Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series: Faith

Find out what the Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series is all about!

I think it’s safe to say that faith plays a fundamental role in all Christian fiction, even if the virtue is an underlying theme. You have to have faith in some capacity, otherwise the fiction itself would not be Christian.  But what is faith?

Faith is not a virtue easily defined. In one way, faith is our belief in God. In another way, faith is the trust we have in Him.  Faith doesn’t come from what we Catholics have seen as evidence. Instead, faith comes from what we have learned from scripture, the apostles’ evidence, our church teachings, saint stories, and so on.

Faith is also the belief in the goodness of God’s plan. So, we place our life and our worries in His hands with complete trust in the outcome.  Faith is relying on Him, not money, success, or fame. Faith is putting God in the forefront of our lives and allowing Him to lead us.

“…And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22)

Faith is easy in good times. When we’re happy, and all is well, and life is going exactly as we “planned,” if not better, we’re more than happy to give thanks to God and put our trust in Him, right? But what about when things are not going our way? What about in times when you can’t even see the end of your struggle; when you cannot fathom a way out; when it seems completely impossible that any good, or any light, or any break will come your way? What about when our prayers are not being answered? What then?

Faith is so much more difficult in times of struggle. I mean, how can we easily believe in a loving God when bad things happen? How can we believe that this same God loves us when adversity consumes us? Wouldn’t He make sure that His faithful are protected from suffering? Wouldn’t He at least answer our prayers?

These are the questions that ten-year-old Benedict asks himself in The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.  It’s very apparent that Benedict struggles with his faith.  He just doesn’t get it, because in his world of abandonment and pain, he never felt the arms of a loving God. He listens to Martha and David speak of God, and having faith that everything will be okay because God loves them, but it’s a language he doesn’t comprehend; especially when things start looking bad for everyone. Then ten-year-old Micah comes into the picture.

Now, Micah has suffered too by losing everyone that he’s loved, and yet he’s devoted to the Lord. He believes that everything works out for the good, and he understands that God always answers our prayers; and sometimes by not giving us what we ask for because His plan is so much better.

Again, Benedict cannot wrap his mind around this. He doesn’t believe it. He refuses to believe it. In one scene, he says to Micah:

“You think that it’s going to be okay because you don’t know what it’s really like. You haven’t been sent from one messed up house to another. You haven’t been hit, or spat at, or punched for taking an extra cracker at lunch. No, you’ve had grandpa who fished with you, and a mother who sang to you every night. You had it good, so no wonder you have so much faith.” (pg. 111 TDSR)

Micah is the epitome of faith. He remains devoted and thankful to God even when his world is dark. He just knows that God has a handle on his life, and he’ll happily take the good with the bad in the world, because he’s been taught that eternal joy is waiting.

 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will. (Mark 11:22-24)

Freeing Tanner Rose also introduces a character who lacks faith. Tanner Rose has been corrupted by Hollywood from a very young age, and although fourteen when she meets Gabriel, she’s lived an adult’s life. She’s lost in her world and blindly happy for it. She’s afraid of her real self and uses her fame and addictions to hide. But Gabriel introduces her to the Lord, and his faith inspires her. When things get too much for her, she seeks to know, love , and serve Him, but doesn’t know how. Gabriel’s mother tells her, “I had to learn how to believe, but faith seemed to come naturally to him.” (pg. 76-77)

Tanner puts her faith in herself and her own actions, and the stress of this leads her to her addictions. She doesn’t know how to let go. Near the end of this story, when Tanner visits Gabriel and his mother, the boy tries to explain the fundamentals of faith in his own unique style:

“Faith is not a drive-through restaurant, Tanner. You don’t say a prayer and pick it up from the window.” He heard a soft laugh and looked at his mother, who shrugged. “Well, it’s true. God knows what you need, Tanner. You have to trust that He’s taking care of it.” He goes on to say, “You know,” he added, “If you truly believe, whatever you pray for will be yours. Just don’t expect it to come packaged the way you want it to. It will come on His time and in His way. That’s where the faith comes in.” (198-199)

Times of struggle are a real test of our faith, for as we all know, we easily fall apart when things go south in our lives. The best way to get through the dark times is to remain focused on God. But in a world that thrives on immediate gratification, our patience wears thin quickly and our will is weak.

Having true faith is not going to be easy. But it’s not supposed to be. However, it does solidify our devotion to God. If we can remain strong in our faith in the midst of our darkness, our eyes always on our God, then He will be able to guide us out of the darkness. Martha in The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and Gabriel in Freeing Tanner Rose work hard at trying to convince Benedict and Tanner of this truth. They know that without this faith, we can easily lose our way.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.   Selah (Psalm 62:8)

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The books referenced in this post were The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and  Freeing Tanner Rose from my Faith & Kung Fu Series. Free discussion questions are available for both:

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch
Freeing Tanner Rose Discussion Questions
Saving Faith Discussion Questions

For more Catholic fiction reflecting this theme, check out the comments below!

Join the discussion!
Call out to Catholic authors of fiction for teens and young adults. Have you written a Catholic novel that encompasses the subject of faith? Please share in the comments below, listing the titles and including a brief description of how it’s presented in your fiction.

For more on the titles listed in this post and others, as well as their educational themes, visit Catholic Teen Books For Teachers 

Do You Carry the Burdens of Your Past Like Benedict?

