The story is often told of a young boy who attended a class at his church and was, in time, conditioned to answer every question that was asked of him in the exact same way. Whatever the question- at least in church- the safe answer seemed to be “Jesus,” or some variation thereof.
As the story goes, one day the boy’s teacher asked the class, “What lives in trees, eats nuts, is brown and has a long bushy tail, and jumps from branch to branch?” The boy, ever quick on the trigger, replied excitedly, “Well, the answer must be Jesus…but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”
Now this story is often used to poke fun at followers of Jesus, to cast His people as ignorant and thoughtless about what they believe and why. I, for one, actually believe that’s a challenge that we need to hear; we should pursue and practice a thoughtful, well reasoned faith, and additionally, work to be able to articulate it to others wrestling with the claims of Christ. The world around us needs to see that there are credible reasons to follow Jesus, that the Christian story really does make sense of- and provide hope in- the jumbled mess of a world in which we live.
But even as I believe all that wholeheartedly, I actually want to press in the opposite direction today, on those who claim they need to know everything- the answer to every one of their questions- to believe or do anything as it relates to Jesus. If that’s you, whether you’re considering the claims of Christ for the first time or are a disillusioned follower trying to make sense of your life, these words are for you. And let’s be clear- They aren’t coming from a place of judgment or condemnation, but instead one of genuine love, concern, and challenge.
If you’re wrestling- and feeling paralyzed- with questions of faith, my strong encouragement to you would be to take these three practical steps before you throw in the towel on Jesus…
1- Check your sources. If you’re searching for answers, where are you looking? Who is influencing you, and how? Have you, intentionally or unintentionally, bought into “straw man arguments” regarding Jesus and the Christian faith? “Straw men,” whether they are of the Christian variety or otherwise, are by their nature designed to be torn down and burned up. Instead, go to the “best of the best” sources and weigh them against your doubts and skepticisms. A few recommendations…
The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller
The Case For Christ / The Case For Faith / The Case For A Creator, all by Lee Strobel
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
2- Consider your motives. Are your doubts and questions honest, or is there something behind them that you can’t see (or won’t yet admit)? Is there something outside the intellectual or philosophical realm that scares or repels you from truly following Jesus? If there is, you owe it to yourself to know that, and deal with it accordingly. In reality, most of us are a bag of mixed motives, and until we’re willing to stop posturing and get raw and real, we’ll remain stuck where we are. Again, that’s not a condemnation, only an important consideration.
3- Doubt your doubts. Timothy Keller asserts that “all doubts are really systems of alternate belief.” In other words, you believe something is good, right, and true, even if it isn’t orthodox Christianity. Again, I think you owe it to yourself to identify what those beliefs are- and to weigh them out against the Christian story. Which system of belief is most cohesive, and makes the most sense of the “big questions” of life in this world? Subjecting every form of belief to the same scrutiny that you would Christianity is an important step toward establishing your own convictions.
Now, back to our little boy and the squirrel. While this example is obviously facetious, there is a sense in which Jesus is the ultimate Answer to the questions we’re all asking. Follow me here. At the end of the day, what do we want most? Some might say love, others truth, still others joy or peace, and still others hope for the future.
However you define what you’re ultimately after in life, the reality is that if the Jesus presented to us in the Bible really is who He said He was (God in the flesh), and really did what He is reported to have done (lived perfectly, died sacrificially, and rose from the grave victoriously), then He and He alone really is the Answer to all our questions, the satisfaction to all our longings.
He is perfect love.
He is unadulterated truth.
He is everlasting joy.
He is peace beyond all understanding.
He is eternal, unshakeable hope.
In the end, none of us can have all of our questions answered in this life; it’s simply impossible. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek them, but it does mean we need to be anchored in reality and mindful of our own human limits. But here’s what I believe- Jesus is able to satisfy what we really want and need most in our hearts even in the absence of some of those answers we long to know. He’s that great, that good, that sufficient.
So in light of your questions and longing, will you consider Him? I pray you will- honestly, thoughtfully, and ultimately wholeheartedly. I believe if you do, He will show Himself to you to be the only One worth your life.