A friend asked this question to me and several others during dinner last Sunday. Something about the seriousness of the question caught me off guard, and it’s been on my mind for a while now. Probably more so because a family friend/church friend/former boss had passed away recently due to a heart attack, and the randomness of it keeps reminding me of the fact that we will all die someday.
So, then, against the backdrop of death and randomness and other terrible things, how do I find joy and satisfaction in Christ?
I don’t know. But the more I think about the question, the thing that I keep coming back to is that believing in Christ just makes sense of everything, and that gives me joy. I know some of you reading this might not believe (or even like) Christianity, so please bear with me.
There are a few questions that I’m always curious about. For instance, why is nature so beautiful when it doesn’t have any reason to be? We travel just to look and marvel at nature and wildlife, and when visiting places like the Grand Canyon, we might even get goosebumps or get emotional. Even the trees I see during my hikes at a local park are beautiful, and it’s hard for me to believe that the beauty I see in everything in nature just all happened to be. It gets at this nagging thought I (and maybe you) always had that…maybe there’s something more here, that there was intent.
Or why do people, and having relationships and spending time with people, feel so different and special in a a way that cannot really be matched? On paper, we’re not any special. We’re just a species among many, and we happen to be the most intelligent, but we’re no different at the end of the day. The basis for our human rights, then, would come not from something inherent in nature but just from our words. (Unless you say that animals also have inherent rights, but the question then becomes…where are they all getting these rights from?) We have rights because we say we have rights.
But this goes against my instinct that we truly do matter. Mom, dad, brother, friends, the person I said hi to at a park, the person who made small talk with me…doesn’t it seem like there’s something special about us all? When you do something kind for someone else, there’s something that you feel, isn’t there? And when we hear injustices being done to others, don’t we feel anger at the unfairness of the situation? Maybe there’s a simple biological argument there, but I can’t help but think that what we’re feeling, and demanding in that situation (justice), goes beyond such an explanation and that we’re feeling what we ought to.
Again, do people matter? If we say they do, then what is the basis for their rights? Is it simply because we say they have rights? If so, is that a sound argument? What we say can always change. If people at some point in the future decide that there are no human rights for certain groups of people, then do those groups not have those rights? If we say they’re wrong and that the groups do have rights, what is it that we’re appealing to there that makes them wrong?
Thinking out very loud at this point. I mention these things, though, because I’m curious about these things. Why do we find nature so beautiful? Why can’t we help but feel certain emotions when we do something kind to others and anger at injustice?
Here, believing in Christ fits everything into place for me. Nature is beautiful because, like I can’t help but suspect, it was made to be. People matter because they were made to matter. Christianity explains why we can’t help but long for eternity with our loved ones, why we can be so good and yet so horribly bad, why we can’t help but think that there’s something more to this world, why we impulsively demand justice when we see something horrible. It’s why, at the end of Don’t Look Up, the main cast and family members would gather around at a dinner table and pray at their last moment–because all of us (even atheists) will have the desire to pray if we were all about to die together, wherever that desire had been.
Sometimes the whole thing feels like a sham, I’ll admit. And I know I’m not the only one. Even the great C.S. Lewis admitted much. But, he then says this in Mere Christianity:
“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.” (page 125)
For me, believing in Christ makes sense to me logically (even if my mood might disagree sometimes), and that, among many other things, gives me joy. That the innate things I feel, namely, that you and I matter, that there are meaning and beauty to life, are true.
I wanted to write about the second part to the question, which was about satisfaction, but this post got too long, so perhaps next time.
One more gem from Mere Christianity: “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”