What is the purpose to pressing on in the face of suffering? Or what is the reason to continue to subject myself to suffering by pursuing good and forsaking all that is wrong? It’s not that I simply think Christianity works or that I think God is going to make my life better, but I simply believe it’s true.
So many times, my future seems so bleak and pointless. This is especially true when I see the reality of my own suffering and my inevitable future struggles and pains. That is when I am discouraged and stagnant. Maybe my focus is wrong, and I worry too much about my temporary happiness. Death cannot be the end. It can’t be! If it is, then all of my life is nothing more than a vain attempt to distract myself from its meaninglessness. And I fear that my religion is only this as well: a desire for meaning out of meaninglessness. When I step back and look at things, I think, “Well, there is no way to know for sure if there is a God or not, but believing in an all good God makes life, or its suffering followed by its inevitable end, an easier pill to swallow, so that is what I will believe.” I won’t lie and say that isn’t a motivation at all, because it does motivate me to believe somewhat. But I don’t want to believe something simply because it works for me. I want to believe something because it is true.
Christianity seems too good to be true sometimes. Everything being made right and death not really being death at all but simply the passing of my spirit to a new home. That I will continue to live, but free from agonizing contradictions in the way my belief meets practice. Freedom from suffering and pain and looming bodily death. It seems too good to be true.
But the alternative is to believe that things will not be made right and that all that really matters is my present moment. Everything would mean nothing. The question of whether or not there is reality outside of my own experience would mean nothing. It will all end when my bodily senses die, so it wouldn’t matter.
I don’t think that that reality is livable. I’ve heard it said that death and the ending of existence altogether makes us appreciate the present. I agree somewhat. But I believe that takes our appreciation of the moment to the extreme. If all that exists is what I see, touch, and feel, then what I take in temporarily becomes of infinite importance. If there is nothing better than this coming, then I might as well take it all in. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
But the question then is what do I do with suffering? If my temporary moments are all I have, then what do I do when they are filled with pain and suffering and heartache and struggle? I would sink to despair, and I would simply want to die. If I were terminally ill, and my purpose was found in the degree of pleasure I derive from my experiences, then I would no longer see purpose, and I would desire death. The reason I wouldn’t be able to live with this system is because I can’t help but see the truth that all of humanity is terminally ill. We are all on our deathbeds. In 150 years, none of us will be living any longer. There will be new generations and a new set of families, hopes, and dreams. We might as well all die since everything we fight for will die with the death of humanity.
So, without some kind of underlying truth or meaning holding all things together, my temporary moments are ironically both infinitely important and meaningless at the same time.
With all of that being said, I don’t believe in Christianity because of what it can do for me or because I think it’s going to fix my life. I believe it because it’s true. I follow Jesus because I believe He is a real person, and He was telling the truth. I’m not going to go into an apologetic of why I believe Jesus, but if what Jesus said is true, if He died for us and raised himself from the dead, then my life is swallowed up in the shadow of Christ’s cross. What I mean is this: there is a bigger story than mine. I am a small part of something greater, and I am more than happy to submit to the greater story whether that means I suffer or not.
Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die – ever. Do you believe this?” And I do believe this, but there is a battle at my core where I feel belief in Christ is constantly occupying only 51% of my heart while death and unbelief rage over the other 49%. Half of my heart believes Jesus, and I push forward with hopeful assurance and anticipation while half of my heart believes there is nothing more than my present moment and fearfully worships my present experiences.
I fight on because I believe God is winning the battle for my heart. And I can move on in spite of struggles and pain because I am okay with my life being lost in a bigger story than myself. The truth of Christ is worth it. Even when God calls us to suffer, it’s okay because His story has a good ending and the stories of His children all have good endings even though we die.