“For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son…”
Many of us could probably finish the widely quoted John 3:16, possibly the most well-known verse of the bible. However, I never could. The story of my life doesn’t begin with an, “I grew up in a Christian home…” In fact, other than the occasional wedding, I rarely ever stepped foot on church grounds as a child. I spent my days nestled in between mountains, wandering the creek beds of the Appalachian hills I was raised in. I had a good and simple childhood. God was just an idea no one else ever seemed to think about. By day, I was satisfied with life. But by night, I began to toss and turn with questions. I was unsure if I even believed in a god, and my wondering would keep me lying in bed awake at night. Even though I hoped and occasionally even prayed, the existence of God floated just beyond the realm of possibility. No matter how wildly I seemed to grasp at the dark, I couldn't reach Him. Yet all the while, God was seeking me out.
Flash forward to high school. The secretary, who I became rather fond of, would frequently invite me to her church. I had hoarded the idea for a while that churches were full of hypocrites and people who never changed, so I was completely disinterested in her proposal to go to one. Eventually, I ran out of excuses and decided to go for one night just to shut her up.
When I got to the church, it was an Easter play portraying the story of Jesus’ death on the cross- the first time I had seen the story played out. I walked out that night clutching at the remarkable feeling of hope that I had never felt before. I didn’t know at the time that it was the Holy Spirit.
It was that hope that I carried with me every Sunday thereafter. Finally, after all my years of grasping, I had finally caught something to hold onto. Eventually, I gave my heart to God at the altar and desperately wanted to experience more of him. Little did I know, I still had a long road to go to defeat doubt completely.
Still I lay awake at night and wrestled with doubt. Like some sort of cruel Burmese Python, it would grip me tighter and tighter until I could barely breathe. Still, with that tiny flutter of hope still wriggling, I sought the Lord.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I needed to fully jump off the precipice of everything I was wrestling with and allow God to catch me completely. Little by little, God overcame every worry and doubt I ever had. Somewhere along the way, after going to college and immersing myself in the Chi Alpha community and being sought out by God, my worries and fears began to dissolve. One day I woke up, had my quiet time, and discovered that I was free from the burden of doubt. I had finally learned to jump and allow God to catch me.
Now my faith that there is a God is unshakable. It hurts my heart to even read Pascal’s wager as an argument to believe in God.
“If I die and God is not real, then I lose nothing.”
I do. I lose everything. Whereas I once held hope just in the palm of my hand, I have now staked every single ounce of my hope in Him. The gospel is worthy of it all. I can’t believe in Him as a failsafe. I believe because I have risked everything and stood out on the ledge of faith and jumped, and been caught in the arms of a good and just God. I believe because I have experienced too many moments with Jesus, the Light of the World, to ever be fearful of the night again.
I know that He came so that he could break down barriers and bestow truths that most of the western world believes are too good to be true. And they are too, too good. So good, that nothing else matters. That when enraptured by Him, you know that death has no more meaning and a soul truly can be free.