When Stephen Hawking died last month, many of his quotes were spotlighted in the multitude of articles covering his death. It was one his quotes regarding heaven that I remember most vividly. It went something like this: “Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
I’m sure it’s quite obvious that I’m not one of the modern world’s brilliant thinkers, but I understand the sentiment of Hawking’s quote. I get this type of thought. I have often wrestled with such thoughts about heaven myself.
I believe many people assume that the moment someone becomes a Christian, they then sail effortlessly through their study of God’s word never questioning the scriptures they see before them. In fact, I expect to the unbeliever, we believers seem like a bunch of brain-washed zombies who have relinquished free thought along with the ability to make our own decisions. I can assure you that for many of us, these assumptions are completely inaccurate. (I’ve more or less covered this issue in previous posts linked below.)
Thankfully, my wrestling matches with some of the more difficult to comprehend aspects of the Bible are becoming less frequent, but they still disrupt my thoughts every once in while; it is then that the questions start swirling and the doubt creeps in.
In the past, it was not uncommon for me to panic and feel guilty when these thoughts intruded upon my Bible study or prayer time. It was easy for me to understand why others felt comfortable referring to the Bible as a “fable,” but instead of admitting my own questions and doubt, I often tried to keep it pushed down like a beach ball under water. I was scared that my questioning meant I wasn’t a real Christian. However, stifling or ignoring these thoughts wasn’t ever going to work. Eventually, I got tired and decided to get honest. I confessed out loud to God where and why I was struggling with the scriptures.
Perhaps others would disagree, but as I have yet to turn to ash, I believe it’s okay to bring your tough questions, and even your doubt, before God as long as you do so with reverence. Having said that, we should not expect God to lay everything out in black and white. I’m not saying the answers won’t be clear cut on occasion, but, we are going to be extremely disappointed if we expect the Lord to say, “Okay, since you’ve asked me over and over, I’ll go ahead and explain to you the details of creation and, while I’m at it, I’ll also explain where I came from, where I was, etc. No need for you to bother having faith in things unseen, I’ll just tell you everything now.” That would be awfully nice, but it ain’t gonna happen.
What will happen, however, is that God will give us the reassurance and confidence that he is who he says he is through his word, through the teachings of fellow, trusted, Christians, and through his grace.
I typically pray for help to understand what God is trying to teach me and to give me the peace to accept those things that my brain, and even the brains of the most brilliant human beings, simply would be unable to process in the here and now.
Returning to the aforementioned Hawking quote – I will tell you, it left me extremely unsettled after reading it. It brought back many of my own struggles and doubts concerning heaven. This time around, however, rather than allowing these things to take root, I brought it all before the Lord. He responded with the scripture I needed but may have never found had I not asked for help.
At the time of this latest spiritual disruption, I was listening to a sermon preached by Dr. Charles Stanley in which he referenced 2nd Peter. He was not preaching about this particular issue, but I wrote “2nd Peter” on a sticky note so I could follow up on Dr. Stanley’s sermon points later. I left the note in my Bible for future study. I did not actually turn to 2nd Peter until last Sunday as I was waiting for church to start. This is the first verse I read:
2nd Peter 1:16
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
I know to the skeptic/nonbeliever, this will mean nothing, but to me this was a huge encouragement. I had used the term “fairy tale” when sharing these latest struggles with God and here was a scripture that demonstrated to me that the idea of the “Bible as fable” is nothing God hadn’t heard before. In fact, it’s been around for thousands of years.
I’m not hanging my hat on just one scripture, there have been others since but none struck home with me quite like this one. For me, it reinforces the idea that Christians can ask questions and that God is listening to those questions. He isn’t going to be surprised by anything we ask regarding his Word – I’m fairly certain he’s heard it all.