I once asked my 9th-grade girls at Edge if Jesus feels real to them. I asked if they felt the bigness of what God did for us in sending the Messiah to die for our messes. I don’t know that they actually understood what I was asking, but I kept going.
“It’s one thing to logically know it, it’s another thing to feel it,” I said to them.
Then I told them what I so desperately wish someone had told me when I was their age, “It’s OK if it doesn’t feel real to you right now. It didn’t feel real to me for a long time.”
I’m the granddaughter of a Baptist preacher. I could recite Scripture before I could read, and I memorized the books of the Bible before I memorized the Pledge of Allegiance. There wasn’t a whole lot of questioning who Jesus was in my household.
I was 12 or 13-years-old when my pre-adolescent little head started thinking this Jesus guy with his miracles and his claims to divinity is awfully hard to swallow. Nevertheless, my pre-adolescent little heart wanted to fit in with my Christian family and friends, so I kept my mouth shut about my doubts.
I knew “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16). I knew “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I knew Jesus showered grace on the adulteress Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). I knew all the stories of his life and the tragically beautiful story of his death.
But it didn’t feel true for me, so I walked away from my faith.
Nearly two decades later, I had to come to the end of myself to find Jesus. When I first came back to faith, it still didn’t feel true for me, but I desperately needed to drink the water that quenches thirst forever (John 4:13). Instead of giving up, I started seeking. As it is written, she who seeks will eventually find. I started seeing Jesus everywhere—in the love and grace my Connect group showed me, in the joy I found in serving others, and in the second, and third, and fourth chances I got to do things in accordance with his will.
It started to feel true for me.
I’ve been reading through Summit’s 2018 Gospel Reading Plan. I’ve highlighted passage after passage of miracles and hope. In the margin alongside John 4:41, I’ve written what a time to be alive! I think to myself it would have been much easier to believe in Jesus if the Samaritans had come running to me saying, “we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.” But just a few pages later, my dark orange highlighter calls attention to these words: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66). In the margin, my handwriting reads: even with Jesus standing in front of them performing miracles, they still walk away #thisisus.
John 6 goes on to call out Judas who would betray Jesus. John 7:5 tells us “for even his own brothers did not believe in him.” Flip a few more pages and you’ll find a people divided over who Jesus is, with some saying, “surely the Messiah doesn’t come from Galilee, does he? Doesn’t the Scripture say that the Messiah comes from David’s offspring and from the town of Bethlehem where David lived?”
I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure these people missed the memo about the baby in the manger in Bethlehem—the descendant of David, born king of the Jews. I flipped frantically to Matthew 1 to see if maybe I got my facts wrong. Nope. The genealogy of Jesus clearly lists David, and Matthew 2:1 definitely says “Jesus was born in Bethlehem…”
The people in John 7, didn’t have the luxury of flipping back to the gospel of Matthew to fact check, but that wasn’t their real problem. Their problem, just like ours, is they were human. As humans, our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). We don’t accept the things that come from the spirit of God (1 Corinthian 2:14), and out of our hearts come evil thoughts (Matthew 15:19).
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Faith in Jesus changes everything. It takes us from deceitful and evil to justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24). It takes us from unable to accept the things of the spirit of God to being children of God (John 1:12). It takes us from hopelessly human to having eternal life.
Faith is not a feeling, though.
It’s a commitment to choose Jesus over and over again, even when it doesn't feel real. It’s a commitment to seek him and to open our eyes to all the ways his heart won’t stop coming after us. It’s a commitment to surrender to God the things we don’t understand, including our moments of doubt. We all have moments—even entire seasons—of doubt, and we all get to choose faith anyway.
You can jump into the Gospel Reading Plan at any time! So whether you started a while back and recently stopped, or haven't begun at all, or you're somewhere in between, details on the Gospel Reading Plan are right here.
Laura Diaz has been attending Summit for a couple years now and is the CEO and Senior Strategist at Kiss Me Creative. She serves as a writer on our Media Team and volunteers in Student Ministries, leading a Connect group of 9th grade girls. She enjoys long sips of coffee and short lines at Starbucks.