for nearly two weeks. They had ventured inside the labyrinthine cave after soccer practice but found their exit blocked by flooding from an unexpected monsoon rain. “Miracle in the Cave’’ tells the story of their entrapment and dramatic rescue while revealing many aspects of Thai culture. Although exploration of faith is not his focus, Cochrane explains how the Buddhist faith may have helped the boys maintain their calm even while trapped two and a half miles in the cave system with no sustenance other than the water dripping from the walls. For the anxious parents waiting outside the cave, a belief in the power of spirits, along with an optimistic prediction from a revered Buddhist monk, kept them from despair. This true story has all the elements of faith, hope and love that truly result in a miracle.
Books have a way of re-affirming our faith and hope as we read stories about conquering the daily difficulties of life or the major tragedies we often face. If a story can help us learn lessons and be inspired, then what a great gift that book is. Treat yourself to one now, you deserve it.
“Faith is unseen but felt, faith is strength when we feel we have none, faith is hope when all seems lost.”
~ Catherine Pulsifer