I visited my friend Dan in the hospital as he is gravely ill. Spiritually, Dan has some belief in God, but, as in the past, his discussion quickly headed toward his telepathic (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/telepathy) abilities. He compares his perceived abilities to Jesus’, causing him to doubt if Jesus really did anything for him. I then found myself trying to steer Dan toward some biblical understanding. As Dan was already agitated by some other things, I could see the conversation wasn’t helpful. We left it alone.
I write about Dan because, in a way, he reminds me of myself. In seeking to grow as a pastor, I read philosophy-type books which ask “what is truth,” and I engage in on-line discussions, often with non-believers, about morality, and other things with diverse, strong opinions. There, people challenge my beliefs, requiring me to defend with reasons. Those “heady” discussions can be helpful for me if they are balanced with, even “lopsided” towards, times of just loving God, and dwelling in Him. Like in a marriage, some testing of a couple’s love, like arguments, may refine the relationship, but too much is tiring. This devotional titled “The Possibility of Knowing Christ,” by Stan Mast, illustrates my point:
“Some might be skeptical about knowing Christ better because of their faith in the scientific method, which says that you can only know what you can test. Since you can’t test an unseen Christ, you can’t really know him.
Is that true? A college freshman meets an attractive girl and wants to know her better. So he tests her scientifically. He talks her into getting a complete physical and taking a battery of psychological tests. He observes her, develops hypotheses, and tests them out to see if they really explain her. He wants to know for sure, so he exercises appropriate scientific skepticism. And she finally tells him to take a hike back to his lab, tired of his testing.
The fact is that you can’t really know a person by testing, only by trusting. If you are always doubting and questioning, you will never know a person. You cannot know a person as a person until you trust her enough to let her into your heart and life. The same is true of Jesus.”
I had a follow-up visit with Dan. We talked briefly about our earlier conversation, and I encouraged him to think about two things: 1) As eternal life is important to Dan, I encouraged him to reflect on Jesus’ words in John 14:6—”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” hoping in this late stage that Dan will accept Jesus rather than compare to Jesus. And then, 2) rather than allow too many things (old enemies, medical staff, spiritual Q’s) to irritate him, I encouraged Dan to reflect on God’s words: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Give yourself a break; just dwell in Him and His goodness.
Beyond that exchange, we talked about the old neighborhood and mutual friends as we munched on gummy bears, before praying together.