I heard it again this weekend…
“Christianity is just a man-made philosophy that helps people cope with the fact that they will die, ceasing to exist, and that life actually is purposeless.”
Oh, friend, how far from the truth you are.
To the untrained (shallow) eye, you see people with joy and peace, even in the midst of suffering, which seems to clearly indicate that they have self-medicated with this false idea to trick their minds into feeling that peace and/or joy. You think they are absolutely silly, or maybe even stupid, to stoop to that level of foolishness to make themselves feel better rather than face the “cold hard truth.” You see a weakling that probably hasn’t even suffered as much as you have and that clearly doesn’t have the mental or emotional fortitude that you yourself poses. They stub their toe and they reach for their crutch and mutter their Christian-isms under their breath to soothe themselves back into their surreal stupor.
But the truth is, the Christian is not suffering as you are. Not anymore. And that makes you angry. They do not feel dead and empty inside, because they are not weighed down by the mistakes of their past, they are not held down by shame or the voice in their head that tells them they are nothing. You rationalize that they are being fooled, when in fact, you are. You are being tricked into thinking that you will be able to numb that pain and emptiness by something this world has to offer.
That something will surely bring you happiness or enough pleasure to last, right? Or you tell yourself that someday when you achieve x, y, and z, you will feel good about yourself, your life, your legacy. But you have been fooled. Those things will leave you wanting, because those things were not made to satisfy your soul, which is where the turmoil and suffering really lies.
You are suffering and you cannot seem to make it go away no matter what you try. There is an emptiness there, a dissatisfaction, and nothing can seem to fill that hole.
See the Christian is not free from suffering. In fact, they have willingly signed up for more than you think. But they have also accepted the cure handed to them, that which can fully satisfy and make all suffering worthwhile, for a greater purpose than themselves.
So do no think that because Christians are not sitting in darkness as you are, that we have taken a crutch or are free from pain. Rather, you have chosen to sit stubbornly in your self-induced pain, while we have exchanged ours for a cross to bear.
It never EVER says anywhere in the Bible that following Jesus will be easy. When Jesus instructs us pick up our cross and follow him, it was not a light-hearted comment. It was a challenge. He was asking, “Do you truly know where this path leads?”
That is… scary. Difficult. Painful. There are people being beheaded for professing Jesus as Lord. There are people being shunned, mocked, persecuted by friends, family, entire communities, for believing Jesus is the Messiah.
How, by any stretch of the imagination, is that a crutch? A cop-out? An easy road?
But when you come to know the God that loves you so deeply, that made every part of your being, that saw every evil thing you did or thought or said, but that still loves you and has given you the key to heaven’s gate through Jesus… It is worth the fight. Jesus promises it will be worth it.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” – Romans 8:18
And it is a fight.
Jesus also promises He will be right next to us the entire way we carry our cross. The Beatitudes are not for those who are doing well, they are for those who are suffering as they walk in their faith and trust in Jesus.
When people say “Christianity is a crutch,” I want to say, “No, its more like walking through a dungeon full of blind, sick and injured people that you love, who are focused on trying to numb their pain with all the wrong medicines (which only make them more sick). In your hand you hold the key out of the dungeon. You extend it out to people imploringly, sometimes begging them to take it, to let you help them escape, only to have them lash out and hurl proclamations of self-righteousness, indigence, and insults at you in fear, mockery, anger, and even hatred. Oh yeah, and then also the jailer is gunning after you, aiming at the target on your back because you’re trying to free his prisoners.”
That’s not super fun.
Not at all, really.
And that calling is not something a follower of Jesus can escape. We are called to share the Good News. The news that there is One who has given everything to save them, that loves them so deeply, that so badly wants them with Him for eternity, that He took the punishment that was rightfully theirs. He took the bullet. He took the beating. He took on hell to give them heaven.
And the life Christians are called to is entirely upside-down. The polar opposite of what comes easily.
We are called to love God first. With all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength. Compare that to the person who is their own god. It’s pretty easy to live a selfish and self-indulgent life. It is how our flesh is wired. It’s natural, instinctual. It takes the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to flip that upside down and love God more than ourselves. To accept that your life is not your own to live as you please, that your way is actually not the best way, to seek God’s will before your own. That is the opposite of how people are wired.
Second, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus says the “as ourselves” to give us a gauge, because we are naturally and effortlessly lovers of self, as we have established. Even the people that sit in the pit of self-hatred are consumed with themselves, and in a very unhealthy way, are thinking of themselves before all others. It takes the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to flip that self-obsession upside down and love others just as much. It takes a supernatural act to soften a selfish heart and open blind eyes in order to see the importance and needs of those around us – those that are hurting, that are cast out, rejected, broken-hearted, and struggling. Especially to the point of actually doing something about it.
Being a follower of Jesus is not a crutch. It is a calling to a difficult and even dangerous, but worthwhile, challenge with great reward and everything to lose.