WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
There are times when we debate to define our true feelings, thoughts and beliefs on a topic. This can often be a good thing for us. By forcing ourselves to home in on something and really examine it, we come to better know ourselves and where we stand.
But there are other times. Ones when we fall on our knees, grateful that for us there is no debate. That we don’t have doubts or require proof to have that knot of certainty inside us that fills us totally down to the last atom in our last cell.
Uncertainty, fear and doubt, can be taxing. No, that’s not the whole of it; I’m being circumspect. They can be merciless and awful, gnawing at us relentlessly, driving us half or totally out of our minds. That’s far more accurate.
I remember once in college, a guy who sat in the next seat over came in one day clearly upset. He looked as if he’d been dragged through hell and left for dead. I asked what was wrong. He held up a pen and looked at me with agony in his eyes. “This. He said. I don’t know whether or not to believe it.”
I took his pen and looked at it. On its side was inscribed, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That was the first time in my life I’d ever heard anyone question Christ or the Bible. And the first time anyone in my sphere had doubted the existence of God.
I remember now looking at this man and telling him, “Believe it. It’s true.”
He asked how I knew. I shrugged and said, “I’ve always known.”
The professor came in then and started class. But I thought about that conversation and the guy’s haunted look for a long time. Unfortunately, then my thoughts were centered on wondering how anyone could doubt God exists when evidence is all around us. It wasn’t a haughty but a mystified reaction–and a shallow one. Now, my reaction to skepticism and/or denial is markedly different.
Some believers spend a lot of time angry at atheists and/or doubters who engage in philosophical debate for or against God’s existence. I confess that I’m partial to philosophy and yet this specific discussion can’t hold my attention. Instead of reacting intellectually, my thoughts immediately turn and my emotions riot. Deep-seated emotions as frothy as an angry sea… though there is no anger involved. Only sadness–probably due to the agony in that college student’s eyes.
For me, God exists, and that’s that. I don’t just believe it, I know it. That makes any debate a moot point and a waste of precious time. My interest moves on to other things, ones I don’t yet know. The good news in that is when you know, you know, so abandoning intellect to get to that place of certainty mentally isn’t required.
Reason, intellect and experience combine and awaken that certainty, that knowledge that God exists. It isn’t borne of nothing, but often of a multitude of experiences. So logic, I suppose, combines with emotion. Maybe that certainty isn’t seated at the same level of theological intellectuals, the great minds. But it is seated in the important stuff, the required relevant evidence–to me, the simple woman God created as He created her. That woman has no doubt.
I’m not saying that simple is better or worse than complexity here, just different. And I expect because simplicity suits, many for whom it does not wonder if it does then why does the debate, the doubt and denial in some, sadden.
I wonder how it could not. Those–the doubtful and deniers–must be the strongest people in the world–and God bless them for that strength. Their denial and doubt makes them challenge the veracity of God, and that challenges gives others the opportunity to challenge themselves, to determine what they think. We need the contrast. We couldn’t appreciate the peaks without the valleys. The calm without the storms. We wouldn’t know the value of peace without turmoil. So without challenge, one must wonder how many of us might never give the matter of whether or not God exists any thought if no one ever called the question? How many of us would never pause and ask ourselves, “Where do I stand? What do I believe?”
That’s a valuable gift for doubters and deniers to give to the rest of us. Especially knowing it isn’t a gift they give without personal costs. Yet that gift isn’t the part that makes me sad; I’m grateful for that. It’s the part where I recognize God’s wisdom in allowing doubt and denial in some hearts. It’s really not so much for the doubter or denier as it is for the rest of us. So they offer us that challenge, that opportunity. So someone calls the question and we take a stand and decide what we believe.
For a moment, imagine the strength required to face all life throws in our faces without faith.
Imagine not believing in God and coping with all that. Alone. On your own. Without the comfort from and trust placed in God. Imagine how isolated and terrifying it must be. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? To imagine being in that position. Well, how can such hardship be imagined and it not make one sad?
