I have a confession to make. I have been on a journey of questioning everything (see last week's post). I will be very honest, as the unanswerable questions mounted against me, I became discouraged and dismayed. Doubt began to seem like my final resting place.
My concerns were mostly tied up in the concept of Hell, childhood indoctrination, and scriptures that were, on the surface, seemingly contradictory, absurd, or nonsensical.
Exhausted and beaten, I had to admit that any position, any worldview, required an element of the unknown. Every worldview has a series of "why" questions that lead to accepting a set of assumptions. Atheism, agnosticism (a seemingly lazy approach, in my opinion), and every religion, of course, requires some element of faith (believing or hoping in something unknown).
Among belief or unbelief, there is no neutral ground. You must trust there is nothing or something. Regardless, you are forced to reckon with the fact that mystery precedes every option.
We cannot definitively prove any one stance with one hundred percent certainty. To do so, one must be God: all-knowing, present in all places. Therefore, we have a responsibility with what we know, with what has been revealed, to place our faith in something.
Like any major position of this nature, though, logic isn't the only factor. Experience and emotion are quite relevant. We are undeniably emotional beings that interpret our experiences accordingly. Based on what I do know and the experiences I've had, I feel the love of God through His Word, worship, creation and His people.
The bottom line: I believe in a God who showed his love to man through Jesus Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection is the source of all life. The past, the present, and the future all rely on this truth.
I can't empirically prove it, nor can I explain every question I have, but I know what where my hope lies, and for me, that's enough.
Hebrews 11:1-3 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."
The arguments, reasonings, deeper interpretations of scripture, etc. go much further than what I'm unpacking right now. For the sake of communicating the main ideas, I'll continue in an abbreviated form.
I've been to the darkest place I've ever ventured in my thinking. I've wept and cried out to God to help me and still felt alone. I even read these words of an atheist and empathized with his desperation:
"But my faith was proven a mere sandcastle on the shore of my soul, a majestic glimmering creation about to be ransacked by impending waves. Though I diligently scooped it up in my arms of rescue and ran in search of high ground, the more frantically I struggled to hold it together and the closer I buried it to my chest, the more its sand slipped through my fingers until I held nothing more than a few of its barren grains. And soon even those would escape me."
The beauty is that I don't have to maintain a sandcastle or fortify it against the waves. My Father owns the beach and the waves are full of grace. My futile attempts at constructing my own little kingdoms are inside the context of His world. I don't need to be God; I only need to submit to him.
In my searching I didn't become all-knowing. I didn't hear the audible voice of God, nor did an angel visit my bedside one night. I just became more determined to continue to chase the mystery of the greatest love ever displayed.
I know this now to be true: "Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” - J.I. Packer
As my darkest night was approaching dawn, two experiences helped the light rush in on the last shadows of uncertainty. Just like I didn't marry Lacie for strictly rational reasons, I had a series of events that evoked a deeply visceral response from my heart.
Eight years ago I wrote a song with lyrics that sang, "Help me to want you more than the intellect...put my pride aside...give me freedom, give me death, 'cause I know I must die to find your life...you are my hope." I can't even remember the original inspiration for the song, and I had completely forgotten it existed.
My dear friend texted me recently to remind me of those words I once wrote and sang with conviction. He had not even used the iPod that had the song on it in years. When he plugged it up in the car to listen to on shuffle, one of the first of 3,114 songs that came on was that one. "Help me to want you more than the intellect," was the very first line.
Earlier that same morning, I had cried a simple prayer in the floor of my laundry room, "Please just help me." If my heart had any hardness still left, it faded in the moment I got that text with lyrics. I finally crumbled at the weight of it all. I gave up. I could never find enough information to come to God any other way than through faith.
Pride, the need for knowledge, a longing to understand--had become my idol. And though I'm devoted to always digging deeper, I'm okay with the fact that my God is greater than I can fathom. By nature, he should be.
The second experience happened the next day. In my heart I resolved that I would be devoted to this type of dialogue with a doubting world. I want to be a safe person to question the "why" of what we believe with.
As if on cue, someone I haven't talked to in a long time, with no knowledge of what I've been dealing with, started sharing their struggles with doubt to me. I felt like I was listening to myself talk. It was almost verbatim to everything I had been working through, the only difference was that I was one powerful day ahead. As I listened, a smile grew on my face and peace continued to settle into my soul.
My main encouragement is this...
If you are searching, then you care. If you want to know why you feel a burning desire for goodness and justice, you're moving in the right direction. If there is one answer, one truth, then do not fear the outcome of your searching. God draws people to himself, and we access his peace, hope, and love in faith. The search and the wrestling are so worth it.
My one regret is that I didn't speak up sooner. Fear of rejection, feelings of embarrassment, and hopes that it would just pass all kept me from confession. If you're in the same boat, it's okay. Do yourself a favor and just let someone in.
I still have a lot of questions, many of which probably have great explanations and others that won't. I am excited, though, for a reinvigorated spirit to keep learning and loving together.
Like the father in Mark 9, "I believe; help my unbelief."