I wish I’d grown up asking the “why” questions. Instead they all came flooding to my conscience over the period of one summer before my senior year of high school.
Most of these questions were in regard to my Christian faith. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why is God hidden? What about suffering and evil? The more I asked these questions, the more intense my anxiety became. Everything I’d known—everything I’d trusted—was being torn to the ground brick by brick. Questions were cutting holes in my worldview and were seemingly irreparable.
Or so I thought.
My dad is in many ways the person I want to be. He relies on solid, trustworthy evidence for anything he believes. If he catches an error in his argumentation, he’ll backtrack and make a better argument and admit his mistake. I’d call him an intellectual. He also happens to be a theology buff. With my accusations and anxieties in mind, I wondered how the two sides to him—the intellectual and the theologian—could possibly coexist.
So when I broke down in front of my (thankfully, highly supportive) parents and admitted to my increasing doubts, I looked for answers. I asked to meet with Dad. Once a week for weeks on end, we would meet up for a Wendy’s frosty and deep theological and philosophical arguments.
A lot of questions were answered in those few months. A lot of them weren’t. When Dad would satisfy an answer to a question that had me worried, I’d move on and find something else to stress about: there was always room for doubt. I would be forced to confront the non-existence of absolute certainty, and it would haunt me.
This cycle of seeking out “holes” in Christian theology led Dad to address a more pertinent question.
It was just another typical Wendy’s day with me jumping from unanswerable hypothetical to hypothetical. Maybe it was the time I was stuck on why God lets bad things happen to good people. Finally, after fretful and emotionally-charged argumentation on my part, my Dad finally stopped me and went to the core of the issue. “Let’s just assume the worst is true. Let’s assume we can’t know why God lets bad things happen to good people. What’s the consequence?”
I blinked at the table for a moment. “God doesn’t care.”
“If God’s saving people from suffering is our only evidence for His love, then yes. But it’s not.” He leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. “But you and I have already established the truth of the resurrection.”
Any assertion during a conversation sent me into a silent spiral of self-questioning. Truth of resurrection? Death verified. Testimony of more than core disciples. Usage of women testimony unlikely but promoted. Early attestation from Luke and Paul. Paul’s conversion detrimental to him yet still took place. Disciples faced torturous death for their witness yet continued in it. Resurrection verified.
I swallowed and slowly nodded. “Right, but…”
“So all of these questions you’re asking—you think they have the potential to tear apart your worldview, but they don’t. The questions are valid, they’re just in a different category. The issue is the reliability of the Christian claim; and the Christian claim is that God provided a rescue for man through His Son.
“Suffering then, for example, is a complication of that view, but not a defeater of it. As long as you can trust in the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection as true and verified, all of these other questions aren’t a threat to your faith. Because the resurrection is the core of your belief; all other aspects of your faith rely upon it. The rest are in-house concerns that are important, but don’t threaten the validity of the Gospel at all in the end.”
I considered his assertion. Could it be true? I sloshed my plastic spoon around in my melted frosty. “So…because we know God has dedicated all His timely existence to our benefit—as evidenced by His death and resurrection--we can trust that He’ll use bad things for good, even when we don’t know how…We can trust Him with the answers because of what He did for us.”
Dad’s eyes glinted with satisfaction. “Exactly.”
While I’d been worrying over a few missing bricks, I’d forgotten entirely about the foundation of my argument: Christ’s death and resurrection.
From then on I took every question about my faith and related it back to what we know about God from what He did through Jesus. I won’t pretend that my faith is profoundly secure and that I trust God with every unanswered question I encounter. But I rest in the core conviction I have regarding Christianity: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Other questions are important. They’re substantial. But even as I consider them, I know my hope can rest in the only true reason for my faith.
“But test everything that is said. Hold onto what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NLT)