Two months ago, I had to say goodbye to my ten year old brother before he met Jesus face to face. The pain is real. The grief lies as an almost unbearable weight. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas. New Years. Bereavement trips. The first month anniversary. The second month anniversary. Today.
But in the midst of this pain, I am reminded of a truth which never seemed more real to me as now.
Suffering is the great wake up call. It shows you what your idols are, and what they really look like. It drives you away from all the things of this world you used to cling to, and drives you toward the mercy of the Cross. The truth we know about God becomes truly ultimate, when every other recourse has been tried and found wanting. Your life becomes staked on what is true – it always was, but pain makes you realize it. What you believe is true in easy times must still remain known as true in hard times.
That is why apologetics is crucially important in the life of the Christian.
Six times in my life, and twice in the last six months, I have read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. This was his chronicle of the first several months of grief following the death of his beloved wife, and was not originally meant to be published. His notes are poignant and raw.
The book opens with the haunting sentence: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
He continues later: “Meanwhile where is God? When you are happy…and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and the sound of bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
Thus writes a man in the midst of his own Gethsemane. Surely the devil uses pain. But surely God uses it better.
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One of the reasons we study apologetics is because we, as Christians, need apologetics. One of the things tragedy does, is smash everything you ever thought was solid. It shows you how much of what you believe about something is based on how you feel about something.
When Isaiah died, all of my priorities changed. Things I never fully appreciated became crucially important. Things I had centered my life around no longer seemed to matter. If your faith is one of those things that is built on a feeling – if what you believe about your state of salvation before God is dependent on whether or not you are having a good day that day – then when (not if, but when) tragedy strikes, you will be without hope.
Lewis continued: “Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently, it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man – or at any rate a man like me – out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”
When tragedy strikes, faith does not make it hurt less. Grief is never easy. It makes us weak. But when you have nothing left in this world, the sovereignty and goodness and all the promises of God must become the rock you fall on by His grace because everything else has been stripped from under your feet. When the walls crumble around you the foundation is all the more precious. When the ice splinters and the water comes up over your head, you must know that He has tread the bottom, and found it good.
We study apologetics because this world is hurting and looking for the truth
When you study apologetics, you are not studying some abstract biblical doctrine or stacking up facts to win a debate. You are immersing yourself in your only hope so that you can be effectively used by God to give this hope to a world that is hurting as you are.
The hope we have is true hope in a world of despair. The light we have is true light in a sea of darkness. The salvation we have is a true salvation, in a life of pain. Our good and sovereign Savior does not leave us in sorrow, but He takes our sorrows upon Himself and becomes a man of sorrows.
When you study apologetics, remember the Gospel
The Gospel is the good news in a world that has nothing to offer but bad news. It doesn’t matter if you can defend a young earth if you can’t explain that this earth is groaning in sin and will one day be redeemed.
It doesn’t matter if you can talk about dinosaurs on the ark if you can’t talk about Christ, the Ark of our Salvation.
It doesn’t matter if you can win anyone over in a debate on whether Hell is real if you can’t tell them the way to Heaven found in Jesus Christ.
It does not matter if you can defend the historical resurrection of Christ to anyone on the street if you can’t tell them how our salvation depends on it.
It doesn’t matter if you can tell someone in grief that Jesus loves them, or you’re praying for them, if you can’t also tell them what Jesus did because of His love for sinners, or how you, as a sinner, can approach the throne of grace in prayer before a just and holy God.
This world is screaming questions that only Christianity can answer. Apologetics is studying the truth so that you know how to answer. Apologetics is addressing pain in a way that points to the Gospel.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a fixture of pain. Everyone is broken.
We study apologetics to show people that their story, their pain, their brokenness need not continue forever. Their story need not end here. Christ died to ensure it does not.
If I could have taken my brother’s place, suffered and died instead of him, I would not have hesitated for a single moment – but Isaiah would still have to meet death again one day. I, another sinner just like him, could not take that end from him forever. I could not save him finally or ultimately.
I say I would have done anything so that my little brother did not have to die, but I could not do one-one-thousandth of what Christ did for that very thing. Christ suffered and died in place of Isaiah, and now, there is no more death in Isaiah’s future. Isaiah is saved finally and ultimately. He is filled with a greater joy than I can even comprehend or imagine.
Isaiah’s favorite part of The Last Battle from The Chronicles of Narnia, was the very last page, when they leave Narnia and arrive in Aslan’s Country.
“But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
When you study and proclaim the doctrines of our faith, you are reading us a part of that story. Until He comes again, read on.
If you wish to read more about Isaiah’s story you may click here to go to his page: Isaiah’s Adventure