ANONYMOUS CORRESPONDENT: My faith seems very impractical and fanciful, as though it exists in one reality and my life in another. What I experience day in and day out seems to be empty of anything but the temporal, and I am only talking myself into believing in the eternal as there is really no proof for it besides half-guesses. Most Christians use Christianity for their own purposes, particularly myself. I find myself thinking things like, “This is all based on authority with no proof of anything. I could believe it if it actually worked in someone’s life; but it doesn’t. Instead, I’m supposed to bank everything on another, invisible world that I may get to some day, at which point everything will then be okay.”
I find this hard to share with many people because it would make them uncomfortable. Any books I get my hands on seem to not get close to touching this part of me that feels like it is dying.
A lot of it has to do with de-toxing from six terrible years in _____ with a lot of people who were very mean and ugly to one another. I find myself asking, “All my life I’ve built everything around this belief . . . and it really hasn’t gotten me anywhere. In fact, in some ways I’m just more hurt from believing it.” I find myself living practically like an agnostic. God doesn’t speak to people; God doesn’t make everything okay; we don’t really know if we’re eternal beings; and yet this God demands we limp through each day believing anyway. I’m not sure I have the energy to do that; in fact, trying to do it actually makes me a much gloomier, more short-tempered person.
Then I look at the person of Jesus and think, how lovely! Everything He said is so true of how we should treat one another, of how life should look. He spoke like no one else . . . and I find it hard to believe a bunch of guys just sat around and made that stuff up and organized themselves and were martyred for it just to fool everybody. And I find myself caught in the middle once again.
Words of wisdom?
ME: You already hit on the key. Look at the person of Jesus. Jesus, exactly. Jesus, more. Jesus, not me and (especially) not those folks you’ve been around. Either He was more than just a martyr or there is no hope. You see the alternatives quite clearly. It’s Jesus or nothing. Pascal’s wager is still the best bet.
I know this sounds pretty empty when what you really need is not intellectual answers but emotional support, and it doesn’t seem like God is giving you any, and why not if He is actually there and all that loving? Do I have it about right? [I did.]
OK, then, it’s not a question of what is true but of what you are able to feel. I don’t have answers for that. Why we feel the way we do is often very complicated. You may have cut yourself off from God’s normal means of supplying emotional support by choosing to cast your lot with a group of legalists; it may have been abundantly available but you had made yourself incapable of receiving it (like C. S. Lewis for a time in A Grief Observed). I don’t know. I can only say that lots of saints have had the same struggle at various times (including me). I would just hug you if I could. Cyber hugs aren’t good enough, but it’s all I can give you today. And encourage you to start every day by reading the scene in The Silver Chair where Puddleglum stomps the fire and makes his speech about following Aslan. I don’t know what I would do without dear old Puddleglum. He’s my patronus.
And think about this: Could Lewis have written that scene if he, the greatest apologist and Christian intellectual of the 20th century, was not able to relate to where you are coming from? We are in good company, dear sister. Lift up your head!
[This seemed to help my friend. Will it help you? Only you can tell.]
For more unconventional apologetics from Dr. Williams, see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy and his other books from Lantern Hollow Press. To order, go to