I’ve been reading an article by Ryan Bell, a former 7th Day Adventist pastor, who explains why he no longer believes in God or feels any real need for God. I’m reminded that M. Scott Peck, author of the “Road Less Traveled, ” used to talk about his own period of atheism. He would trace his faith from an early literal understanding of the Bible through a period of doubt, atheism and then to a place of true faith. Many of us will walk that journey in some way or another, if not a place of complete atheism, then a period of doubt. Doubt that God exists. Doubt that if God exists, that God loves us. Doubt that God means good for the world, and in particular us.
The book of Job is a classic for people skeptical of there being a God. Job, however, never questions if God exists. He questions why God seems to have disappeared in his life. He questions the “Why” of God’s absence, while clinging to his belief that if he can just have a heart to heart talk with God, all his questions and doubts will evaporate.
“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were graven in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the face of the earth.” Job 19:23-25
Job never gets the answers he is looking for. Instead, he discovers a God full of questions that he is unable to answer. The “Why” of God continues as mystery, the presence of God as reality.
I went through my own period of skepticism as a young woman. A book I’d read had set me on a path of doubting everything I had ever learned about my faith. Both doubt and skepticism grew. Even though I was doubting God, I found myself on a journey. There was a yearning in me to know and be known by the God I wasn’t sure existed. Months passed which turned into years. I tried to believe, but didn’t really. I thought I believed, but wasn’t sure. Some of my evangelical friends would use the term born again, when eventually I came to experience the reality of God in my life. I tend to think of it as reaching the point where all my defenses were down, that allowed God to touch my heart. Us Wesleyan’s like to refer to John Wesley’s moment of awareness, when he spoke of feeling his “heart strangely warmed.”
One night I simply turned my life over to God. From that day doubt and faith have mingled together. Life experiences have forced me to rethink what I once believed about God. At times, I’ve wondered what God could possibly be thinking entrusting people like myself with a message of love and grace. I’ve wondered why God does not prevent tragedies. At other times, I have seen God move mountains in people lives, as one person after another feels a need to help, to reach out, to care in some tangible way for a person they know is having a difficult time. I have seen people whose lives were a mess, turn them around as they encountered the presence of the living Christ. I’ve known men and women who have drawn strength and encouragement from their faith as they faced tragedies and losses, even as they faced their own deaths.
There is a space in each of us that is meant for God to touch. My daily walk with God, is what gives me direction, adds joy to my life and constantly challenges me to grow as a human being.