We’ve read in the media time and again how some famous Christian suddenly gave up on their faith and walked away. Immediately there are those who say then that person never believed (enough) in the first place. Or, just as bad in my opinion, there are others who blast and belittle them or feel self-justified in never having purchased their books/music/art and paint a scarlet letter on them for all to see. I feel like our responses are telling. I think that our hearts should break.
Heaven-forbid anyone actually wrestle with their faith in the public eye. Most Christians have the “good sense” to keep it secreted away in their diaries. Why did Moses keep wearing his veil even after his face stopped shining? So that no one else would know. Oh that we would all learn from that.
Now and again we read a story of someone rediscovering their faith after realizing that they were wrong in walking away from God, but not because anyone bullied them. They come back because they keenly felt His absence. But they do not come back the same. In fact, sometimes it still involves a bit of letting go of things they were once *so* certain about and now must admit that they do not have all the answers.
I have had some times when I have wrestled with the existence of God, the suffering of humanity, the pain of death, the presence of wickedness… and I feel like the fundamental problem for me is that I have not been properly looking at reality. This has already been professionally addressed to me because, as it turns out, I also have a very skewed view of myself. I’ve made positive steps, but it takes many years to undo what took many years to form. In the light of this self-knowledge, I am forced to ask myself what sort of answers I am actually looking for when I ask why there is suffering. Jesus just didn’t admit that there was suffering, but took on suffering Himself. He didn’t heal everyone and everyone that He healed eventually died. Even He went through death. When we are in the midst of personal suffering or deep despair, we’re not seeking trite (even if true) responses. We’re seeking a balm that reaches even into our oldest wounds. We’re seeking the knowledge that, in fact, our lives in the here and now are intricately woven into Reality. That we all matter. That the fact that we are creators by nature is only an echo of the Creator of us all. That we have a choice in how and what we create but ultimately we are choosing to add harmony or disharmony to God’s creation. That we are still allowed to cry at funerals because the feeling of loss is real. But that we can also celebrate a live well-lived. That life is far more than we see and feel and touch. That this is not the end.
*I'll tack this on the bottom as to not risk muddying things because I'm about to bring up someone who has chosen to become controversial. But so far the most poignant book I have read on suffering is Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell. It does not try to answer the question of "why does suffering exist?", which Rob feels is a pointless question, but rather "what now?" Mind you, I still ask why sometimes. (And such a question helped birth buddhism. It's normal to ask it.) But without minimizing anyone's pain, taking an outside look at suffering and what we CAN do (because we can't stop the existence of suffering) is a healthy step forward. I'm reminded of Ecclesiates 7:4 which says, "The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure" (NASB). God never tries to minimize our pain, but He also doesn't want us to be held hostage by it. May we all continue to seek the truth God gives so that we can live freely.