Faith is one of those things that if you’ve never really experienced it, you can’t really say why it matters. But once you have felt it, you know that it’s something that you shouldn’t be without.
Without it, one can still exist, but with it one can really live. It is like taking a journey up a mountain by foot versus going up the mountain by a car or train. Both paths will ultimately get you to a destination, but the former gives a different sense of satisfaction than the latter.
Like faith, it is not easy to accomplish, at times is hard to remember why you are doing it, and ultimately can leave you quite tired. But once the obstacle is passed the feeling gained serves as a reward unlike any other. Not everyone can say they know what it feels like to climb a mountain, but those who can know that it was worth it.
To get a real understanding of why faith matters, one can turn to someone who feels like they are losing their faith. It’s not anxiety or depression or grief that overwhelms this person, but rather a sense of emptiness. That loss is not tangible, still weighs very heavily. Like a battery, it powers one from the inside and will definitely get weaker, but also has the ability to be recharged when necessary. It serves as a means to appreciate life when things are going well, and as an anchor to help get through those times that are tough.
True faith yields action. In a world that is in need of compassion and understanding, it gives us hope not only that things will change for the best, but that we can play a role in that change.
Khalid Latif is chaplain of the Islamic Center at New York University and chaplain of the NYPD.