All of us believe, I think, that we know what faith is. Many of us will recite the definition of faith from the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11: 1) By its very nature, faith is a mysterious, mystical element of our lives that we all depend upon whether or not we acknowledge its presence.
However, faith is not certainty. We can be certain of very few things in life and faith does not bequeath certainty in any way shape or form. Faith, rather, is the foundation of the spiritual life. It gives us both hope and direction. But it is not certainty. Faith does not fail as long as we hold onto it and trust in its ability to transform and reform us.
When life becomes confusing and chaotic, certainty often fails. When our beliefs or philosophies are shaken to the core, we usually lose all certainty. We feel lost and alone and find it difficult to return to the path we were on when life's little surprises knocked us off course, a path lined with certainty about our life. Only faith gives us reason to go on. If we have faith, true faith based upon a mature understanding of Who God is and His role in our lives, then it gives us reason to go on. It is through faith that we are given to understand that despite the darkness we may find ourselves in at the present, there is hope.
Faith cannot always be defined. It defies definition any way. And, yet, it guides us through our days. Even though we may be going through a period of uncertainty brought on by one of many life crises we may encounter, faith will see us through it all with hope. And this hope is not the hope of someone wanting to hit the lottery. It is grounded in reality. Hope, as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is "the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit." (CCC, Article 7, Section II, The Theological Virtues)
Hope, therefore, is not of our will but that borne of our faith in God. It is not some pie in the sky wish we have for our mortal existence, but based in the reality of God in our lives. We are incapable of having faith without the guidance of the Holy Spirit and His prompting toward hope. We choose to respond or ignore this prompting, but we do not originate the communication. In essence, we respond to God on a very intimate level.
So, while there is very little certainty in this life, there is still one definite certainty. And that certainty is the love of God for each and every one of us as we make our way through the maze of life. We can be certain that if we but have faith in God, hope will be His gift to us!