What is true? What is real? What is good? Rev Dr David Wong reflects on these fundamental aspects of life as he enters his 70s. Photo by Mark Hang on Unsplash.
It’s a frightening thought that, when we come to the end of our lives, what we believe will either uphold us or betray us.
I moved into my seventies last year. Before then, I refused to think of growing old, just older.
But as energy levels decline and memory recall slows down, I have come to terms with the sun setting before me. The twilight years have arrived.
Backtrack five decades. I sat in a class on Philosophy 101. The lecturer taught us to ask three basic questions: What is true? What is real? What is good?
I reckon the time has come to answer each of them.
1. What is true?
Truth has become the casualty of the postmodern world. What is true for me may not be true for you, and vice versa. But without an external reference for truth, we are all doomed to uncertainty.
What I believe rests on the unshakeable bedrock of truth.
For me, the external reference is the resurrection of Christ from the dead. If it can be proved true beyond any shadow of doubt, all I believe about God, and about life now and life beyond falls into place.
I am glad I invested the early and formative years of my life to the study of the New Testament documents. This included two years of academic rigour in a British university which left me convinced of the historical reliability of the records of Jesus and the early church.
I can be as certain that the resurrection happened as I am certain that the two World Wars took place. What I believe rests on the unshakeable bedrock of truth.
2. What is real?
What is true may not necessarily be real. It is true I had a dream; it really happened. But what happened in the dream was not real.
I have asked myself: “Is what I believe in only a dream?”
The world I woke up to is real, because in that world I can talk about the dream.
On a few occasions, I have asked myself: “Is what I believe in only a dream, real only until I wake up? Is it an illusion, a product of my desire, fantasy and imagination?”
Well, it has been more than 50 years since I came to believe in Jesus. That is sufficient time to assess if my beliefs have been tested and proved true in real life.
Did the God I read about in the Bible become real in my experience? Did the Christ I followed turn out to be who He said He is?
No doubt about it. For my 70th birthday I wrote a book which traced the divine hand in my life. It’s for real.
3. What is good?
Finally, I have seen, often at close range, joy and pain, beauty and vileness, good and evil. Two things help me process them all.
Firstly, if not for the biblical worldview, I would have despaired, in the face of human injustice and suffering, of ever finding any meaning in life. What could ever be good if life is but matter plus chance plus pain?
Secondly, when I savour beauty, I can turn to Someone who is behind it all, who gives joy and the capacity to enjoy.
What could ever be good if life is but matter plus chance plus pain?
I have been blessed to travel and witness many of the wonders of the world, both human and natural. How to describe the indescribable, fathom the unfathomable, and speak the unspeakable?
I have been thrilled to the depths of my soul by music, nature, architecture, books and movies — and the emotions they evoke.
Meaning, goodness and beauty come together in the worship of One who is the Giver of all good gifts.
The larger story and the Storyteller
As I reflect on truth, reality and goodness, there is one more dimension to consider, that is, life as a story.
My story makes sense only if it is part of a larger Story.
All my life I have been fascinated by stories: As a listener to fairy tales in childhood, a voracious reader of fiction in my teens, and a movie aficionado in my adulthood, even a published author of an award-winning novella.
I see my life as a story, but my story makes sense only if it is part of a larger Story. When I consider the Story of the Gospel, from creation to redemption to consummation, I find every part of my life reflected in its scope and majesty. And that larger Story has a Storyteller who also knows my story and desires its safe and happy ending.
No wonder we all love a “happily ever after” ending. All good stories must end well, which means all the pieces coming together with the good guys and the bad guys in their respective places. Why so when it does not always happen in real life?
The reason is clear: Our story does not end here but somewhere else where everything falls into place. The God who made us, who came to dwell with us, and who one day will welcome us home “… will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
On that day it will be said, “I have lived all my life for this moment”.
Till then, I shall continue to enjoy the journey, assured of my destination.
This article was first published by Graceworks and is republished with permission.