Many are the critics of blind, irrational, unquestioning faith — until the world comes crashing in. Then, in the midst of the hurt and fear and despair, there is often left but one option: believe. Such is the lesson of Good Friday. When all else fails — when the answers offered by the secular world prove inadequate — believe. When hanging from the cross, forsaken, abused, misunderstood, and all alone — believe. But is such belief irrational?
Too often, those who oppose and disrespect the Christian faith reduce any and all faith in Jesus Christ as primitive and irrational. This dismissal of literally billions of people’s beliefs through history ignores the power that these beliefs have had to get people through the very worst of times. Beyond the simplistic and dismissive categories of rational-irrational exists another option — the transrational. In the transrational, that which does not make empiric sense, but is true nonetheless, reigns supreme. Prove justice. Show evidence of compassion and kindness. Put in my hand love or forgiveness or trust. There are qualities and characteristics of life that cannot be proven. There are truths that defy any confirmation through empirical evidence. Sometimes we just know what is true because it is true.
God may look very different to different people. Christ may manifest in radically different ways. The Holy Spirit may lead people down exceptionally different paths. This does not disprove the trinity in any way. A belief in God is a testament of faith — we BELIEVE. Our commitment to Christ is a commitment to FAITH. It is not about proof. It is not about being smarter than others, being better than others, being right, or being superior. It is about being faithful.
Good Friday — and in what possible reality is there anything “good” about it — is about the power and presence of God in the face of seemingly irrefutable evidence that the world wins. What we see with our eyes we know in our hearts is false. The world cannot win. God alone prevails. Economic downturns, indefensible wars, widespread violence and despair, and all the horrendous stories of personal desperation, are not the end of the story. There is something more, something better.
But the only way we can see this is through faith. Faith in God and faith in God’s people. Faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to work through people’s lives to give and share and care. Faith that when everything in the world seems foreign and threatening, God will lead us through. There are times in life when nothing goes right, when nothing is positive, when the only alternatives are worse — it is then that faith means the most.
Christians are a people of both Good Friday and Easter — of deep challenge, despair, and defeat redeemed through the magnificent power of God. We are a people of second chances — those who can never admit defeat because of the abundant hope that God offers. In our darkest hours, we hold fast to a God of light and life.
We live in an age of darkness. We live as a beacon of hope, the light of Christ for the world. From the shadow of the cross, we emerge triumphant, redeemed by God’s love, transformed by Christ’s grace, and fueled by the Holy Spirit to be a new people in the world. There are times when we cannot explain why we believe, but in the face of immeasurable darkness we can do nothing more than proclaim, simply, WE BELIEVE.
Categories: Devotional Reflection, Religion in the U.S.
“This dismissal of literally billions of people’s beliefs through history ignores the power that these beliefs have had to get people through the very worst of times.”
I haven’t seen atheists denying the power of belief; what they deny is that God exists.
“God exists” and “Belief in God is very powerful” are separate and independent assertions; that the second is clearly true tells us nothing about the first.
Putting it back in context, many detractors do reduce Christian belief to irrational and primitive worldviews, implying that the belief is defective and the power is false. Where power is attributed, it is all too often cast in the negative, so that the ‘real’ power of faith is intolerance, violence, holy war, bigotry, and judgmentalism. Those atheists I have spoken with will grudgingly acknowledge the power of faith, though they generally dismiss it as delusional at worst, ignorant at best.
My mom died. All my friends say it will get easier in time. I am a biologist who has long claimed that there is no evidence of God, and while I have not called myself an atheist, I in no way believe in a traditional God. But in the past few months I have come to believe in something, I feel that there is more to life than what I can find through the eyepiece of a microscope. I cannot believe that someone as beautiful as my mother died and that there is nothing more. I do not know what is out there, but I do know that my science is limited in explaining everything. I am in a Good Friday place in my life. I am very appreciative to my friend Kay for sending me your article. I do believe, though I am not sure what exactly I believe in. I do not know how to describe what I’m feeling, but in my time of darkness I have come to believe in something for the very first time in my life.
Tamara, I know how hard the loss of a parent can be — my mom died a few years ago. I hope there is some comfort for you in what I wrote, but I also hope you can be open to think about what the Christian faith has to offer. Certainly there is much about the organized church that is toxic and destructive, but that has less to do with God than with the limitations of human beings. Our faith is an amazing source of strength and grace. At its best, it gives us the hope and promise of God’s love. When all else fails — especially our all too inadequate human answers — God is good.