The title of this painting is Le Désespéré (The Desperate Man) by French artist Gustave Courbet. There is something about the wide-open eyes and hair-clinging hands that draws the viewer into the man’s state of desperation. This is how I imagine my expression to be after watching the evening news or reading the daily paper.
Courbet was a highly influential yet controversial artist. His work stood out because of the style in which he painted. He rejected the traditional artworks of his time, which idealized historic and religious scenes. Instead, he believed that one should paint only what one could actually see. This led to an art movement known as Realism and was the precursor to Modern Art. Courbet shocked the art scene by addressing social issues no one cared to see depicted. He relished the way his art stirred up the traditionalists, saying in a letter to his parents, “When I stop being controversial, I’ll stop being important.”
The idea of only painting what one can actually see is intriguing. How does that fit with our faith? It tends to be easier to have faith in what we can actually see. Is that why sometimes faith is considered “blind?” What does the Bible have to say to us about blind faith?
A dictionary definition of blind faith is “belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination.” From my experiences, I believe there is a difference between faith and blind faith. Blind faith asks us to believe something that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Blind faith insinuates that you leave your brain behind and just take a leap of faith without any basis of reason.
Faith, on the other hand, rests in the truth. I didn’t check my brain at the door when I became a Christian. I reasoned. I studied. I considered. I wrestled. And God invites you to do the same. Yes, at times faith requires us to go beyond reason alone. Faith requires us to be OK with a certain amount of mystery. But faith is not void of reason.
Being Human connection: There may be times in our walk with God where we will act in faith because we do not have the whole picture, as is the case of many people in the Bible (Abraham for example). However, this faith is not blind. God has blessed us with the ability to have faith based on knowledge of God’s nature and character, his promises in the Scriptures, and the personal experience walking with him every day.
Featured art: Gustave Courbet, The Desperate Man, circa 1845