The sun was still hot, wearing him down. But the breeze was intoxicating and he used it to pull him onward like a soldier crossing the desert. While he couldn’t remember a time when he was free of worry, he had never experienced this level of anxiety and it scared him. He stopped and gazed up at the blue sky, begging for relief. (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

Have you ever felt an anxiety this strong? Poor Benedict. He’s the main character in my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. From such a young age, Benedict carried the burdens of his past. He constantly looked back and couldn’t bring himself to to be positive about his future. It’s the life of the average foster child. Moved from one home to another, without any sense of stability. Until eventually, a home is just a unattainable dream.

This is the essence of the book. How do we deal with past adversity? All the Credence foster children have experienced some form of past adversity. But it’s how they deal with it that makes the difference.

Philippians 4:13 is the crux of this novel. “I can do all things,” Paul writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.” And that’s the foundation of our faith and the faith that the Credence family members must adhere to in order to cope with and overcome their adversity. With Jesus we can do anything, regardless of the circumstances that we are dealing with at the time.

Oftentimes, adversity occurs when we are children, but we take it with us into adulthood. For Benedict, it becomes consuming until the ache is just unbearable. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but I will definitely like to come back to this subject.

Well, my story is told, and you can find out what happens to Benedict and his foster siblings. After reading the book, come back and tell me why you think Benedict struggled with his past.

Do you have a past adversity that’s been difficult to overcome? Has your faith helped you move on?

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch: Chapter 1

1

THE tires crunched slowly into the sand and came to a halt. The man behind the wheel of the red Ford truck peered out of his open window, to a memory that sat quietly at the base of the rich green grassy hill. The sun shone over a white farmhouse, comfortably nestled inside the ranch. To its left was a red barn, smaller than he remembered. A paddock enclosed with white post and board fencing sat in front. The dirt road, on which he’d stopped, meandered down the right side of the aged property, appearing and disappearing through the lush green trees. Nothing had really changed, it seemed, although the life within its boundaries no longer existed, and both time and neglect had left their weary mark. The man turned the engine off and leaned his head back against his seat. He continued to survey the property and its surroundings, looking for reminders of his past. The old crooked oak by the house was even older, as if holding itself up was getting harder day by day. He searched within its leaves and branches, but he couldn’t see what he was looking for from that distance. The fields were overgrown with wild grass and flowers. He scanned the property with stinging eyes. It seemed to be all there, but only as a scene lost in time, once loved and warmed from within by so many. It was all there, but so much was missing. A part of him wanted to sit for a while and just take it all in. The other part was eager to drive down to the house and bask in the memories. He stopped himself from breaking into the scene too soon and closed his eyes. His mind took him back to a memory he would have rather forgotten, had it not eventually taken him to a better place.

“I’m sorry to have to call you in again, Miss Ratchet, but we just can’t go on like this. I’m afraid we’ll have to suspend him again.” The school principal sat behind her desk wearing a brown suit and sporting a drained expression.

“Is that really necessary, Miss Martindale?” The woman asked, even though she knew this was coming when she’d received the call that morning. She had to admit that having these children was not as easy as she’d originally anticipated. Her plan had been to have more.

“We cannot have the distraction. He fights with everyone.”

“Well, what do you suppose I do with him during the day?” Miss Ratchet leaned forward in her chair.

“I’m sorry,” Miss Martindale replied as she collected her papers and straightened them with a sigh. “Maybe it would be best to meet with his case worker, or contact the state department and see if they can help you. I have a school to run, and I cannot do that when your son…”

Foster son.”

“Foster son…excuse me…continues to cause havoc like he does. You know, he’s going to have to repeat the fourth grade at this rate.”

“Well, that’s just great. Thanks for nothing.” Miss Ratchet got up and grabbed her purse and coat. Out in the hall, a young boy sat with his head hung low, his dark greasy hair covering his face. He picked at a strand hanging from a hole in his right pant knee and yanked until it came off. Then he twisted the piece around his forefinger and watched the end of it swell and redden. He knew he was in trouble but his fear was weakened with lack of concern.

“Come on, you.” Miss Ratchet marched toward him and pulled him up by the shoulder of his dirty denim jacket and shoved him ahead of her….CONTINUE READING


Whitney Houston’s Songs About God Will Live on Despite Her Sad and Untimely Death

I am a big fan of Whitney Houston’s music. During her downward spiral, I would pray that she would truly open her heart up to God so that she could continue to glorify His name in her songs. She sang about Him often, but could she really have had a relationship with Him?

The devil was in the the drugs. He had a hold of her and her talent, and he made sure she couldn’t sing about God again. Well, she may be gone, but her music will live on. She will continue to sing about our Lord and savior so that we are all reminded of His glory. If her death has resulted in anything positive, it’s that the internet is buzzing about her and her music. Songs and videos are being shared and her words about God and His amazing grace are being heard by millions.

This is a quick tribute I would like to share.

There are so many songs of her’s  that I love, but the following, I feel is the most appropriate. It’s called “I Look to You.” I wish she had.

For more of my favorite Whitney Houston songs, check out Whitney Houston’s Heartbreaking Death, my tribute to the singer at Project Inspired.

What is your most favorite Whitney song?

Image: crushable.com