A pastor’s family got home from church following a Sunday morning service and started preparing for lunch. After everyone had changed out of their Sunday best clothes, the mother began heating up some leftovers from the previous night. When the food was ready she told her young son to go wash his hands before eating.
The boy objected, “Ah, mom, my hands aren’t dirty.” But the mother was hearing none of it. She said, “Dirty or not, you shook hands with a lot of people at church this morning and who knows what germs you picked up from that. I don’t want you to get sick. Go wash.”
The boy looked to his father for a reprieve, but all he got in response was, “You heard your mother.” At that point the little fellow started angrily making his way to the bathroom to wash his hands. As he stomped along he said under his breath, “Jesus and germs. Jesus and germs. That’s all I hear about. And I never see either one of them.”
I was born in 1966, which means that what I call my “growing up” range runs from the late ’60s to the early ’90s. I was 24 years old in 1990 and just starting to figure out life when a power ballad by the rock band Poison hit the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The song was entitled “Something To Believe In.” Poison’s lead singer, Bret Michaels, wrote it in memory of James Kimo Maano, his best friend and bodyguard who had been found dead the previous Christmas Eve.
The song is decidedly not what you would expect from a long-haired, hard-partying “glam metal” rock band. Its subject matter was unlike anything Poison had tackled before or has tackled since. Clocking in at well over five minutes in length, the song’s simple message is that if God is so great, why is life so hard for so many people?
What differentiates the song from others that ask a similar question is the fact that it doesn’t berate or blaspheme God. It doesn’t praise Satan or promote the hedonistic lifestyle that was at the core of the “hair metal” genre. It simply points out obvious facts in a tone that is remarkably somber, even downright mournful. It’s as if Michaels honestly, genuinely, sincerely wants to believe that there is a loving, all powerful God up there somewhere, but all the earthly evidence he sees points to the contrary.
The song’s opening verse begins with a word about a money-loving televangelist who got brought down by a sex scandal. Then the verse takes a hard right into a few lines about a suicidal Vietnam veteran who returned home from the war to find that his life might as well have ended in that foreign country. It’s then that Michaels first segues into his simple chorus:
And give me something to believe in
If there’s a Lord above
And give me something to believe in
Oh, Lord arise
Verse 2 is Michael’s testimony about how he got the call that his friend had been found dead. He says, “I tried all night not to break down and cry as the tears rolled down my face. I felt so cold and empty like a lost soul out of place.” Trust me, such words were shocking to hear coming from a band that was previously known for hits such as “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Nothing But A Good Time,” and “Fallen Angel.”
Following another round of the chorus and a quick bridge, the song moves into its third and final verse. Here Michaels pulls no punches about the evidence that can be used to doubt God’s existence. He says, “I drive by the homeless sleeping on a cold, dark street like bodies in an open grave, underneath the broken old neon sign that used to read ‘Jesus Saves.'”
Then comes the song’s contrast between the haves and the have nots: “A mile away live the rich folks, and I see how they’re living it up. While the poor they eat from hand to mouth, the rich are drinking from a golden cup. And it just makes me wonder why so many lose and so few win.” This is followed by an expanded version of the chorus: “And give me something to believe in….”
Now, I’m not saying that we should be singing “Something To Believe In” as part of our Sunday morning worship services. Far from it. I’m also not blind to the fact that Michaels himself was “drinking from a golden cup” as a rock star in those days or that the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” lifestyle that he and his friends were living at the time wasn’t exactly the best way to avoid dying young.
What I’m saying is that most of us — including most of us Christians — have at times faded into the same mental territory that Michaels expresses in that song. We’ve wondered why God does some things but doesn’t do other things. We’ve wondered why He allows one thing but doesn’t allow something else. We’ve seen the injustices that pervade life. We’ve felt like that little boy in my opening illustration, wondering, “If Jesus is so awesome, why do we never see Him visibly? And even if we can’t see Him visibly, why can’t we see more evidence of His work in the world?”
Perhaps right now you are feeling this way in spades. Something bad has happened. You think God has let you down and you are wondering if there is actually anyone up there. You need some tangible evidence of His existence. You need your prayer request answered, “Yes.” You need to see it with your own eyes and experience it firsthand.
Well, I hope you get it. I really do. I have to say, though, that my personal history teaches me that God doesn’t jump whenever we snap our fingers. He doesn’t spring into action just because we raise our voices to Him. He doesn’t bend to your will or my will; He commands us to bend to His.
In case you can’t tell by the tone of this post, I have walked down the street of doubt a few times myself. I guess that’s why that old Poison song has always resonated with me. And since I’ve spent some time on that street, I hope you’ll listen as I offer you the best word of advice that I can to help you find something to believe in when it comes to God. Are you listening? Here it comes: Rather than fixating on all the negative things about life, things that can cause you to doubt God’s existence, choose to focus instead upon all the positive things, things that can help you affirm His existence. They really are there if you will look for them.
Yes, God does exist, and, yes, Jesus does still save anyone and everyone who places saving belief in Him. But what we must understand is that our salvation won’t be fully realized until the afterlife. Until then we still live in this sin-marred world that is filled with problems and tragedies. As noted commentator Warren Wiersbe has said, “Jesus isn’t saving this world; He is saving people out of this world.”
That’s an important distinction to remember whenever you start getting down in the mouth about life and how bad things are. Life on earth was once God’s finest work on full display, but those days are long gone, having ended with Genesis chapter 3. So now we deal with the fallout. And it’s this fallout that Bret Michaels is singing about in his song. The mistake he makes is his flirtation with the idea that the fallout is God’s last word on the situation. It’s not.
You see, we aren’t at the end of the movie, yet. The final credits haven’t rolled. The lights haven’t come up and the theater hasn’t emptied. We’re still in the middle of the film. Dare I say that we are smack dab in the middle of the trying part of it, the part where all the bad stuff is happening. But we mustn’t stop watching. We must stick with the plot until the big change finally comes.
For the Christian that change goes by the name “heaven.” It’s there that we will at last visibly see Jesus face to face. Only then will we be shed of all our doubts and at last be at rest. Only then will we once and for all, finally and completely, experience the fullness of the One who is our something to believe in. Until then we must walk by faith and not by sight, keep looking to the future in confident expectancy, and try to focus on all the positives rather than the negatives. Is this an easy assignment? Certainly not. But it’s one that is well worth pursuing as we live in this world that is so ripe for songs of doubt.