by Rob Tims
“Do you ever just think that this whole Christianity thing is a big misunderstanding?”
This was the very honest question of a loving, God-fearing woman in her 30’s who had served the church pretty much her entire life. Her life circumstances were good: no real trials to speak of, and all the blessings you would expect an educated, middle-class woman to have (house, minivan, kids, etc.). She was simply reflecting on the perceived absurdity of the entire story, from creation to new creation and everything in between.
There is much to doubt—everything we see spoken into existence; human beings living without shame; the story of Abraham and Isaac; the plagues of Egypt; the miracles of Moses; angels; prophecies; pregnant virgins; resurrections … oh, and Jesus riding a white horse when he comes back out of the sky.
She’s not alone. Either all of Christianity is true, or all of it is not. C. S. Lewis’ letter to friend Arthur Greeves regarding this struggle is helpful:
Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself . . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.
I’ve found it helpful to remind myself of three core truths when I doubt the validity of my faith … three things that, as Lewis put it, work on me and really are true. They come from Colossians 1:15-23.
First, without exception, He is the reason why anything or anyone exists, and the end for which they exist. Verse 16 states, “For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him.
Second, without exception, everyone and everything is sustained by Him. Verses 17-18 state, “He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
Finally, and perhaps most winsomely, though Jesus is these things by right, He proved these things through the cross and resurrection. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (vv. 19-20).
So what? What affect do these three things have on a mind mired in doubt? To remind me He is at work in my life, and to keep me faithful through times of doubt. Verses 22-23 explain. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him — if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.
By reminding myself again and again of Jesus’ supremacy and love, I’m drawn to remain faithful to One who lovingly reigns. It’s hardly fashionable to say to the doubting person, “Just tell yourself the truth,” but it is just that simple. The best way to fight doubt is to remind ourselves of what is true.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.