So what is it? Why do some believe and some don't?
The simple answer is that some have heard the call of Christ and some have not, and that is true. God is clear about that.
I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion--Exodus 33:19
Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God--John 8:47
But even that understanding does not satisfy. I look at unbelievers and they seem so....well....happy. They do. Life is often easy for them. I hear sometimes about how unhappy life is without Christ, but the evidence often does not seem to bear that out. In fact, it looks just the opposite. Once belief does come, the believer is plagued by a stubborn, inconvenient truth by which an unbeliever is not troubled.
The believer knows he is broken.
Irretrievably, unrelentingly broken.
And there is nothing he can do about it.
He's like Humpty Dumpty. All the king's horses and all the kings men can't put Humpty back together again.
And, in case you haven't noticed, brokenness is not fun. It makes none of us happy. And yet, that's the first step on the road to faith. It's a step down, not up.
I remember a few years ago, when our parish priest was baptizing several adults, he told them that they were mistaken if they thought that their newfound faith would make their life easier. "It will make your life harder." he told them, "Do it anyway." And he was right. Faith does make life harder. I no longer measure myself against other people to figure out how I'm doing. I have to measure my behavior and motives against a holy God. And I always, always come up short. The unbeliever just has to look around to see whether he's doing better than the next guy, and that's not too hard.
We've all seen them. The alcoholic who is absolutely convinced that he's in control of his habit. The mobster who has a good handle on his life by declaring that "it's only business." The serial monogamist (of either sex) who knows that her life is OK because she's 'not hurting anyone.' They are happy, satisfied, undisturbed. And sometimes, I am jealous of their comfort. I don't get to have that.
Instead, I'm laying at the bottom of the wall in pieces, looking up at a God I just realized has given me the dubious privilege of seeing the true state of my life and thinking, "Gee...thanks a lot. I could have done without this, God." And I'm tempted to think that He's the one who pushed me over.
But He's not. He just helped me to see. And he follows that sight with an immediate solution. He extends his hand with a remedy, the same one Peter extended to the cripple in the name of Christ at the temple gate:
Rise up and walk.--Luke 5:23
The man had been a cripple his whole life. Sure, he knew that he wasn't like everybody else but, well, begging may not have made for a bad living. It didn't require much effort, and no one expected too much of him. In some ways, it made for a pretty comfortable life.
Then, one day, he discovers he's broken...and there was Jesus.
Imagine his surprise.
Humpty never did get put back together again, but we can be. In the instant we know the extent of our brokenness,we are reassembled not only as good as new, but better than new. The King Himself does what all His horses and all His men could not.
See! I am doing a new thing--Isaiah 43:19
And behold! The new thing is me!