Maybe those not requiring irrefutable external evidence of God’s existence or His presence and interest in their everyday lives are ones God has spared the turmoil through grace. Maybe He knew we couldn’t take it–or He knew mankind needed those on both ends of the spectrum to get those questions called and answered. Maybe He had solid reason, rationale for the contrast. That which goes far deeper than the mind of this simple woman.
Whatever the reason, I trust He had our best interests at heart. From the palm of His hand, I know the why isn’t as important as the knowledge that He’s on it: aware, advised, in control.
I have my strengths like everyone else, but oh how grateful I am that doubting God isn’t one of them. How in the world anyone can face life without faith is beyond me. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I could muster the courage or the will.
Oh, I know that whether or not one believes God is still there. His hands are pretty much tied due to not infringing on free will, but he’s there. And yet to go through an entire life without His counsel and support and guidance and the security of that steadfast love–the only true security that exists… Well, it’s too big for me. It’s more than I can imagine and a burden so great to bear that I just couldn’t do it. And maybe that’s a key point.
Maybe that’s why I don’t have to do it. Why others who feel this way don’t have to do it. And just maybe those who can bear it must do so for all of us–so we have those challenges/opportunities. That necessary contrast.
I look back at my life–an average life by most standards–and I think of those dark, hard times and how heavily I leaned on God during them. I think of the joyful ones and how much less joyful they would have been without Him to share it. Even with my limited understanding and perspective of all that happens and why it happens as it happens, I am comforted by the surety that His perspective isn’t limited, his understanding is unlimited. I know during hard times that I might think I’ve had all I can handle, but when I really have had all I can handle, there won’t be any more. He’ll step in and handle it.
At times we all feel dragged through the mud and beaten down. We all think we’re hanging onto sanity by a thin thread. Believers aren’t exempt from the events that spark these times. But during them, we know that whatever happens, we are going to be okay. That we’ll get through the struggle, the strife will pass, and peace will come. We know darkness lasts a night and joy follows in the morning. We know no matter how dark and gloomy things may seem at any given time, they will be good again. We’ll hang in there and ride out the storm like the eagle.
An eagle, you know, gets scales on its wings that keeps it from soaring. But while other birds seek shelter in storms, the eagle flies right into it–and that knocks the scales off its wings. Then it can soar–and does. It flies above the storm. With God, so do we. And often in retrospect we’ll see benefits in hard-time things happening the way they happened. We see how when we couldn’t take another thing, God could–and did and know He’ll continue to as often as the need arises.
Believers have a safety net. God’s got our backs. He will turn harm intended for us around and use it for good. Believers know that no matter what, He’s always there. Always loving us, always looking out for us. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t forsake or abandon. His love is unconditional. And He’s on call 24/7. Knowing that, believing it, makes the dark times bearable.
Doubters and deniers don’t realize He’s there for them, too. So even though He is, He won’t infringe on free will, and they don’t believe so they don’t call on Him. The result is that they experience these dark and hard times from the perspective of facing them on their own. Without comfort or solace or all His promises. Without his supernatural support.
How do they do it? Bear it? Endure it? How do they survive it?
And that’s the part that rips out my heart.
I’m an imperfect parent, flawed (as I’ve said many times) to the core. But even flawed, when my children hurt, I am in pain. Intense pain. When they struggle or face hard times, I feel it fully and agonize right along with them. Sometimes they know this, often they don’t, but they know if called, wanted or needed, I’m there. (Which is true of most parents.)
Now take that the next step. If flawed and imperfect, we parents suffer for our kids to that extent, imagine God’s pain and agony at seeing His children go through what they do–feeling they’re doing so without Him. Without them knowing that if called, wanted or needed, He’s there.
Saddened. Of course, saddened.
And on bended knee grateful to not be ensnared in this debate. God is, and that’s that.
And for that, I am immensely grateful.
©2008, Vicki Hinze