The poet Henry David Thoreau wrote a famous and really depressing line:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation
He went on to say that despair is basically the common lot of life, no matter where you're from or what you do.
A website called BuzzFeed did a survey. They asked their readers why they stopped believing in God. There were some really heart-touching replies. Here are 12 of them:
Watching a loved one die.
Working in the medical field and seeing so much pain and death.
Knowing believers who were not compassionate.
Seeing a Christian family fall apart.
Not having enough evidence.
Seeing my parents stay in a bad marriage.
Having unanswered prayers.
Being connected with the Universe.
Viewing God as a child's myth.
There were more reasons for leaving God. But in almost all of them, there was an undercurrent of disappointment with God. God let them down. God let them get hurt. God didn't come through for them.
That made me sad. Jesus is my brother and my friend. It's hard to hear people criticize your brother and your friend.
The total list is twice as long. But I noticed something when I read through it. People who replied to the BuzzFeed survey did not leave their faith for logical reasons. It wasn't over logical or philosophical objections.
They mainly left Christianity because of a painful experience.
And specifically it was a painful experience that they couldn't reconcile with their idea of the Christian God.
So they left God in the dust and turned away from Jesus.
But I have to when they turned away from Jesus, what did they turn to? What system, what philosophy, what faith did they turn to?
And to be really fair, we have to ask another question.
When a person rejects Jesus and the biblical message, do they hold their new system to the same standards?
Do they run the same evaluations?
Does their new system heal their pain?
Does their new system enhance their dignity and explain their purpose and give meaning to their suffering and to all their days?
Does their new system make better sense of life than Jesus? Than the gospel of grace?
It's a fair question to ask. If you turn from Jesus to something else, does that something else give you a better answer to the problem of pain.
And does that something else also provide satisfying and logical answers to the big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is my origin? What is my destiny?
What if turning you back on Christ turns out to be a giant step in the wrong direction if you're seeing relief and answers to your pain and the problem of pain?
What if turning to Jesus is the best possible antidote to a life of quiet desperation and despair?