A Tale of Four Brothers
There were four brothers, Losty, Lerner, Lustelot, and Lover, who each had unique experiences with marriage. Losty was trapped in a marriage of disillusionment; he constantly doubted whether he married the right woman because she never seemed to fulfill his needs, and the more he thought about it, the more he imagined there to be someone better out there. But he stuck with his wife, performing the duties of a “good husband” while always yearning for greener pastures.
Lerner was also disillusioned, but to get out of the rut he studied female psychology, memorized his wife’s personality type, and went to marital seminars. He wanted to live at peace with his wife, avoiding all fights by understanding her. But after obtaining a degree in Wifeology, he felt even farther from her.
Lustelot was married for a few years but then realized his wife–or any wife–couldn’t satisfy him, so he abandoned marriage and plugged himself into pornography and casual sex. That way, he could have all the women at once, without any of them making demands on him.
Meanwhile, Lover was floored by his wife of 10 years. He was powerless against the bond they shared, enduring a mixed bag of struggle. The other brothers often derailed him for putting up with the “torture” of a marriage that seemed to bring pain. But he would always insist that nothing could separate them because their love was too strong, and that no matter the cost, the joy was worth it.
What made Lover’s marriage different from those of his brothers? Did he just find the “right” woman? Should his name be “Lucky” instead?
What if I told you that he, like Losty, had his fair share of disillusionment with his marriage? He even went with Lerner to marriage seminars when times were tough. And what if I told you that his marriage nearly fell apart a few days before their wedding because, like Lustelot, he was hooked on pornography?
What made Lover’s marriage work was the weight of his wife’s love. She was devastated, wounded forever, from his fixation on pornography, but no amount of female idols could change her love for him. His brothers sought a relationship that was right for them, while Lover was constrained (2 Cor. 5:14-15) in one that had a real sense of hope and joy (2 Cor. 4:5-18).
What changed Lover’s life was the way his wife’s pain and forgiveness worked together to call him out of a sad lifestyle. She didn’t force him into anything; he caved and surrendered to her.
Our God shows us the same love; this is the foundation of our Christianity: when we didn’t love him, he loved us (Rom. 5:8), and those of us who resonate with this truth will never be the same (Titus 3:4-8). We must keep this at the center whenever we become disillusioned with God.
How Certain Must We Be To Follow Jesus?
No one enters marriage with the intent of “understanding” it. It’s about living out a relationship, so why do we often relegate our walks with God into something like a seminar or ideology when it’s meant to be the most enriching and joyful relationship we have?
For starters, what brought you to Christ? Since we all come from unique paths, the joining to The Path will be different for everyone. Some people require more persuasion than others (John 20:24-29). Some are committed to Christ when they first learn the Gospel, never doubting until they die, while others struggle with staying on the path their whole life. Whether it be straight apologetics or the simple facts of the Gospel that brought us to God, the reality is that our faith is rooted in the truth of the Gospel–not in a mere personal experience.
The Christian life will always be haunted by the paths we were on before (or, for many of us, after) Christ found us, so we should not expect our life on this side of Heaven to be without trouble. Circumstances, issues and questions arise, and our emotions often nag on our intellect and our intellect often inspires negative emotions…and the cycle continues until we find ourselves disillusioned with God the same way Losty was with his wife.
So what about when we doubt the truth of Christ? Can we really be certain he’s “The Path” (John 14:6)?
Well, can I be certain that my wife loves me? Will my answer persuade all singles to jump into a marriage?
I think the better question is “how much certainty do I need to keep following Jesus?”
The simple answer is: whatever it takes. We’ve been given enough to believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and whatever persuaded us to follow Jesus was obviously enough at the time of our conversion. But like John the Baptist, will we consider the evidence when we’re caught in a rut (Luke 7:18-23)? Or will we demand something else, despite the evidence, like the unbelieving Jews (John 6:60-66; 12:37-43)?
So like John the Baptist, our worldview must grow through disillusionment by considering the evidence. A marital love will need some “understanding” and knowledge if it wishes to grow, and so will our belief systems. Hence apologetics!
But beware. Lerner provides us with a cautionary tale.
The Danger of Apologetics
Why do we have a problem with uncertainty? Why do we fear it? The problem, like in the case of Lerner (and Losty), is not in what we don’t know. It’s in our lack of vitality. In response to this lack, it’s easy to try satisfying our sense of security with apologetical answers. If we do this long enough, we become indulgent like Lustelot, craving the emotional satisfaction that comes from “knowing the answers.”
For when we expect Christianity to scratch an itch, we’re missing the point (Christianity actually heightens the itch; Luke 9:24; John 15:18-21).
At their core, Losty, Lerner and Lustelot all share the same desire: to scratch an itch. They all pursue different routes, but their destination is the same: self-gratification. Lover is different because he’s confident in “the other,” no matter how itchy he gets.
Likewise, the Christian faith is about being confident in the One who has the answers. That may seem like a copout, but just as Lover can’t prove that his wife loves him, so we can’t make God more trustworthy than he already is.
What makes our faith strong is Jesus himself. Without Jesus, there would be no apologetics. We must remember what it is we’re protecting when we defend and strengthen our faith via apologetics. It most certainly is not our sense of security. It’s our love for God. It doesn’t matter whether people want to listen; it matters whether we’re willing to live with the tension that inevitably comes with living in a fallen world as a fallen, incomplete human (Rom. 8:10; 1 Cor. 13:12).
Our well-being is not determined by our knowledge of God’s plans or purposes. All we must do is trust that God is capable of doing what he needs to do even when the answers and emotional peace don’t come.
The Goal of Christian Life
But apologetics is still necessary! When we struggle with uncertainty and disillusionment, apologetics gives us the grounding we need. When Lover doubts the “truth” of his wife’s love, he need only look at the evidence: their story, their wedding, the letters they’ve written to each other, and the friends and family who can attest to their love. He is convinced that the love between he and his wife is true, and will last, provided they can keep “the other” the main focus and keep going towards a richer love, not getting bogged down with anything that tempts them with self-preservation (see Heb. 12:1-2).
No matter what we may feel about the undulations of life, God is no more present at the peaks than he is in the valleys. He’s working through such a system to produce something greater than anything our absolute certainty could satisfy (see Heb. 11:39).
Could it be that the answer to our unanswered questions is found in how they impact our relationship with God and others? Will disillusionment push us away from him? Or will they draw us in?
Will they lead us to love others as ourselves? Or will they keep us isolated and trapped like Losty?
What ultimately matters is what type of souls we are becoming (Matt. 5:15-16; John 3:19-20; 6:27-29; 1 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 2:10; 3:20; Col. 3:23; 1 Thess. 2:13; Titus 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:10) and how it propels us to love one another, for, in case we forget, the Christian life is about community. Although we may have individual doubts, our desire ought to be centered on growing our communities. And yes, communities will always have questions (another need for apologetics), so we ought to make sure they get answers, but unless they likewise desire God above certainty, no amount of answers will satisfy.
I’ve noticed that for one person, one particular issue is nearly detrimental to faith while for another it’s like dirt on the shoe. That’s because everyone comes from different paths! That’s why it helps to know how other Christians (layperson and professional alike) process the issues and how they answer questions because then we plainly see that our emotional response to an issue is not determinative of its reality.
So I say again: the only certainty we need about Christ is whatever it takes to strengthen the faith of ourselves and our community. Because let’s say you have a pair of mutual friends, Mr. Doubterman and Ms. Skeptica, who are in a relationship and asking questions about marriage. Which brother would you direct them to?