This morning’s devotion was written by David Zahl for The Mockingbird Devotional.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, NASB)

When you look at your career, your marriage, your health—do you spend more time thinking about what you don’t have than what you do? Even a casual inventory reveals how little we are hardwired for gratitude. Or maybe you tirelessly compare yourself with everyone you come across. Other people become either an affirmation or condemnation of your worth, their very existence a comment on yours. Everyone has some situation where they are plagued by “things unseen,” a place where they are in need of assurance.

There are differences among “assurance” and “reassurance” and “self-assurance.” Oftentimes, religion boils down to a strategy of reassurance. Reassurance is a pat on the back. A pep talk. A hug even. “Hang in there, it’s going to be alright.” At best, reassurance is a reality check, a reminder of how things really are. At worst, it is a pie-in-the-sky way of dismissing another’s fears or doubts. Either way, reassurance depends on the reassurer. It may feel good to be comforted for a while, but then the difficult questions settle in: How do they know everything will be okay? Can they see into the future? However well-intentioned other people’s attempts to reassure us are, the psychologist’s truism “reassurance never reassures” has some basis.

Self-assurance, on the other hand, is a way of creating our own hope, reacting to those “things unseen” by attempting to bring them into being ourselves. Self-assurance is tied to our performance and ability; as such, it works well when the stakes are small, or when we’re in our comfort zone. Not so much when we’ve exhausted every avenue. What happens when our best isn’t good enough?

The message of Christianity is one of assurance—assurance to people who are losing hope, drowning under the weight of “things unseen.” Perhaps it is not surprising that the crucifixion itself looked like the opposite of what it was. It looked like a hopeless situation. When they saw their Lord arrested and executed, the disciples must have been acutely aware of “things unseen.” But the resurrection of Christ seems to indicate that God is at work in the place where things seem most hopeless. He’s not waiting for us to do something, or to figure out the right tactic.

Thankfully, the assurance of Hebrews goes beyond our circumstances, intentions and abilities. It is based instead on something outside of us, something objective, something sure: the unassailable love of God revealed in the risen Christ. Where the unseen became seen, once for all, now and forever.