In our examination of the two types of superheroes and their resemblance to those living in Christ, we now turn to the faith-motivated character. As I said in my previous article, I have a personal proclivity for the colorful, cartoonish, hope-motivated style . . . but that is not my only experience.
When the era of the colorful Caped Crusader died, and Tim Burton and his successors took a stab at rebranding the legend, we witnessed Batman’s transformation into the Dark Knight.
This Batman was unrecognizable from the Adam West iteration of his character. Bruce Wayne became a broken-hearted billionaire who burned through his disposable income to terrify criminals. He crashed through buildings in a souped-up, spray-painted black tank while lightning struck in the background. His costume was padded with Kevlar. He learned ninjitsu and other martial arts from a morally questionable master somewhere in east Asia. When he finally overcame his villains, there were always casualties on both sides. He returned to Wayne Manor (or what was left of it) to nurse injuries both physical and psychological.
This brooding, driven detective became a lasting depiction of Batman – and the standard from which all other dark heroes take their cue. Many adult fans love this type of superhero, especially those who want to see their beloved characters experience a bit more reality in their stories. While they don’t usually smile when they think of the future, still they go into battle. They have faith in themselves that if they try hard enough, they can make a small difference in their corner of the world. Even if it’s only for a short while. Even if it only brings justice for a few. Even if it only does so after the fact. They are actively suffering – mostly internally, but sometimes externally as well – but they keep fighting the good gight because they have to, because to give up would be to die. They are driven forward by faith that’s blinder than Matt Murdock.
For Christians who are experiencing a season of hopelessness, faith-motivated superhero stories resonate particularly well. One of the best passages for this comes out of Romans: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). When relying on faith, pushing on through the darkness, our hope is actually for future hope – the hope that comes from building character through discipline. Hope is essential, but when it becomes distant, faith steps in to keep us moving.
Like everyone, I’ve had times when I’m more Christian Bale than Adam West. This differentiation between hope and faith manifests most clearly for me in the real world when I am left with an open-ended choice. I pray and pray for something to happen, for some course of action to become obvious, or for the “right thing” to manifest itself so I can move confidently in a certain direction. Sometimes I think that I’ve seen the way through, and I push that way – only to find seemingly insurmountable obstacles piling up in my path. It seems like I’m making no progress at all, even though at one point I felt so certain that God was pointing me that way. I have to choose between sticking with hope or falling back on faith. When the darkness seems so strong, and there doesn’t seem to be a light of hope at the end of the tunnel in any direction I look, I let go of hope for the moment and focus instead on blind faith.
When things are at their bleakest, and hope feels far away, it’s perfectly okay to become a gritty superhero for a while. Focus on the foundation of faith. When that abiding hope seems lost, remind yourself that God is faithful to save us and to work out His ultimate good in all circumstances, even if it doesn’t seem good to us at the time. Have faith in the promises God has already fulfilled, as proof He will continue to fulfill them.
Faith in anything besides God can be tricky, though. We have to be careful to keep our trust in Him, and not just what we perceive to be His plan – or our own plans, or other people, or even a generalized sentiment of “goodness working itself out in the end.” When we’re stuck in a place of hopelessness, you, like me, may wonder whether you’re relying on true blind faith . . . or just blind stubbornness. Clinging to sinful ways is not how you move forward. In fact, it will often only push you further back.
Understanding the difference is of tantamount importance if we are to be cognizant of ourselves and our place in God’s creation. How do we figure out whether our blind faith is properly placed? How do we know whether to turn back or to keep fighting? When is it a season of overcoming obstacles, and when is it going against God’s plan?
To be honest, I can’t tell you. There have been times in my life when it’s been one or the other – and in the moment, they feel identical. All dark nights look the same when there is no light of hope to throw them into relief. All I can tell you is to keep your eyes wide open for the Light, keep the faith, and keep praying. Hebrews 10:23 sums it up well: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Whether you are in a place of hope or faith, keep God’s love in your heart, and you will never be truly lost. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trials because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” As long as you are fighting the good fight, God will be your strength and your portion. Your future is secure, your God will hold you, and your victory through Him is already assured.