When You Just Can’t Believe

Have you ever been told something that you found difficult to believe? There’s a term for this; it’s called “cognitive dissonance.” It’s defined as the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The stronger your belief, the more tension there is when those beliefs are challenged, questioned, or proven wrong. Your mind rejects this new information. One way or the other, this mental uneasiness must be dealt with.

I believe this is what was happening to the disciples as Jesus began to reveal what lay in store for Him. Each time He refers to His coming death, the disciples struggle to accept His words.

Mark 8:31-32 – And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

Mark 9:31-32 – For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

Matthew 17:22-23 – And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.

The disciples believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They also knew the prophecies that described a time when the Messiah would take His rightful place on the throne in Jerusalem and set all things right. What Jesus was describing simply did not fit in with their assumptions and beliefs about how these scriptures would be fulfilled.

They dealt with this “cognitive dissonance” in several ways. Peter outright rejected it, rebuking Jesus for even the suggestion that He was going to die. Some of them remained in ignorance, unwilling to do the head-and-heart work needed to gain understanding. Some were afraid to ask; in their hearts, they knew it was true, but desired to avoid the confirmation of what they feared was going to happen. And others were “deeply grieved” – they felt the sorrow and heaviness this news brought to their souls.

Matthew Henry describes the disciples’ reaction in Mark 9 this way:

The words were plain enough, but they could not be reconciled to the thing, and therefore would suppose them to have some mystical meaning which they did not understand, and they were afraid to ask him; not because he was difficult of access, or stern to those who consulted him, but either because they were loath to know the truth, or because they expected to be chidden for their backwardness to receive it. Many remain ignorant because they are ashamed to enquire.

This still happens today when the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word of God, and it is the reason so many people miss out on the truth, rejecting the gospel that can save them and give them full understanding.

God’s Word tells us things that go against our human thinking. It contains historical evidence of events that defy our logic. His commands press against our flesh, causing mental and spiritual tension in which we sense what He is saying is true, but our deeply held beliefs and life-long assumptions produce an ongoing battle in our minds. We are loath to know the truth, so we outright reject it, or we play ignorant of it, or we walk away in the heaviness of conviction, afraid to ask questions because we know the answers are going to challenge everything we thought we knew.

When did the disciples finally know and accept what Jesus was saying? It was on the other side of the cross when they met the Resurrected Savior face to face and could no longer deny the obvious truth.

How about you? Are there things God has clearly stated in His Word that are causing “cognitive dissonance” in your mind and heart? There are two choices as to when and how that tension will be reconciled. You can surrender what you think you know now and ask God to open your eyes and heart to accept and understand the truth. Or you can go on in your willful ignorance of what He has shown you and told you and be proven wrong on the day of judgment.

There are times in Scripture when Jesus chides His disciples for their lack of faith and unbelief, but He never gives up on them. He continues to reveal Himself, to teach truth, and to mentor and disciple these ordinary men because He has chosen them. He loves them, and through the Holy Spirit that will come to indwell them at Pentecost, He will empower and enable them to take the gospel to the world.

God understands the “cognitive dissonance” in your heart and mind. He is fully aware of how you came to believe what you do, and the struggle it is for you to accept His Words. He is patient, compassionate, and faithful to answer our questions as we come humbly and sincerely asking for understanding.

Don’t let your inability to understand or reconcile the gospel with human thoughts keep you from responding to that convicting, disturbing uneasiness His Word stirs in your heart. Come boldly to God’s throne of grace and mercy, and He will settle your heart, and give you rest for your soul.

1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

2 thoughts on “When You Just Can’t Believe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.