Dialogue with the Disillusioned: Why Keep Praying—Week 4
The thing is religion sellers get you coming and going. If you pray for God to help you in a crisis and the crisis goes away…all praise to God. If you pray for help and the crisis doesn’t go away He has different plans for you or He never gives you more than you can handle. So ante up. The religion sellers win both ways. BTW [By the way], why would a just and loving God give you pain to teach you a lesson? I’ll stick to the facts of the world…sh*t happens, good things happen, randomly. (Thinkingwomanmillstone, 6/9/10)*
Faith and disbelief. Two perspectives. Two very different worldviews. One claims that God’s intimate involvement in our lives is a fact. The other, God’s help is a fiction.
To someone who is frustrated or disillusioned with God, believers may seem out of touch with reality, at best, and dishonest or devious, at worst. Yet, those who trust in God and rely on biblical teaching for guidance have just the opposite point of view.
To believers, the Christian faith helps to make sense of life and opens the door to greater meaning and purpose in relationship with God. And it’s those who insist that God does not exist or doesn’t care about us who are out of touch with reality, at best, and seriously misguided, at worst.
When we start from an assumption that God is real and answers prayer, our seemingly random experiences don’t seem so random anymore. The unpredictable nature of God’s response to our requests may still confound us at times, but we can often find God at work in both the “yeses” and “no’s” to our prayers. And while we may suffer greatly from any number of painful experiences, eyes of faith see the good that can come out of even the most tragic of situations. These experiences are not proofs for God, but rather encouragements to continue believing.
If, on the other hand, we let the perplexing mysteries of God, the seeming randomness of life, and the horrors of human suffering undermine our faith, we lose something vital to our well-being. The light has not come on, as a skeptic might argue, but has gone out. When we should have been wrestling with God for deeper understanding and personal growth, we’ve given up. An absent, non-caring God becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because only those who seek find, and we’ve stopped seeking. We may think that we have reached a new height of understanding, but the truth is, we’re in a hole. But we don’t have to stay there.
From an intellectual point of view, 17th Century philosopher Blaise Pascal, in his posthumously published Pensées, put it this way. He argued that while one cannot prove the existence of God, it still makes sense to “wager” on God. If you’re right, you have everything to gain. If you’re wrong, you have nothing to lose. If, on the other hand, you wager against God, and you’re right, you have gained little or nothing. If you are wrong, you have everything to lose.
Personally, my reasons for continued faith go even deeper. I know I cannot prove that God’s help is a fact, but I can say that it is a fact that my faith improves the quality of my life. Faith in God’s love has been my single greatest source of encouragement, helping me to accept and forgive myself, and to want to be more loving. Faith in God’s goodness helps me to get outside of myself, to want to be an agent for good in the world, to seek to be a better person, and to not get stuck in the hole of disillusionment and despair. Faith helps me through times of insecurity, loss, fear, or uncertainty by giving me a rock to stand on, and prayer takes me into God’s presence where I often find peace, comfort, joy, strength, and courage in the midst of my greatest challenges. And when I can’t sense God’s presence, or I don’t see how God is helping, I continue to trust, because what I have in the love, goodness, and faithfulness of God cannot be matched by any competing philosophy or non-believing worldview.
Jesus himself died with unanswered questions (“Why have you forsaken me?”), yet refused to give up his faith. He was mocked for his faith in God the Father, and his detractors pointed to his crucifixion and inability to come down off the cross as proof that he was out of touch with reality. Yet, even in his death, when God appeared to have forsaken him, Jesus still cried out, “My God, my God…” (Mark 15:34, italics added). Though he did not understand why God was not saving him from death, he still clung to his relationship with God, his God, his abba, Father until the end.
Eventually, we see in Jesus’ resurrection that God had not, in fact, abandoned him after all. His faith was vindicated. God’s help was real. It came in God’s timing in ways that served God’s purposes, but God was faithful to him. And that’s what Jesus was betting on.
Faith and disbelief: Two perspectives. Two radically different worldviews. True wisdom is knowing on which to place your wager.
“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” –Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)
“Dear God, sometimes I don’t know what to think and believe about you. Please help me to face the observable facts about life, and not stick my head in the sand. At the same time, deepen my spiritual wisdom and understanding about those things that cannot be seen or scientifically tested. Help me to better see the truth about your presence, your love, and your activity in my life. Lead me in the midst of overwhelming intellectual and spiritual questions to the full and fruitful life you most desire for me.”
*To read the original Huffington Post article that prompted this and other responses from bloggers, click here, “When Prayer Makes a Difference in Suffering.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-timothy-c-geoffrion-phd/when-prayer-makes-a-diffe_b_601399.html