We all have dreams early on. Though we may never stop and put it into words there is a sense of the good life toward which we strive. Expectation simmers. Hope abounds. We work hard, we pursue, we apply ourselves. And then it happens – an unexpected twist in the road. A knock that sends us spinning and scrambling to adjust our perceptions and keep on keeping on. But it doesn’t stop there. There is another. And then another. And another. Strained relationships, financial loss, problems at work, failing physical health, personal doubts – pushing down on our view of how our life should be. But we push on, we work hard, we keep moving. And the grass through which we are treading only gets thicker and taller and wetter. Most of us can identify with season of life where it just seems that everything in the universe is arrayed against us. We seem to hit every roadblock possible. Hard things just keep coming wave after wave. After a time, the pressure of our circumstances starts to create a change in us. We start to stop and reflect. We sense the red glow of anger and frustration welling up inside.
This moment of refection is the critical point. It reveals more than anything else about how we really see the world. It determines more than anything else how we will proceed through the waves of challenges that are yet to come. Our instinct is often to shake our fist at the sky, to look in resentment upon the world that seems to hate us. Angry at no one in particular. Angry at everything. If you believe in God you face the awkward realization that when you look up, you are looking into the face of your maker. If you do not believe in God your frustrated gaze is met with utter and empty silence.
Here, more than ever, we must face the reality of the story that defines our life. Here, there are essentially only two options. Either the infinite personal God of the Bible exists or he does not. Either there is love and purpose to the universe, or there is not. Either there is hope in our struggle, or there is not. Though there are many gods, spiritualities and ideas, they all fall in the same hopeless category when we are faced with the wall of personal pain that life often sends our way.
Secular naturalism will tell you that there is no God, no spiritual reality, no eternity – that you are utterly alone in the machine that is the universe. Eastern spiritualists will tell you that there is a force of life that connects all things but it has no face or name – you are alone. Various religious systems and cults will tell you that there are many gods in the universe, none of which is infinite, none of which can ultimately be a true resting point – you are alone. Still others will tell you that god demands that you meet his rules and standards before he will bless you – you are alone.
The biblical notion of the God who is both outside of the universe and yet infinitely personally present is utterly unique. The only way that love and hope is real in the midst of our deepest challenges is if we know the one who is the source of these things. Our hardest moments of testing are the most telling. When you stop and consider your struggle, where does it lead you? When you feel like reality is set against you, do you have the ground for real hope?