Faith isn't easy and doesn't always seem very "useful," so what is the purpose of spending our time on it?
It is no accident that the question of the utility of faith is more prevalent these days. Today we must acknowledge that useless things are thought to be worthless. Why waste time with things that have no use or purpose?
First, we must ask ourselves, what is it that everyone is after? What does a Christian living in this world seek? Jesus tells us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:34). This means that we will give our utmost (our very heart) to whatever has value for us and represents our treasure. What is then considered to be a treasure in this world? Whom has it given its very heart? And what represents a treasure for a Christian?
What is everyone after?
The main preoccupations of the world population consist in, personally and collectively, spending life with as few problems as possible. What could be more normal? In so far as Christians living in this world go, they have the same preoccupations. What counts the most from this point of view is success, being fulfilled in life, and having a happy family. What counts is to have enough money to live well, to have a certain social standing, an interesting life, good health, and (if possible), to live a long time – to have many advantages and as few inconveniences as possible. None of these preoccupations is to be condemned. And there is no one who can reproach a person who while remaining honest does what is possible to live well. It is a life within a grasp of human possibilities. The Bible calls it a life “made by human hands.”
Obviously, from this point of view, all that could contribute to this social and personal success is approved while all that could undermine it is condemned. And all that could not actively help us to acquire goods is rejected and stored away in a box for the useless and the pointless. Based on this, you might always wonder, what is the use of Christian faith? I fear that we might be forced to say that it is of no use. Let us say, it is not terribly practical, so we don’t upset anyone. In any case, directly promoting social success is not its goal.
The world promised by Jesus
We must now ask a second question – what should be a treasure for a Christian? Where does it lie? To put it otherwise: Does the Gospel preoccupy itself with promoting social success and improving our life on Earth? Is it right to follow Jesus in order to obtain a good place in the kingdom that He will most certainly establish on Earth? This is what the wife of Zebedee, as a woman with her two feet firmly planted on the ground, planned for her three sons. She was mistaken.
Even if as human beings we find a certain balance, or a certain sense of joy in following in the footsteps of Jesus, even if we are fortunate enough to be a part of a warm community, which gives flavor to our life and supports us through difficult times, even if the wisdom contained in the Gospels seems superior to all that had been offered by the greatest philosophers, we are forced to admit that it is not in the plans of Christ to establish us as successful on Earth. What He aims at is the Kingdom of Heaven. What He offers us is a place by His side and by that of His Father. What He presents to us is a place at the heavenly wedding feast. And to get there, the path He presents us passes through a very narrow gate (which means we have to leave our luggage behind). It is a life of renunciation; it is the way of the cross.
It is not a life “made by human hands.” It is a life impossible for men, but possible for God. It was Jesus who said this. It is the life of Jesus. This is exactly what the Virgin Mary told Bernadette in Lourdes “I don’t promise you joy on Earth, but in Heaven.” The grace of St. Bernadette lies in the fact that far from perceiving this promise as pitiful and without interest, she saw it as the most precious. She did not tell herself “what is the use of all these visions if I keep on ‘going through hell’ on Earth?” Her perspective was heaven.
How to perceive the purpose of faith in your life?
So we can say that the Christian faith is useful in the sense that it concerns the eternal joy of entering into a true communion with God and for the success of our eternal life. It is the only existing means available to men to enter into this eternal life. Still, it is necessary for us to believe in the reality of eternal life, that nothing is more important for us than accessing this eternal life, that our home is in heaven, that all which can help us gain access to this joy is useful and that all that does not actively contribute to it must be restored to its true place.
The usefulness of Christian faith only becomes evident when we see the goal. If you wish to reach God Himself, if nothing seems more important to you, then you have found the most effective means to attain this goal. However, if you seek to feel as comfortable as possible on Earth, then, indeed, faith will not be of much use to you. Jesus did warn us: “For whoever wishes to save his life (on Earth) will lose it (for eternity), but whoever loses his for me, (on Earth) will find it (the eternal life)” (Mt 16:25). The stakes are extremely high.
Christian faith is the bridge allowing us to pass on the other shore
For the one who aims at eternal life, the Christian faith is like an outstretched hand that grabs him and helps him to pass over a precipice. It is like a shoulder on which he can rest when the journey becomes too hard. It is like the light that emerges in the darkness and lights the path, like the wind that rises and fills the sails. It transforms our daily life. It even brightens the worst of our troubles. You wonder what the purpose of faith is … It is to simply live a life and to live it forever!