I meet lots of people who used to believe.
They used to put their hope in something bigger than themselves. They once followed a path that gave them answers, made sense of life’s nonsense and gave them a deep well of joy and purpose. These friends once believed in Jesus.
But something changed. Somewhere along the way, the wear and tear of growing up and facing more complicated issues, wrestling with deeper struggles, and enduring more profound loss caused the fire of that faith to be smothered. And even if they desperately want to believe, they have forgotten how to live in that belief.
Just a few days ago, I heard Where are You Christmas? as How the Grinch Stole Christmas played in my living room. I’m a lyrics girl, so I’m always listening to what the song is trying to communicate through the music and the words. As I listened to the child’s voice ask the searching questions, it dawned on me that in most places of this song, you can replace the word “Christmas” with “Jesus.” Take a second to listen to the song as Faith Hill sings it and insert “Jesus” wherever you hear “Christmas”:
That might be the faith heartache of your life. Where are you Jesus? Where are you when I have so much to face. Why did you go away? My life looks very different from the days when it seemed easy to believe and follow you. Things have been turned upside-down in my life. I’ve got a lot more questions than answers, now. Does that mean all that I had hoped in gets turn upside down, too?
For some of us, maybe the questions of the next verse sum it up. Where are you Jesus? Do you even remember me? I’m not the same as I was – I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Is that why it feels like you’ve let me go?
It’s almost as if we are supposed to outgrow believing in Jesus, just like we eventually stop believing in Santa Claus. Many give up on the childlike notion that God could love us no matter what, meet us wherever we are, accept us regardless of what we’ve done, heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon us and be big enough to answer our toughest questions.
It is an absurdity, I’ll admit. It doesn’t make much sense to the logical mind to believe in Jesus. Just like the story of Santa is rooted in the real life events of the amazing St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra who lived around the 3rd century, it would make more sense to acknowledge that yes, Jesus was real person, and a great one at that, but that his redemptive story of saving us with a not-of-this-world kind of strength that actually brought him back to life, really just became a part of the sweet children’s tale that evolved about him through history.
Here’s the catch though. All those fun details of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer and red suits and of course, the supernatural ability to get around the entire world in one night, well that’s all folklore that’s been added by us, the people who love the story. And, many of those details have been added as recently as the last few centuries.
But, the miracle of Jesus being “God with us”, healing people from miserable diseases, feeding crowds of thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread, dying on the cross for us and then kicking death in the pants so he could come back for us, and offering to be our way, our truth and our life – all those were real-life God-powered events that people really saw over and over again. The details of his life were written by those who actually knew him or lived as a contemporary of him. And even more amazingly, things like where he would be born, how he would die and the kind of power he would have were all foretold and written about long before he even lived. His life story needed no magical embellishments. This real life story has been retold not because of how much people loved the story of this man, but because of the outrageous way that this man loved us.
The truth is that Jesus is here. He hasn’t gone away. He hasn’t let go…and he won’t. He knows your life is different – and by the way, he does recognize you. He misses you and would love nothing better than for you to embrace your belief again, realizing that a whimsical story cannot outlast childhood, but the extraordinary, living, breathing hero of the story can withstand whatever doubt or circumstance you face.
We may outgrow a limited understanding of who Jesus was and still is, but he will never grow out of his persistent desire for us to know him in deeper ways, and still see him with the strong, believing eyes of a child.
The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31