But “Jesus loves me” isn’t always enough.
What do I mean when I say that “Jesus loves me” isn’t enough? How could “Jesus loves me” not be enough? Isn’t that heretical or something?
I certainly don’t think it is. Before I say any more, however, I should probably explain what I mean when I say that “Jesus loves me” isn’t enough.
A lot of people worship the Sunday School God – and not just the kids in Sunday School. For these people, God is good and nice and loving and fatherly, and the proper emotional and spiritual reaction to Him is one of love, joy, and peace.
Now, I have nothing against a childlike faith or a strong trust in God. But there is more to faith than that. Our faith should be childlike – not childish.
Because a childish faith doesn’t know what to make of Jesus’ cry: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) A childish faith is speechless when Abraham challenges God: “Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the Earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). A childish faith cannot understand Job’s despair: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!'” (Job 3:3)
What do Jesus, Abraham, and Job – as well as Jacob, David, and countless others – have in common? They wrestled with God (literally, in Jacob’s case). And a childish faith cannot wrestle with God.
Perhaps you think that you do not need to wrestle with God – that your faith in God’s will is natural or insurmountable, somehow free of conflict. If that is the case, I can only ask you to remember Jesus’ words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Those words may not have made it into many Sunday School songs, but they sure made it into the Bible.
The fact of the matter is that we all have experienced God-forsakenness; we have all wondered why we have been abandoned. We all have felt alone. Our world, after all, is one of unspeakable evil: of hunger, disease, and death. And the proper emotional response to hunger, disease, and death is not merely one of love, joy, and peace – not because love, joy, and peace are bad, but because perpetual love, joy, and peace are impossible. That’s not how we’re built. Heck, that’s not how Jesus was built.
Sometimes, we need to question. We need to cry out. We need to wrestle. We need to stare evil in the face and turn to God and ask, “Will not the Judge of all the Earth do right?” Doing so is not giving in; it’s being honest with ourselves – and with God – about our emotions. We need to refrain from treating God the way we would if we lived in Candyland.
It simply will not do to remain in a happy Christian bubble. That is not good enough. If my life is one simply of love, joy, and peace, I have insulated myself from the cries of those around me. If my life is one simply of love, joy, and peace, I am not paying enough attention to the world around me.
“[M]ourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15b). Have the faith to risk sharing in the God-forsakenness of others – to make their fears, doubts, and trials your own.
That, after all, is what Jesus did for us. Jesus did not come to Earth to learn about love, joy, and peace. There’s plenty of that in Heaven. On the contrary, Jesus came to Earth to suffer – with us, for us, and alongside us.