[CF Devotionals] 2011-10-05 - Hardened Heart

"See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13).
1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Question To Consider: Is there someone in your life who has a hardened and unbelieving heart, and considers Christianity foolishness? How do you feel when you think about this person? How do you think God feels about this person?

One of my best friends is an atheist. It didn't start out that way. For several years, my friend identified as an agnostic. He said there was no way we could either prove or disprove God's existence so it was best to take a "not knowing stance" on the matter. He doubted that God existed but couldn't say for sure. He thought God was probably a man-made idea to enforce morality, or to give people hope for something beyond themselves. I let him know that I believed everyone seeks after some sort of "something beyond ourselves" because the part of us made in God's image seeks to reconnect with what it came from. We seek "god" because we were made to seek God. We could talk openly about spiritual matters, as I did not push my beliefs too hard, and he did not try to convince me I was misguided or weak for having faith. We agreed to disagree, so we could continue to talk about our beliefs.

Eventually, my friend told me that he had decided God did not exist at all, and he had become an atheist. I told him, as gently as possible, that I felt he was taking just as much of a leap of faith by believing in science and supposed reason as his god. To me, those things can never completely explain faith. That's what makes faith what it is. I felt very sad to hear that he'd come to this conclusion. He wasn't an angry atheist, and he didn't feel the need to try to bring everyone he knew around to his way of thinking. He felt that religion and spiritual beliefs and practices could serve a positive purpose in people's lives, whatever they believed in. He just didn't believe in any sort of God or "Higher Power" himself.

My friend pursued professional success and financial security. He was doing well and making very good money. He'd worked hard, but I wondered if he was as responsible for his success as he thought. I personally felt that God was a part of his success, even if my friend didn't acknowledge Him. He was dismayed to discover that money and the material things he could secure with it didn't make him any happier, though. He also hoped good friendships and romantic relationships might make him happy and give him a sense of meaning, but soon found that not to be the case, either. Relationships would come and go, and did not hold real security. I knew there was a relationship he could have that wouldn't be like that, but he was choosing not to seek after the most real relationship there is.

A while back, my friend wrote me an e-mail and asked me how I found meaning in life. He said he just felt everything was pointless, and that he couldn't figure out why he was here on Earth. I couldn't really understand why he was asking, because he should have known what I was going to say. Did he think I would give a different answer this time? I wonder if he asked, hoping that I would say it was something besides my faith. I told him that I get a lot of fulfillment from my family relationships, friendships, and my work as a counselor, as well as hobbies and other things, but that ultimately, knowing God has bigger purposes for my life is what gives me hope and helps me find meaning. These beliefs are especially important when I'm going through hard times and life isn't very fun or satisfying.

I feel sad for my friend, because I know where purpose and meaning in life comes from. I know that, without a relationship with God and a belief in what God says about why we're here, life seems bleak and pointless. I hope one day my friend will come back to a true faith in Jesus - and the meaning such faith gives. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for him and to try to live out my own faith in a way that shows the impact it has on my life. I will continue to keep the lines of communication open with my friend, too.

When we are wondering "What's the point in all this?" it is so important to remember that God has a plan for each of us. We are to ask for his wisdom and guidance as we move through our lives, and remember that true meaning doesn't come from Earthly things, but comes when we focus on the bigger perspective of being part of God's plan for eternity.

Lord, help us remember where our meaning and purpose comes from. Thank you for assuring us that You have a purpose and plan for our lives that goes beyond Earthly things. Help us to live out this truth, so others will see that we have the hope they are seeking. Amen.

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