I am at an age when I am increasingly dependent on the wonders of modern medicine to keep me upright and functioning. “It comes to us all” is what they say and it certainly hasn’t given my house a miss, although there are times when I wish it had. As part of my drug-dependent regime I take a glass of water to bed every night and take my two final pills of the day.
Every Tuesday evening I have the thrilling task of emptying the bins around the house and putting out the rubbish, recycling etc. and when it comes to my bedtime routine, I reach for two tablets from the strip at my bedside and, would you believe it, they are the last two in the strip, every fortnight the last two in the box and so I throw the strip in the bin. Now call me fussy but it offends my fastidious nature that a bin so recently emptied should so soon begin to fill.
How can this be? What is going on that every Tuesday I should suffer this frustration? That strip, that box could have been out on the pavement with the rest of the rubbish waiting to be picked up early next morning. It is one of those things that irks you each time it happens but you just as quickly forget about it and get on with your life (I think I ought to say that my wife thinks I’m more than a little unhinged to worry about this, but she doesn’t throw an empty strip into a bin she has just emptied – or have I missed something here?)
This week I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery, sat down with a strip of tablets, a calendar and a calculator and figured it out. (I lied about the calculator actually and only put it in for dramatic effect. Also, I did have a calendar but in my head. I don’t want people to get the impression I can’t count and don’t know what day it is) There are fourteen tablets on a strip and two strips in a box. I take two tablets every night, start a strip on a Wednesday and, therefore, come-to-my-last-two-tablets-the-following-Tuesday-evening and the last two in the box every other Tuesday. The sense of relief, I can’t tell you! (I know, I ought to get out more)
Its with not a little pride I can tell you that I broke the cycle last night – today being Wednesday and the day the rubbish is collected. When I emptied the bin in my bedroom I took the two remaining pills, placed them on the bedside cabinet, and threw said strip, and the box as it happens, into the rubbish to be taken away. Oh, the sense of triumph! Tomorrow the WORLD!
Life can be like that. Something troubles you but not enough for you to actually give it serious thought. But each time it arises this bothersome and unresolved issue winds you up. For a lot of people questions of faith can be like that. Something is reported on the news, or happens locally, and someone asks, “If there is a God why…” Someone close to us dies and for a moment we feel prompted to ask some of the bigger questions, the “God that’s not fair!” questions. But then life presses in on us and soon the questions are laid aside for another day.
I’m Glad You Asked…
When I am asked such questions, sometimes quite challenging questions I can find it a struggle to answer, not because I don’t have an answer, but because I don’t have a neat, glib sound-bite answer to do justice to what is often a very good question. I want to say, “I’m glad you asked. Can you set aside some hours to talk about this?” And, of course, people are busy and very reluctant to commit the time, afraid perhaps of what they might be drawn into.
But, just like my puzzle over tablets and bin day, sometimes you just have to stop and give it some serious thought. Just as I sat down with a calculator, a calendar and blister strip (OK, there wasn’t a calculator, but you get my meaning) so you, if your questions are serious, must sit down with a Bible, a Christian friend and maybe a good book or study guide if you are going to get real answers.
I often ask people if they are readers because many people are not these days, which is a great pity for all sorts of reasons. If they are, or at least are open-minded enough, I suggest they go and browse around their local Christian bookshop. They would be amazed, I insist, at how many of life’s questions, how many big issues are addressed in Christian books, journals and magazines and how determined, serious-minded Christians are to understand the world. A Christian bookshop is just that, i.e. a bookshop. It isn’t a “truth shop” where all issues are answered definitively and where dogma is sold by the pound but a bookshop where people with different views are represented and ideas are presented to get explored, tried and tested.
Why don’t you come to church? I ask them and, as they give a wary look, explain that churches hold courses where these questions are addressed and answers are sought. Sermons inform as well as challenge, enthuse and convict. Why not come and listen to a few? Why not come over for a coffee and spend an hour or two talking about things, maybe make a start on the journey of discovery that begins with the kind of questions you are asking? Because the big questions are not destinations but departure points and you have to be prepared for the journey of discovery that leads to the answers. Otherwise, why ask?
Be as wary as you like, sit near the door at church, tell the bookseller you’re “just looking” but don’t put it off any longer. Make a move, get a Bible, ask a trusted Christian friend, put that best seller down, good as it is, and pick up a Christian book that looks like it might be interesting, informative and helpful. Come over for a chat some time and lets talk about God and what’s fair and not fair, and what’s it all about, and why you want to do the right thing but so often find yourself doing the wrong thing, and what happens when you die, and does evolution disprove God, and…well you get the picture. Give it time, and effort and you might be surprised what answers come if you just ask.
Here are some books I have personally found very helpful:
- A Fresh Start, by John Chapman and published by Matthias Media tackles some of life’s fundamental questions.
- God That’s Not Fair, by Dick Dowsett, published by OM, addresses some of the really hard questions people ask
- Six Modern Myths, by Philip Sampson, and published by IVP, is a look at six popular myths about the church in history and society, from Galileo to Environmentalism
- Knowing God and Knowing Christianity, by JI Packer and published by Hodder and Staughton and Eagle respectively are excellent insights into the God of the Bible and the faith of a Christian
- Why I am a Christian, by John Stott and published by IVP is a refreshing insight into one man’s reasons for embracing the Christian Faith.
- The Puzzle of God, by Peter Vardy and published by Harper Collins is a more philosophical look at the subject
- You Can’t be Serious, by Michael Green and published by Monarch is a serious look at 12 reasons for avoiding Jesus
- At the Heart of the Universe, by Peter Jensen and published by IVP is a close look at what Christians believe about God, man and the purpose at the heart of the universe
- There is a God, by Anthony Flew and published by Harper Collins is, in the words of the author, an account of “How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind”
- Simply Christianity, by John Dickson and published by Matthias Media, is a reading of Luke’s Gospel with simple but challenging commentary designed to discover what is simply Christianity when all the extraneous stuff is stripped away.
There must be something there that caught your attention and made you think it might be worth turning off the TV and curling up with a cup of tea and a book. If you do take up the challenge to do more than ask the questions, more than dismiss God with a wave of your hand as you walk away still bemused, let me know. Write to me and we can have a chat about it. I always like to chat about my faith and hear what others have discovered on the journey. Your here until you go so you may as well make the best of it. Who knows but that it might turn out better and more meaningful than you ever dreamed or imagined?