Few days of history compare to the last day of the World Wars. Millions danced in streets across the globe.
But those scenes seem far removed from today.
“Why continue torturing myself? Why not just forget God and get on with life, like most of the rest of the world? Instantly I felt a sense of relief and freedom, like I had just passed a final exam … I picked up my Bible and a couple other Christian books and walked downstairs and out the back door. I shut the door softly behind me, so as not to wake anyone. In the backyard was a brick barbecue grill, and I piled the books on it, sprayed them with lighter fluid, and struck a match. … at last I had peace. A great weight had lifted. I had been honest with myself. Any pretense was gone, and I no longer felt the pressure to believe what I could never be sure of.”
These aren’t the words of Joshua Harris, nor those of Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, who this week declared his own critical struggle with his faith.
The words are from Richard, a young man whose conversations with author Philip Yancey served as the backbone of Yancey’s book Disappointment with God.
They’re becoming familiar. Within the battle reports offered by these leaders, there’s a pattern:
“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.” – Sampson
Though Sampson goes on to cite intellectual conundrums, I sense an undercurrent of feeling in his words. It was similar with Harris – in his case, internal conflict over a doctrine that’s particularly costly for certain Christ followers. He couldn’t reconcile, so he took the path of least emotional resistance and found himself outside.
And I get it.
I know the weight they’re talking about, the Gordian knot deep in the chest year in and year out. It’s the “oh, come on” knot, that just won’t accept paradox and longings deferred and the constant tension of cultivating a relationship with the unseen. People hit their forties and start realizing that “that thing” won’t just evaporate by itself, isn’t responding to simple prayer or maturity, and might never resolve in this life. A final straw.
That’s why I’ll decline the usual “let Scripture matter more than your feelings” line that John Cooper offered.
Not that he’s wrong. Our generation has forgotten to trust Scripture. Or never really heard it.
But remember that we are refugees in war-torn lands. Not all of us found trouble as adults; some were born into it. Into families that didn’t get us, that fell apart while we were still in high chairs, that carry unspeakable secrets. Right from the opening credits, we were beleaguered. Those feelings do not simply go away. They matter.
So the part of Scripture we might most need is the part where faith is a war.
Many Christians seem to have assumed that proper belief is one long, unbroken catharsis and inner resolution (and anything else is failure). There is partial relief to be had. I’ve found much.
But Scripture tells us that complete relief is not our present (Romans 8:23), and misdiagnosing reality is always dangerous. John Eldredge said, “It’s the equivalent of arriving on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a lawn chair and a book to read. It is a drastic misunderstanding of your situation.”
Read the Biblical accounts of the faithful. Does any of it look easy? Yes, Jesus is a God of victory, but victory implies war. Paul often uses military analogies. Ephesians 6 outlines spiritual weapons. Your life is a war.
It would explain some things, wouldn’t it? Look around you. See it as a war, with sides and weapons and tolls, and it makes an ugly sort of sense.
So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring–those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus (Revelation 12:17).
It also explains the weird way life suddenly gets better when faith is jettisoned. Of course things got better – you abandoned your post. You stepped off the front lines and experienced the flooding relief of not being shot at. Of course you’re surrounded by “positive and affirming” thoughts now. Of course you have a fiancee now. Of course you no longer have theological quandaries to wrestle. You aren’t in the line of fire anymore. Already Satan has retasked his resources towards the next guy on the line. Why would he bother with you now? You’re right where he wants you.
My friends, there is relief to be found in this life. I fully believe it. Though weapons must be shuffled through and strategies shifted (and God allows the process), I believe it can be found.
But I suggest the theory that if you find yourself struggling to love Jesus through your disappointment today, it means you haven’t surrendered. The Christian life is unnatural to the fallen soul. Always was. And the war that results is brutal.
Satan is furious that Jesus has a death grip on you that cannot be dislodged. This Jesus never will let go, as long as you don’t. And remember the mighty thrust of his truthful words: that reward is not found fully in this life, but the next.
Morning is coming. Hold on!
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!