“I’m so glad you guys have a strong faith.”
“You can lean on your faith to get you through this.”
These, and similar variations of the same phrases, have been spoken to both me and Amy since we learned of Simon. People recognize our faith in Christ and see that we are drawing nearer to Him during this difficult time. But what it seems like, is that many people have faith in (our) faith. They see an abiding hope in us, and this brings them comfort.
My faith in Christ is not a crutch to help my limping, wounded heart get down this path of suffering. A crutch would suggest that I only need such support because I’m hurt. And if the hurt was gone then, well, what would the crutch be but an unattractive accessory doing nothing but slowing me down. C.S. Lewis describes it better in The Problem of Pain, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.” Similarly, Jesus isn't a sedative or pain killer that soothes the pain of a sufferer.
Skeptic and believer can agree that Jesus lived. There is plenty of evidence that point to the fact that he was a real person. Jesus’ words, teaching and example don’t function as a coping mechanism for the griever. So how does it work? What is this hope that we have that others have admired?
What we have to come to terms with is that faith in faith is not good enough. Similarly, knowing that Jesus was a real person who taught a bunch of nice stuff a long time ago, is not good enough. Faith in His mere existence is not good enough to give you real hope that abides in the deepest of sorrows. Faith that He existed is not the same as surrendering to Him on the basis of knowing that He was God's son.
Jesus claimed to be God’s son and His divine messenger of love. And He also claimed to be our rescuer from sin and death. The more you learn and expose yourself to Jesus’ words, the more you’ll understand that riding the “fence of belief” on someone who makes claims like this is not an option. Either Jesus was a lunatic, or is who He said He was.
If Jesus is who He said He was, then He’s so much more than a crutch (or a parachute) in a time of pain, He carries you and takes your burden.
He comes to you, the weary traveler with a backbreaking rucksack full of anxiety, pain, fear and guilt and says, “Give it to me. I’ll carry it for you.” You instantly feel lighter as you pass this burden to Him. You're unsure about this guy and the confidence he exudes. You think He may have ulterior motives and that he's going to make you pay some price down the road for his compassion. He speaks to you as you walk along the narrow path next to Him, and you start to understand that He took your rucksack of pain not out of pity, but out of mercy and a desire to show you something better. “Why me?” You think. “I’m not worthy of such attention from this great man. If He only knew what I’ve been carrying around in that sack, He’d drop it and leave me struggling on the side of the trail.”
Lost in thought, you badly stub your toe and fall to the dusty trail. On the ground, you look over to see a cinder block with the words “REGRET” written on it. You struggle to pick it up and realize you’ll have to carry this one bare-handed for the rest of the journey. Jesus turns to you and says, “Give it to me. I’ll carry it for you.” You say to Him, “This one isn’t for you. This is one I have to carry on my own. It isn’t so bad. I deserve to hold on to it for what I’ve done.” “No,” He says, “I want it all. It is not about where you have been, it is about where you are going with me now. Keep your eyes fixed on Heaven.” Hope floods your heart and gives you new motivation to seek out this "heaven" He speaks of. The journey leads you to a large hill, where at the peak you find a rugged, wooden cross. During the journey you noticed that He had some major scars on His hands and feet, but you couldn’t make sense of them until now. He lays down your old, heavy rucksack at the foot of the cross and turns to you.
He says, “Leave those too.” Confused, you look down at your bedraggled mess of a self to realize you have torn your clothes and shoes to shreds getting to the foot of the cross. “I’m not sure,” you say to Him, “This seems weird. I’m going to need clothes.” He produces an amazing new wardrobe, just for you, and says, “It’s all yours.” "Let me at least pay you," you say as you reach for your wallet. "I already paid for them. This is a gift," He tells you. The comfort you feel when you put on His garments is like nothing you’ve ever felt.
Refreshed, you follow Him to the other side of the hill to find a huge group of people having a party. Their clothes look new and clean like yours, although nobody looks like you. You see people young and old, big and small, and of all races - many with visible scars and tattoos. He apparently gave new garments to them all. Music is pulsating, and people are laughing and enjoying a great bonfire. They rush to you and say, “Welcome! Want some barbecue? How about water or a glass of wine? Have a seat!” You are filled with amazement when you hear their stories and realize that they’ve all been on the same journey, with Jesus, that you are on. They were, and still are, messed-up, beaten down, guilt ridden and hopelessly lost. He picked them up in the same spot and took their burden, the same as you. He loved them when nobody else did. He took their pain, and told them to leave it at the foot of the cross. He told them the same stories about a New Heavens and a New Earth, and told them that this is where they would go if they would only believe in Him. How could they not believe in Him after seeing that cross and touching His scars? Your love for Jesus is only solidified when you realize that you aren’t alone. The story you have is a story that is shared with so many others. Now you are confident and don’t feel like a total nut when you run into your old friends who are carrying backbreaking rucksacks and you tell them, “I know a guy who can carry that for you. Give me a few items out of your sack, let’s head down the trail and see if we can find Him.”
Though I may speak some tongue of old
Or even spit out some holy word
I have no strength from which to speak
When you sit me down, and see I'm weak
We will run and scream
You will dance with me
They'll fulfill our dreams and we'll be free
And we will be who we are
And they'll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away
So as we walked through fields of green
Was the fairest sun I'd ever seen
And I was broke, I was on my knees
And you said yes as I said please
“Not With Haste” by Mumford & Sons