devozine

Spiritual Practice

DARKNESS OR LIGHT: CHOOSING FAITH

Tom Arthur

When I read the resurrection stories, I’m struck by how differently people respond to the empty tomb. John sees the empty tomb and simply believes (John 20:8). Mary needs to hear Jesus say her name before she believes (John 20:16). Thomas isn’t interested in eyewitness accounts; he wants the certainty of touching Jesus himself (John 20:25).

light at top of steps2 TSP 513179945I grew up in the church and believed in the resurrection; but as I went through high school and college, I began asking lots of questions. Like Thomas, I wasn’t content to lean on the experiences or beliefs of other people. I wasn’t sure I could believe that Jesus was who he said he was; but, I reasoned, if I could know with absolute certainty that Jesus rose from the dead, then I could trust him and follow him.

As I sought certainty about the resurrection, I began to doubt that I would ever find it. My spiritual life landed in a dark hole. I no longer believed much of anything. I let go of my faith in Jesus.

What I found surprised me. I found that I was as uncertain with unbelief as I was with belief. I’m not sure I was an atheist; but as Anne Rice, the famed atheist, said, “My faith in atheism was cracking.” The difference was that on the side of belief, I had the light of hope and meaning in my life; and on the side of unbelief, I had neither. I had only darkness.

During that time of darkness, I began reading The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. They opened a window on my imagination, which allowed the light of God’s grace to shine into my life. Coming back to faith in Jesus was, for me, an intentional decision to choose to believe in spite of uncertainty. That’s faith.

light through window Ftr TSP139743419In his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” C. S. Lewis makes the distinction between looking at a beam of light and looking along a beam of light. You can see a beam of light coming through a crack in the door of a dark toolshed, or you can look along the beam of light and see the trees and sun outside. Elsewhere Lewis says, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is what I found when I chose to believe and trust in Jesus despite my uncertainty. My life took on hope and meaning. I had hope that I could be a better person, that the world could be a better place, and that a good and meaningful existence would continue after death. The world was resurrected from being a dark place to being a place full of wonderful colorful light.

To be completely honest, I still am uncertain. Flannery O’Conner says, “Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It’s not about certainty, but about trust.” I trust in the resurrection of Jesus, but I still have questions. Who am I most like in the gospel story? I think I’m a mixture of John, Mary, and Thomas. Eventually they all believe. Who are you most like?

 

DIG DEEPER

Read John 20. Imagine yourself being each person in the story as he or she meets Jesus. What questions do you have? What answers does Jesus give? What questions does Jesus leave unanswered? Consider reading a book by C. S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia is a great place to start.

Tom Arthur is the pastor of Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing, Michigan (sycamorecreekchurch.org).

—from devozine (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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