A: What reality will end up showing you, if you leave it time, is that you are not fully self-sufficient. You can’t control your emotions. And you can’t determine your own future. But your life will be proof of that in itself. You don’t have to trust me. Just live it out the rest of your life and you’ll see that I’m right.
But let me explain to you, at least conceptually, why that’s the case. And I know that you don’t actually think this so I’m grateful that you’ve asked this question. Because a lot of people actually do think this, even in moments, right? So I know that the questioner doesn’t actually believe this. You’re too intelligent a person. You just want to see what I would say.
The three reasons are these: Because truth is indispensable. Because suffering is unavoidable. And because happiness is not enough.
Those are the three reasons why you still need God.
1. Truth is indispensable
Because God is real. Because the gospel is true. It’s actually the first and only good reason to be a Christian. It’s because it’s true. All the other reasons are nice and they help, and they give us certainty. But the first, best reason to be a Christian is because it’s true.
And so you have to dispense with that truth if you want to live like this. You basically have to put yourself in the Truman Show or in the Matrix where you don’t care what’s actually real and true. You just want to build your own little system of perceived, false, synthetic self-sufficiency, where you think everything is okay.
But really you have an internal brokenness. You have existential struggles. You have experiential struggles. You have a yearning for more. And you ignore them the whole time. You force yourself to ignore that this God is actually real, that He came and died for you. That He offers you this incredible redemption and an eternal future with Him. A life full of joy in this life and the next.
So truth is indispensable.
2. Suffering is unavoidable
We’ve had so many questions today about suffering because it’s ubiquitous. It affects every single human life. Every single person has to deal with suffering in some way. Whether it’s death or illness. Or the loss of a job. Or anxiety. Or depression. Or social exclusion. Or physical difficulties. Whatever it might be—we all suffer.
And Jesus, through the Cross, has proved that He provides the most compelling and powerful and practical and intellectually coherent response to suffering in human history. A God who comes down into the world, goes to a cross, suffers for us, takes on all that suffering upon Himself. And now, we get to hold His hand and He can conquer with us through the suffering.
When you consider the cross of Jesus Christ, it is powerfully unique. Almost unbelievably, honest atheism considers suffering meaningless. Paraphrasing Richard Dawkins, who writes that in a world of time plus matter plus chance, all we would expect is blind pitiless indifference. Some people are gonna get rich. Some people are gonna get lucky. Some people are gonna get raped. Some people are gonna get killed. And it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any rhyme or reason to it. Whether theistic or atheistic, nothing out there offers what Jesus does: Comfort amidst suffering and – if we take His hand and trust Him – conquest through the suffering.
So truth is indispensable. Suffering is unavoidable.
3. Happiness is not enough
This might work if all you’re looking for is happiness. But we know that happiness is not enough. C. S. Lewis said, “If happiness is all I was looking for, all I would need is a few bottles of Scotch and a few friends.”
Happiness is a feeling. Happiness is something that happens to you based on external events. You change those external events and the feeling will change. And that’s why, yes, we can make ourselves happy by doing very important, meaningful things like being in relationships, loving our friends, helping the unfortunate, raising kids, having good jobs. But we can also make ourselves happy with a decent iced coffee on a hot day. Or in my view, with a few decent pieces of fried chicken.
So, on what basis then would we reduce ourselves so much to make our life’s purpose the pursuit of a feeling that can come from the good smell of bacon or a decent movie or a bowl of ice cream? God looks at us and says this is pathetic.
“You think happiness is why I put you there? Have you reduced your entire purpose just to this feeling? You get this feeling when you just scratch a mosquito bite and it feels good. You think that’s the reason? That’s what you’ve reduced the purpose of your existence to–it’s happiness. It’s pathetic.”
And then He says, “I want to offer you something else. It’s called joy.”
This is what Jesus is talking about when He says that I’ve come so that they can have life and have it to the full. He’s not talking about happiness. He’s talking about joy. Because happiness is something you feel, but joy is something you are.
That’s why people who are walking closely with Jesus, when bad stuff happens—and bad stuff happens to Christians—suffering happens and their happiness level changes. But the joy holds strong. Because they’re anchored. They know that there’s something that’s coming that’s better. They know that there’s redemption on the other side. And they know that even in the midst of suffering, they can hold the hand of a Savior who has suffered for them and is now going to suffer with them.
So people who are walking with Jesus, we call ourselves Christians—we’re just people who are walking with Jesus. The closer we get to know Him, the deeper we go in our relationship with Him, the more we get to access this joy, which once again is not quantitatively different to happiness. It’s qualitatively different.
You Google it and the dictionary will tell you that joy is just a whole lot of happiness. Then you Google happiness, oh it’s a component of joy. It’s self-referential. The world literally doesn’t know how to define the difference between happiness and joy. They don’t know. One point is to the other and back again. You have to go to the Bible. The Judea Christian scriptures. You have to go to the person of Jesus Christ to see the actual difference between happiness and joy.
That’s why you need God. Because truth is indispensable. Suffering is unavoidable. And happiness is not enough.
We go to the person of Jesus Christ. He is the truth. He is the ultimate response to suffering. And He is the eternal source of joy.