Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Do you want to be skeptical, or do you want to be happy?

This morning, I met a fine young man of faith who impressed me with his cheerful demeanor and ready, warm laugh. At almost sixteen, he has seen much of tragedy, and his current home life includes financial, health, academic, and relationship struggles of above average intensity. Most people in his situation would feel to say, "Life stinks!" 

But while he recognizes all of these hardships, he maintains a bright hope that things will get better and that God is listening to and answering his fervent prayers. In fact, I've never heard a teen talk so much or so eagerly about his time spent in prayer. 

Oddly enough, just yesterday, I spoke with a man whose attitude was exactly the opposite. His circumstances in life had led him to the conclusion that God is some kind of sadist, and our job is to love the pain or burn forever in the afterlife, and he wanted nothing to do with faith. His general outlook is bleak nine days out of ten. 

It got me thinking. Over the years, I've heard many a skeptic scoff a those who cling to faith. They call believers delusional, weak, stupid, and a myriad of other mocking terms. 

But here's the thing ... Those who believe find wisdom, strength, and courage to face their situations with optimism. If it's all bunk, then why does it work so well? If faith is self-deception, then why is the happiness real?

If the choice is between being skeptical and miserable, or being faith-filled and happy, why would I let intellectual pride stop me from finding joy in life?

photo credit: Slide Share

I knew people in the mountains of Guatemala who lived in homes made of dried cornstalks and corrugated tin. They had dirt floors, pooped in a ditch outside, and had to haul water from the river in massive jugs. But even in those circumstances, I found faith-filled people who loved their lives and found daily reasons to rejoice over God's goodness. 

Meanwhile, in the lap of first-world luxury, some allow their hope to be crushed by a slow internet, a boring job, or a fender bender dinging their car. They complain and compare and compete--and drive happiness from their lives because they refuse to look to the Lord as the source of their fulfillment. 

Our joy is not circumstantial. Our hope cannot be in the things we want because we always want more. We have to look to the Lord Jesus Christ to answer the longings of our heart, and He will not leave us comfortless. 

"We literally cannot despair--unless we choose to. But because we are mortal, death is entangled with life. We can choose to feed the darkness and death in our lives, or we can choose to feed the brightness of hope in our lives. We can worry. We can deny the light. We can refuse to ally ourselves with Jesus Christ, the already triumphant master of life. We can give our lives piece by piece into the captivity until we no longer have the power to wrench it away again. We can cooperate with the killing of our spirits and the strangling of our hopes until meaninglessness and despair overcome us. The death of the body is nothing--for Christ's Resurrection guarantees our own--but He cannot rescue us from the death of the spirit unless we choose to ally ourselves with Him, with His hope, with the inexhaustible and irrepressible life that is His."  (Chieko Okazaki, October 1996 General Conference)

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Knowledge vs. Proof