In G.K. Chesterton’s book What’s Wrong With The World he writes, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”1
I’ve often thought of this statement during times of doubt, skepticism, or faithlessness. Sometimes I question if there really is a God or if the Spirit really resides within me. During these times I become cynical, ask a lot of questions, hem and haw, and so on. Then it hits me: the power of Christianity is not experienced from the outside. At which point I finally surrender in my spirit and allow myself to pray and speak to God. Nearly always, this fills me with a great sense of peace and comfort—even if my questions aren’t resolved. How I wish I could more quickly arrive at that point of surrender!
There are so many testimonies (maybe all testimonies?) that boil down to a moment where the person cries out from within their heart and says, “God help me!” That moment of surrender—of “trying it out”—becomes a pivotable part of their story. For many of us, these moments of surrender happen on a daily basis.
It’s easy to say we don’t believe in healing or miracles when we’ve never prayed for anyone. When people state that they don’t believe in healing, my professor from Spring Arbor asks, “How many sick people have you prayed for?” It’s easy to say that God doesn’t speak when we don’t take the time to listen. It’s easy to say that the Holy Spirit doesn’t empower us when we don’t take actions that require empowerment beyond our own abilities. It is easy to deem God distant when we don’t make any sort of effort to draw near to him.
One of the many tensions of Christianity is that the value of its ideals are not appreciated until tried. Pray for those who persecute you? Love your enemies? The last shall be first and the first shall be last? Die in order to live? Surrender in order to find strength? Walk with humility in order to influence? Serve in order to lead? Become disciplined to experience freedom? These sound nonsensical and upside down, but we can’t appreciate their significance until we actually live them out.
I remember when I started to test out types of nonviolent communication and return various forms of violence with love. I used to work as a barista and often encountered tired, grumpy, and occasionally angry customers. If someone made a derogatory comment to myself or another employee, I would have a tendency to smolder inside and think of the little things I wish I could say back to them. As I matured, I realized this would be a great place to test out loving my “enemies” by simply responding with love and kindness. It was always hard to take that step, to smile and genuinely apologize to a customer, to absorb their violence and transform it into love…so difficult. However, as soon as I made that act in love I would experience a great inner freedom. I didn’t fume afterward or allow their bitterness to create bitterness in me. Responding to hate with hate fuels the fire and corrodes both parties. However, the power of the Holy Spirit within us enables us to absorb that hate and transform it—just like Jesus did. (Of course this doesn’t mean that we become punching bags for the world. Wisdom and discernment play a role here.) Returning anger and bitterness, with love and kindness, is actually liberating and leads to greater life! It’s difficult, but if tried, it will not be found wanting.
What aspects of your spiritual journey have you found difficult and left untried? In what ways to you objectify and analyze your faith rather than entering into it, surrendering, and actually conversing with God?
Fellow pilgrims: May you try to live the Christian ideal. May you try out those difficult ideals in order experience the depths of their truth and significance. May you move beyond positions of analyzation and objectification; and journey down the narrow path to life.
Photo credit: Lance Baker [Loc] Guatemala City, Guatemala