Next month I turn 50. It’s hard to believe given how young I look, but as the pages on the calendar turn, I find myself resonating with a paradoxical quote from Bertrand Russell. The famous mathematician, who lived to see his 97th birthday, once said, “The older I get the less I know.”
I’m wiser at 50 than 25, but at 25 I knew more. At 25 I knew how you – and everyone for that matter – should vote. I knew how to solve most of the world’s problems; from welfare, to education, to unwanted pregnancies, to homelessness, whether you asked me or not, I could tell you the answers – and with passion.
I was also certain how God worked. I knew who He was, what He wanted of me, how to live a fulfilled life in Christ, and how to overcome hardships. Having just got married, I was also confident on how to be an amazing, loving husband and the world’s best dad. I knew a lot at 25.
I know less now that I am 50.
Life has a way a humbling us, doesn’t it? Things don’t turn out the way we expect. People we idealized end up gravely disappointing us. God does not answer our prayers. As a result, the concrete foundations of our youth are shaken as if by a violent earthquake leaving large cracks of doubt and mixed rubble of uncertainty, where once a proud building of self-confidence stood.
And at times the complexity and irrationality of life can lead us to doubt our faith, can’t it? Is what I learned in Sunday school really true? Is the hope I put in Christ truly an anchor for my soul, or an elaborate fairytale? A few years back, I really struggled with such questions. I was running a large Christian organization at the time. Like most pastors, I felt ashamed to admit doubts. I was supposed to be the guy with the answers, not the questions, right?
God, in His never-ending love, brought me to a place of peace. It came from reading some very serious Christian apologetic books written by leading Christian thinkers. But here is the twist, and it is important, and unexpected: the books did not strengthen any of my core beliefs nor did they give me better answers to tough question. Surprisingly instead, they gave me permission to not have to know it all.
Let me restate this for emphasis: some of the brightest Christian minds of our time told me that it’s o.k. to have doubts. This set me free. Men who spent their entire careers defending the truth of the Christian faith, admitted that they can’t answer every objection to Christianity nor explain everything in the universe. Wow.
Here is what they did know: They knew that the evidence for God, the trustworthiness of Scripture, and the proof of the resurrection of Jesus were overwhelming. They knew that a Christian worldview explained the reality of our beautiful, yet fallen world in way that makes much more sense than any other philosophy. And they had experienced the power of God in their lives.
They knew enough to make a reasoned conclusion – without having to pretend to know everything. As a friend of mine said, “I can’t seem to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but I have enough in place to know with great certainty what the the big picture is.” And this is where I have landed. I know that I don’t know everything. And I’m o.k. with that. In fact, I’m a lot nicer person as a result.