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There are days when I am a practical atheist. On those days,
I tend to be cranky. I want my kids to behave, and I lose patience with them
easily. I fail to notice the beauty of my surroundings. I don’t say thank you
very much. Those days feel flat.
There are other days, I hope, where my life reflects what I
believe (even if the reflection is a bit dim). When I recognize that God made the
marsh grass and the sea and the sky. When I remember the gift of our children
and the responsibility I have to serve them and care for them. When I lose my
patience or say something rude and then remember Jesus’ love and grace, and I
forgive myself. Those are days of wonder.
It can be tricky to set up distinctions between believers
and atheists. It can come off as holier-than-thou, not to mention false. There
are plenty of people who don’t believe in God and yet live more upright lives
than those of us who read the Bible and pray and go to church. And yet, I also
know that the Spirit of God lives within those who have received Jesus’ grace,
and the Spirit should be transforming us. Our lives should look different.
In the Psalms, this distinction comes up again and again. In
Psalm 1, there are two ways of life. The blessed way, the way of the Lord, and
the wicked way, the way of mockers. But as the Psalms continue, it seems that
the ones who follow God have more trouble. They are accused. They feel
abandoned. They suffer. What separates them from the ones who don’t know God is
not their circumstances. It is their relationship to the Lord.
One of my favorite lines from the Psalms comes in Psalm
But as for me, I shall always have hope…
In the face of enemies who want to kill me, in the face of
accusation, in the face of suffering, I shall always have hope. In 1 Peter
3:15, Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks
you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” He assumes that Christians
have hope that is visible to others, so visible and unusual that others will
ask about it. My life will look different from those around me, not because I
have a bigger house or a healthier body or even a happier disposition, but
because I have hope in the living God.